Just over eighteen months ago, Bachman Turner Overdrive, a Canadian band and now one of the biggest groups in the world, played Regina to a crowd of just over six hundred people. Thursday evening at the Trianon Ballroom, another Canadian band called Rush only just back from a four month, 79-city tour of the U.S. with groups such as the Faces, ZZ Top, Aerosmith, Mountain and Kiss, again played to anything but a packed house.
Rush - the band that ZZ Top would not allow an encore, that Nazareth placed severe limitations on what it might use in the way of lighting and sound systems.
The irony of Rush's success has been well documented in the rock journals, always a case of too loud and too proud for a warm-up act.
The Regina date was the first Canadian engagement for the band since its return from the Stateside tour only a few days ago. But it was the same old story. Canadian talent languishes at home until America embraces it and tells us that its really pretty good. The word isn't out on Rush yet but it soon will be.
Meanwhile the band goes directly from here back to Ontario, to an important Massey Hall concert and then back into the studio for its third album.
On the other hand, the Regina concert, two shows, was not everything it might have been. The band is a punishingly heavy power trio that plays at excruciatingly high volume levels. If you can accept it for what it is, looking at the group in terms of its energy, basic skills and total sound, then Rush is an exciting and goodtime band.
Vocalist and bassist Geddy Lee has a voice not unlike that of Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant. Guitarist Alex Lifeson is blindingly fast and flashy and Neil Peart on drums in a proficient and flexible driving force. Rush, within the limits it sets for itself, is good. If the aesthetics of heavy rock are concerned only with sheer gut response then Rush need never worry about a slagging from the critics.
Where the show fell down Thursday was in the sound. The Trianon either couldn't take it or the sound system just wasn't tuned. The percussion was little more than a muddy thump, and Lee shrieking vocals came through only at its peaks. Overall the sound was thick and undifferentiated which it is not on the albums.
Nevertheless the band was strong and did a solid job on its best songs - Fly By Night, Anthem, Beneath, Between and Behind from the second album, In the Mood and Working Man from the first. The latter was turned into a protracted solo extravagance with Lifeson wrenching the life out of his guitar for a full ten minutes. It was worth an encore. Not a great concert but still worth the price for those who got out for it.
Cambridge, the warm-up act, a Regina group made up of 16 and 17 year old musicians, did a very fine set. The sound was clear and open and the band looked and sounded seasoned way beyond its years. Doing songs by, among others, Bad Company and Blue Oyster Cult, not stuff to fool around with.