"We've been to Columbus five or six times now...it's always been a good place to play," said Alex Lifeson, lead guitarist for Rush, in an interview after the Thursday night concert at St. John Arena.
Judging from the reactions of the audience, it would seem that Columbus holds mutual feelings for Rush.
Playing to an audience that was largely made up of high school students, Rush presented more than two hours of technically precise music gleaned from the six albums the band has released.
The performance was well-balanced by the use of synthesizers, lighting effects and rear-projection films for all the songs from the most recent album Hemispheres, released two months ago.
"Cygnus XI Book II" from Hemispheres, proved the most dramatic number of the evening, using a film to illustrate the lyrics about a space ship pilot whose ship gets pulled into a black hole in space. Lifeson said that the amount of video effects used on the present tour, which began in October and will extend into June, is triple the amount used on Rush's last American tour.
When a traveling band has only three members, the pressure is on all the time because the musicians don't have the time to lay out and tune up in the middle of a song. The members of Rush handled this comfortably, however, with lead singer and bassist, Geddy Lee also handling most of the synthesizer additions that distinguish the music of Rush.
Songs like "By-Tor and the Snow Dog" and "Xanadu" profited from Lee's distinctive but reasonably subtle synthesizer work.
"Farewell to Kings" featured the best guitar work of the evening with Lifeson playing full, rich notes that were at the same time powerful and sustained.
Rush encored with "Working Man," from its first album (released in 1974), featuring one of the best percussion solos I've ever heard by drummer Neil Peart.
Rush has always presented a fascinating musical contradiction to me - the mystical lyrics seem more appropriate to folk singers, but when set to driving rock and roll beat, the songs emerge as ferocious, yet fun. Lee's high, penetrating voice adds yet another dimension of the power of the songs. He comes so close to losing control, but never quite does.
Lifeson, who with Lee writes music for Peart's lyrics, described Rush's music as "ideals expressed in writing." He said that the group has been taking longer and longer to record its albums, with the result being more fully developed concepts that weave in and out of the songs.
He said Rush will probably begin recording its next album in August with a release date set for November.
April Wine opened the concert for Rush, featuring most of the songs from its second album, First Glance.
"Don't Push Me Around" from the first album was the high point of the April Wine performance, featuring a harmonica solo that brought a little life into an otherwise mediocre audience.