Friday, August 2, 2002
Thursday evening at Bonner Springs' Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Canadian prog-rock power trio Rush demonstrated that it can still draw and still satisfy its throng of devoted fans.
Given to both ridiculous bombast and silly sight gags, investing a fortune in state-of-the-art production and performing in street clothes, a heavy band fronted by the singer with the squeaky voice, Rush is a band of contradictions.
Under a massive lighting rig and in front of an enormous Jumbotron video screen stood Alex Lifeson's guitar rig, Neil Peart's drum riser and standing in for Geddy Lee's bass amplifiers were a trio of coin-operated laundromat dryers, mic'd just as though they were musical equipment.
Rush is a player's band ï¿½ Lee, Lifeson and Peart aren't improvisers. Their commitment to exacting recreations of their recordings lead to the not infrequent sound of phantom keyboards playing even when Lee is standing nowhere near his keyboard rack. This suggests an infuriating confidence that they got the songs just exactly perfect the first time. Duplicating the recorded performance is a cool magic trick but it's not art and it obscures the soul of the music.
Rush does play with commitment and all three members are excellent players, and Lee is probably the only singer in history to benefit from having a voice go lower with age. After performing classic rock staples "Tom Sawyer" and "New World Man" early in the first of their two, lengthy sets, it was during the instrumental "YYZ" that their skill was given full flower.
Lifeson tends to play mainly rhythm parts but when he does solo, as during "Bravado," he steals the show.
It's worth noting that seldom has anyone sweat more on stage than did Lifeson on Thursday in the oppressive Kansas heat. Early in the show he'd already completely saturated his clothing. Astonishingly, he didn't find himself a dry shirt during the break between sets and didn't have change for one of Lee's dryers.
Rush music is nod-your-head music. Occasionally it's pump-your-fist music. It's NOT dance music. Nowhere but at a Rush show could air-drummers outnumber air guitar players.
Opening the second set was "One Little Victory," from the new release "Vapor Trails," a concert highlight demonstrating that all Rush's best work isn't behind them. Some of their worst however, is. Fans may ooh and ah over Lifeson and Lee breaking out an acoustic rendition of "Resist" for this tour, but it's a terrible song.
Also unsatisfying in the second set was Peart's drum solo, during which he seemed unwilling to sustain a single interesting rhythmic idea for more that 10 seconds. He ended his percussive soliloquy by accompanying canned big band music, only serving to show that he's no swing drummer.
Toward the end of the set, crowd pleasers including "Big Money," the overture from "2112" and "The Spirit of Radio" kept the fans on their feet.
Rush opened its encore with "By-Tor and the Snow Dog" which was musically the high point of the event, featuring more astounding guitar work by Lifeson and lyrically a fine example of Peart at his dungeons-and-dragons, Tolkein-esque worst.