Nearly-Cancelled Rush Concert A Winner

Geddy Lee Went On With Rush Concert Despite A Case Of Laryngitis

By Mark McNeil, Ottawa Citizen, March 30, 1981, transcribed by pwrwindows

I had no control of my voice. It had a mind of its own. - Geddy Lee, Rush lead singer

Lee doesn't like canceling concerts, but late in the show at the Civic Centre Saturday night he began to wish he had.

Fighting back a bad case of laryngitis with antibiotics, Rush's singer/bassist found himself struggling to cut the high-pitched vocal parts.

His voice would desperately reach out to grab a note. Sometimes it would make it, other times it didn't. But each time the venture was torment.

It was a concert he seriously considered postponing. But, a true professional, he felt an obligation to go through with it no matter how discomforting.

"I got a chest infection in Montreal ... I was hoping that it wouldn't affect my voice but unfortunately it did."

"Whether to go through with the concert was a difficult decision," he whispered after the show with the tortured voice which endured 1 3/4 hours of pain. Lee cut the concert short — by 15 minutes when he felt that he couldn't take any more.

Lee remembered a Seattle concert a couple of years ago where he suffered from the same problem. "They sent us an award for the city's best concert of the year."


Second to Springsteen

"While Bruce Springsteen's Jan. 24 engagement comes to mind as the most memorable concert in Ottawa so far this year, Rush's performance could place a close second.

Lee's vocal frustrations were almost forgotten amid the tight instrumentation. The volume of his microphone was wisely turned down and his singing foibles were swallowed up by the thumping rhythms.

You could hear it strain at times but his characteristic wail always sounds like it's suffering. The grinding voice is a trademark of the group.

The lights and sound added greatly to the impact of the show. With half the speakers suspended from the ceiling, the sound was clean and full. Parts were easily distinguishable with a good mix.

An interesting effect was created by running guitar riffs between different columns. It produced the same sensation as having a racing car speed by your nose.

The characteristic smoke bombs and flash-pods were avoided during the gig because Lee felt it would irritate his chest.

With powerful colored spotlights shining from the top, the side and behind, a huge screen behind Rush displayed moving pictures to go with the music.

The evening got off to a great start with FM, which played a strong set of electronic rock. The trio's electric mandolin player, Ben Mink, played sensationally, cranking out solo after solo using a sound that cut through Cameron Hawkin's keyboards like a razor-sharp a blade.

The band finished its set with an extended version of Phasars on Stun, one of FM's most well-known tunes, which prompted a thunderous applause.

Amid the flick of a thousand bics in the audience, Rush hit the stage playing "2112". The spotlights stared down at the trio, Lee moved toward his mike and the Civic Centre erupted with enthusiasm.

Riding high on three concert triumphs in Toronto, the group exuded confidence as they slid into "Limelight" from its latest album. Never once did things become boring, with the fabulous array of visuals and seemingly endless array of sound.

The group played old familiar tunes, spiking it with new material from the album Moving Pictures.

Certain numbers stood out - the new instrumental "YYZ", which sounds a bit like Jeff Beck, is action-packed with clever fills and runs extended from a very catchy motif. A tight rendition of "The Spirit of Radio" showed how the group has grown musically in its last few albums.

Finishing off with the finale from "2112", the trio returned for an encore playing the instrumental "La Villa Strangiato". It was a wise move as Lee's voice had given up a few numbers before.

The crowd, unlike other audiences, listened intently, enjoying the nuances of the music rather than merely treating the show as a social event. And always, the band was in command, bringing the audience up and down but never letting things get out of control.