Rush Brilliant In Concert At Checkerdome

By Aarno Kane, St. Louis Times, December 15-16, 1978, transcribed by Dave Steiner

[Transcribers note: What makes this review interesting from a sort of...journalistic history viewpoint is that it was published in a short lived paper called The St. Louis Times which ran during a strike at the plant where both the Post Dispatch and the now defunct Globe Democrat were printed. The reviewer's name may have been Aaron, but I spelled it as written in the article... Aarno.]

At 9:30 p.m. Wednesday (12/13/78), Rush, a three-man, rock orchestra from Toronto walked onstage at the Checkerdome into a sea of warm light. More than 13,000 persons were on hand to salute their arrival with blazing cigarette lighters and small torches. A few were even launching bottle rockets and firecrackers from the balconies. Rush responded with a brilliant two-hour concert.

One of their first offerings was "A Passage To Bangkok," a piece characterized by an intense, dark, dominant riff in parallel minor fourths, a la Black Sabbath.

Like much of Rush's music, this work is distinguished by the intimate harmonic interplay of lead guitar and bass lines and close paralleling of the percussion parts to the rhythms of the melodic material.

This is one of the ways in which Rush has expanded the depth of its sound beyond the shallower formats of more conventional three-man rock bands.

In "Xanadu," a highly pictorial composition, the group pointed up its more recent directions and newer orchestral resources. Lead guitarist Alex Lifeson played a double-neck Gibson, six- and 12-string, through a variety of electronic devices such as the Roland Space Echo and Chorus. Bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee used a double-neck Rickenbacker bass and guitar combo while tripling with his right foot on a Moog Taurus pedal unit and singing in his unmistakable soaring, sometimes squeaking falsetto. Periodically he switched over to a Mini Moog synthesizer and Polyphonic Chorale keyboard. Drummer Neil Peart commanded an impressive array of percussion, in addition to an imposing Slingerland double drum set. By mastering this variety of instruments and devices, Rush has far transcended the usual guitar chord rock idiom and has achieved the greatest riches of orchestration and tone color. They thereby are able to conceive and execute with perfection multisection concert compositions such as "Xanadu," with its broad shifts of tempo and mood and its airy worlds of space and time. Rush is aided in this by carefully coordinated, well rehearsed stage and back screen lighting that is almost an integral part of the music.

In "Cygnus X-1," a space odyssey fantasy, eerie spatial effects of the music are reinforced by special effects films projected on a back screen. This was greeted enthusiastically by the audience.

"A Farewell To Kings," from the fifth Rush album, opened with a lutelike, finger plucked acoustic guitar solo in the Elizabethan mode, a la Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, then erupted with explosions, both musical and literal (blinding gunpowder flashes on stage), into a towering monumental work of serious rock.

Strangely, Rush's reputation, at least in the St. Louis area, has remained that of a one-song band. Their quintessential classic rock song, "Fly By Night," from early in their career, is their only work frequently heard here. But over the course of eight albums since their formation in 1974, Rush has progressed into one of the foremost musical forces and performing ensembles in the world. Like all great musical forces, it has assimilated and synthesized the best elements from a wide range of sources and forged those elements into its own powerful and distinctive musical identity. It is therefore understandable, if somewhat disappointing nonetheless that Rush declined to play "Fly By Night" in spite of the pleas and protests of the audience.