the Forum, November 26
Whatever one's opinion of Rush, one must admire their paranormal musical abilities and unfaltering dedication to their craft. Few bands can boast sold-out arenas 22 years into their career without some reunion gimmick attached. Ostensibly touring for their new Atlantic disc, Test For Echo, this tour was the first to forsake an opening act and offer three hours of unadulterated Rush!
Rush attracts geeks of every persuasion and musical preference. At the Forum, tattered tour shirts abounded, from Sepultura to Miles Davis, Yes to Rage Against the Machine. Opening the first set with 'Dreamline', a cardboard Three Stooges peered out from behind the various kitchen appliances and miniature electrical towers on stage. A few Test For Echo tunes and an abbreviated run through their epic 2112 were enhanced by Lisa Frankish lights- a cascade of neon pinks, purples, and greens which issued from prop satellite dishes.
Cheeseball biker movie trailers ran during intermission instead of arty shorts dramatizing Ayn Rand's writings or the lush videos which accompanied the music. The second set commenced with the title track from the new album and a plum-colored silhouette of drummer/lyricist Neil Peart. Like the Planet of the Apes movies, Peart's lyrics invite interesting interpretations. During the evening, the many phases of Rush's career were represented: Sci-fi peripheral prog (2112); abstractions of man's struggle ("Tom Sawyer", "Subdivisions", "Freewill"); existentialist noodle poodle ("Dreamline", "The Trees") and anthemic favorites ("Spirit of Radio", "Closer to the Heart").
As the lights dimmed in anticipation of Peart's percussive dementia, another recent Forum show came to mind. Rush didn't need exploding guitars or blood capsules to dazzle their audience. The juxtaposition of Peter Criss' put-put 'solo' with the extreme congestion of snares, toms, bells and exotic gewgaws of Peart's bunker-like drum-kit was good for a chuckle. The crowd was a blanket of air drums during his quarter-hour long solo, one he's been embellishing since the '70s and features more rhythms than stoned fans present. He must keep a gaggle of ancient Dahomean deities tucked under his sporty African print hat. (The Masked Rider, Peart's memoirs of traveling the Dark Continent, was recently published by Pottersfield Press). Mid-way through, Peart stood up while the drum riser turned 180º to reposition the more world-beat friendly kit within smashing range.
Some complain about Rush's collective lack of spontaneity. But the straightforward assault is neccesary- no masturbatory jamming means more hits. Guitarist Alex Lifeson trilled with expert abandon, while mosquito-voiced Geddy Lee, the Zeus of the bass god pantheon, shrieked and plucked and thundered and tinkled. As always, they put on an excellent show. Never mind their detractors; 30,000 L.A. Rush fans can't be wrong.