Rush's Heavy-Metal Sludge

By Steve Pond, Rolling Stone, May 15, 1980, transcribed by Meg Jahnke

The Forum
Los Angeles
March 10th, 1980

In one way, Rush is a lot like Shaun Cassidy, Teddy Pendergrass and Super Vixens: its audience is made up almost entirely of one sex. In Rush's case, it's nearly all males -- or more precisely, judging from this crowd, nearly all sixteen-year-old males with long hair, faint mustaches and adrenalin to burn.

This audience is the kind that has stuck with Rush for six years, steadily increasing the Canadian trio's box-office potency. This audience also reacts more feverishly to its old favorites than to anything from Permanent Waves, the current Rush album, which took an immediate leap into the Top Ten.

Rush, of course, knows all about this audience. At the Forum concert, the band emphasized its old material, introducing each song and noting which album it came from. Even "The Spirit of Radio," the song responsible for garnering most of the FM airplay that has made Permanent Waves so successful, was given a graceless, hurried performance and an unimportant position near the middle of the set. Rush's patented sledgehammer epics, such as "Hemispheres," "2112" and "Passage to Bangkok," try to mesh mystical, literary lyrics with elaborate rock & roll suites but they only succeed in turning everything into heavy-metal sludge. There were a few exceptions, though, most notably "Free Will," the punchiest, most straight-forward rocker on Permanent Waves. Also, it's hard not to be somewhat impressed by the fact that only three musicians can create such a massive, leaden sound.

For the record, those three are drummer Neil Peart, who writes all the band's lyrics and takes fewer solos than might be expected; guitarist Alex Lifeson, whose mile-a-minute buzzing is more numbing than exciting; and bassist, keyboardist and singer Geddy Lee, whose amazingly high-pitched wailing often sounds like Mr. Bill singing heavy metal. If only Mr. Sluggo had been on hand to give these guys a couple of good whacks...