Ah! Now that the Guess Who have gone, and lighthouse split up, and only Bachman-Turner left to equate them with, has Rush become one of Canada's very heaviest bands?
Sure it has. And the crowds prove it. From Massey Hall in Toronto to Cobo Hall in Detroit; from the Starwood in L.A. to the biggest halls in St. Louis you can count the sellouts. The band's three records - Rush, Fly By Night, and Caress of Steel - all placed on the American hit charts. The band travels constantly, with nearly all their engagements south of the border.
And yet the critics hate them. Too loud. Too noisy. Not settled. And Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart keep on moving, keep on turning audiences on, keep on laughing - at the critics, and at themselves. The trio takes music seriously, but they enjoy their life, and it shows on stage, when the music begins. Yes, it is loud, much of it - although, increasingly, Rush is finding that its audience can and does get into the quieter, serious stuff. Yes, Geddy lee does have a voice like his throat is full of razor blades. Yes, Alex Lifeson's guitar playing is loud and could remind you of a jackhammer, but it's also fast and clean and smooth. And, yes, Neil Peart - towel draped around his neck - has to be one of the most powerful drummers rock has turned up yet.
Originally from a Toronto suburb, Willowdale, Geddy lee and Alex Lifeson started Rush when they were still in school. Long before the legal age, the band was playing in clubs and bars - the owners hated the music, but more and more they liked what the cash register totals were telling them at the end of the evening.
After years of this, the band put their first record together, won a staggering advance from Mercury Records in the States, and went on the road. They haven't played a bar since: The first dates were as concert openers on three-band bills, working with Z.Z. Top and Rod Stewart and every other heavy metal group from anywhere you have ever heard of and several you have already forgotten.
Increasingly, the other bands began to quibble. Just who were these kids from Canada, upstaging them night after night? Rush kept on going. The position on the bill changed; now Rush was second on the bill, and occasionally co-billed with another band. And in some towns, they were top of the bill - as they are now throughout Canada and across the midwest in the United States.
Whether they are topping the bill or sharing the stage with a band like Kiss, Rush gives the audience everything it's got - which is plenty. For Rush is a power band: loud, proud, strong as an ox, but fast too. And it delivers metal rock, clear and tough, to audiences that - more and more - scream for encores. And the critics can take a running jump - Rush is Canada's toughest band, and one of its most successful. This show, like all others, is the proof.
Ian Thomas, his promotion used to say, is a singer, a songwriter, a performer, and a show. And the line was true enough as it went. The problem was that it didn't sum up the whole of Ian Thomas, who is a unique combination of talents.
Ian Thomas writes songs, and they serve his role as a performer. Ian Thomas is a particularly strong performer, but he never lets his audience forget that the songs -what they tell their listeners - are important too.
Now Ian Thomas is back, on another cross-Canada trek after a winter which has seen him hard at work on his fourth album for GRT Records, to be released soon and titled Calabash. His third album, Delights, was a best seller, and was picked as Best Canadian Record of 1975 by influential radio commentator Larry Wilson of CHUM-FM in Toronto.
His earlier albums - one of which contains his massive international hit, Painted Ladies - built his career and won him countless friends across Canada, the United States, and Europe. Now he is building back - in international terms - and is soon to become the next "star" Canadian artist.
In our own country, Ian Thomas is already a star, because his music reaches us and his songs, written out of his own experiences, touch nerves in our souls. He has performed in every major concert hall In Canada, from coast-to-coast, and he has also taken his music and his musicians to clubs, arenas, and outdoor festivals.
Offstage, Ian lives on a farm in Winona, Ontario, and spends as much time there as he can. "When I'm on the road, I always feel odd - I love the excitement of new places and new people, but I always feel a little guilty about It because I also love the peace of being at home."
It's enough to make any performer schizoid - but Ian Thomas is completely together. With his musicians, all of them experienced, and all of them long-time friends, Ian Thomas is a perfectionist.
He is a songwriter, a singer, a performer. Ian Thomas is a complete entertainer, and you are lucky to be about to experience him.