During the early 70s, there was an unwritten rule which said heavy metal Music wouldn't sell. The real problem was that the number and quality of such heavy groups had dwindled and heavy music was dying because it had become stale and mundane. That's all changed now. Heavy metal is back with a bang, as Rush and UFO proved last night by playing to a sold-out Memorial Coliseum.
UFO opened the show with perhaps the most powerful song in its' repertoire, the title cut from its latest album, "Lights Out," and the tone of the evening was set. UFO can handle several different forms of music quite well but focuses on its raw, heavy songs in concert.
Onstage, UFO possesses all the tools of stardom. Vocalist Phil Mogg, clad in contrasting black and white, appeared to be emulating Queen crooner Freddie Mercury with his moves and stage dominance, spending most of his time working with bassist Pete Way. Always on the prowl, Way was a terror onstage, easily the focal point away from the singer as he was forever stalking his fellow musicians, marking time or just getting carried away with the music. But perhaps the most imposing figure of all was guitarist Michael Schenker. At times, Schenker appeared to occupy a different plane altogether, often merely standing back before his wall of amplifiers watching his cronies, or leaning over the audience, pitching out his leads.
UFO moved through several songs from various albums, the best of which were "Doctor Doctor," "Out On The Street" and "This Kid's," before concluding with its tour-de-force, "Rock Bottom." Rock bottom is about the last place you could find UFO after last night. If it can keep this sort of performance level up, UFO should soon be flying high.
Rush took the stage for its 100 minutes of music shortly thereafter and launched into its usual opener, "Bastille Day," before changing things up a bit. The band had some trouble getting things going, and though the trouble was minor, Rush started a little better than it did last night. Once cranked up however, the boys in the band became unstoppable. "Lakeside Park" was moved into the second slot but was surpassed by "By-Tor and the Snow Dog," an old favorite featuring some blistering guitar work from Alex Lifeson.
The entire show was reflected in singer/bassist Geddy Lee's articulate expressions. Every note, every chord, every move was detectable and it became obvious by the grin on his face that he was pleased with the performance. "Xanadu," a concept piece from the new album, worked well, thanks to several precise tempo and rhythm changes courtesy of drummer Neil Peart. "A Farewll To Kings" followed and and brought on Lee's biggest grin of the evening before the group retreated into some older material like "Something For Nothing" and "Anthem." At times, Lee's voice suffered from stress and humidity, but he covered well, avoiding the lower ranges where it most bothered him. Lee also deserves credit for maintaining his concentration because there was a circus of craziness in full swing backstage all evening long. A running battle between Lee, UFO and crew members kept things constantly appearing onstage, culminating in UFO's irrepressible bassist Pete Way's candy-striped pants being strung up on Lee's amps. As Rush prepared to return for its well-deserved encore, Lee and Way quickly exchanged clothes and Way led Rush back out on stage. Running and jumping around and generally being crazy, Way clowned through most of Rush's three-song encore, which began with "Working Man" and concluded with Lee laughing uncontrollably in Way's arms off the side of the stage following "Cinderella Man."
But seriously, folks, Rush was in typically fine form last night.
The rejuvenation of heavy metal music is largely due to groups like this - groups that can take a basic heavy metal premise, add some clever innovations and shape its music into something truly extraordinary. As if it were written in a script, Rush bade "Farewell to the Old Kings of Rock" as the older music was laid to rest.
There is a new, progressive heavy metal-king and his name is Rush.