WANTAGH, New York From the opening notes of "Tom Sawyer" and
throughout their nearly three-hour set Monday night, Rush made it clear
they're a band on a mission.
Not a mission to recruit converts to their cause, but to prove to themselves
that they still have the determination, chops and chemistry to rock
convincingly as they individually approach half a century in age (see "Rush Return From Tragic Hiatus Sounding More
Like Tool"). Judging by the audience response at the Jones Beach
Theater, they have nothing to worry about.
Imbued with a renewed sense of purpose after surviving more than their share
of turmoil in recent years, Rush looked especially alive as they performed
in front of a projection screen that switched between shots from the concert
and computer-generated imagery.
Singer/bassist Geddy Lee wore khakis, sunglasses and a gray short-sleeved,
collared shirt, while guitarist Alex Lifeson sported a gray-and-silver
collared shirt, black slacks and a gray goatee and changed guitars almost
every song. Because Rush's material is so technical, the bandmembers were
glued to their mics, effect pedals and keyboards for most of the show, but
their lack of motion detracted little from the experience. The trio filled
out their already full sound by triggering keyboard passages and sound
effects as they performed.
The droney, riff-heavy "Earthshine" came early in the show, but most of the
material from their new Vapor Trails was reserved for the second set.
Instead, Rush reacquainted fans with a cross-section of songs recorded after
1980's Permanent Waves. The selections drew from all sides of Rush's
eclectic sound, including hard rock, prog rock, galactic computer rock,
digital synth rock, even space reggae.
During Signals' "New World Man," Lifeson sang backup vocals, which he
has rarely done in the past, and for "Distant Early Warning," from Grace
Under Pressure, he and Lee both broke away from their perches to
maneuver the stage as they vamped between verses. Other highlights included
the rarely played "The Pass," "The Big Money," "YYZ," "Vital Signs" and
As if to thumb their noses at those who've said they lack a sense of humor,
Rush colored their show with wry humor. At the right of the stage, three
dryers churned loads of laundry. For Vapor Trails' "One Little
Victory," the video screen projected animated images of a dragon lighting a
cigar with his breath. As it blew flames at the screen, a wall of fire
erupted behind the band.
Lee and Lifeson also contributed to the jovial vibe. During an unplugged
version of "Resist," the bassist introduced the guitarist as his "friend
from south of the border," and during an instrumental passage in "La Villa
Strangiato" Lifeson adopted a foreign accent and told a bizarre story about
combing the beach with a metal detector and meeting Jimmy Hoffa. It was the
only moment in the show that drummer Neil Peart cracked a smile.
Peart, who didn't touch his kit for several years after his recent family
tragedies (see "Rush's Return Is Personal
For Drummer Peart"), played with as much agility, precision and
groove as ever, surrounded by a massive kit armed with enough cymbals to
fill a music shop.
Rush's second set featured four songs from Vapor Trails, including
the haunting "Ghost Rider." The new single "One Little Victory" roared with
inflammatory fervor, and before Grace Under Pressure's "Red Sector
A," Peart's kit rotated to reveal a set of electronic drums, which he
battered with power and authority. The drummer's obligatory solo came after
"Leave That Thing Alone," and he strutted his stuff by adding xylophone
patterns and triggering keyboard chords.
For many old-school fans, the highlight of the set came in the final 30
minutes, when Rush reached into the vault and dragged out gems like "2112
Overture/The Temples of Syrinx," "Limelight" and "La Villa Strangiato." Rush
closed with the "friendly voice" of the fiery, shimmering "Spirit of Radio."
When they returned for their encore, Rush opened the dryers, removed piles
of T-shirts and tossed them into the crowd. "And now it's time to descend
into the tomes of Hades," Lee announced as the band dove into the gurgling,
apocalyptic tones of "By-Tor and the Snowdog" from 1975's Fly by
Night". Then came the start-stop riffs and explosive vortex of "Cygnus
Rush ended the evening with the final track from their 1974 self-titled
debut, "Working Man" a simple, primitive number that demonstrated
just how far the little Canadian power trio have come since their meager
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.