New Rush Show Like A Breath of Fresh Air

By Nick Krewen, Hamilton Spectator, March 1, 1986, transcribed by Chris McDonald

Less is more.

At least that's the most significant lesson Rush seems to have learned about live performance since their Grace Under Pressure tour.

Whereas their last show was bombarded with technical effects beyond the saturation point, last night's Power Windows performance before 10,000 at Copps Coliseum was a breath of fresh air.

The visual production of the concert was still mind-boggling. Songs about human behaviour, challenge, endurance and warfare were integrated with cynical cartoons, splices of video or a dynamic laser 'n light show.

In fact, the cinematic value of Rush live is comparable to watching a musical Raiders of the Lost Ark - always adventurous.

This time out, the pacing was better organized.

Instead of alternating smoke bombs and dry ice with laser animation and video graphics for every number, the system was set up in such a way where the viewer became a participant - almost hypnotized by the action - rather than a casual observer.

Some of the video work based on pieces like "The Big Money" and "Marathon" from Power Windows was just amazing.

The relaxed attitude towards special effects also reflected in the presentation of the music, as master guitarist Alex Lifeson and vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee seemed more aerobic than on previous occassions. As for drummer/percussionist Neil Peart --his workhorse attitude was accentuated as usual, although he did twirl the odd stick in the air to elicit a cheer from the excited crowd.

One particular highlight was the Rush rehash of "Closer to the Heart," featuring the trio jamming on the three-chord rock vamp that was tagged on at the end.

As they were approaching the climax of the tune, Lifeson engaged Lee in a partial abdominal stretch (how's that for bonafide wrestling lingo?) - hopping in circles while still playing their instruments. And no one lost their balance. The WWF would have been proud.

There were other playful moments - with either Geddy chasing Alex around the stage, or Alex chasing Geddy around the stage. It was refreshing to watch the guys fool around and have some fun.

For fans of the band, they witnessed a superlative show.

Rush performed the predictable newer material - "Manhattan Project," "Marathon," "Middletown Dreams," and "Mystic Rhythms" among the most recent - and a few old surprises.

"The Trees" burst forth into energetic fervour once we got past the acoustic intro, while "YYZ" featured some hot six-string soloing from Lifeson, and some punctuated polyrhythm from Lee, before exploding into a Peart percussion powerdrive session.

His solo seemed to have a format of its own, as he often restated the rhythmic theme of the instrumental song from Moving Pictures, while his drum kit revolved in a semi-circle.

Then an even bigger surprise - the first encore was the premiere movement of "2112." It was almost eerie to hear Lee scream in the high range again, since he stuck to the low register since the Permanent Waves days.

The sound was more consistent than usual - with some songs actually coming across quite clear - and others, like "Distant Early Warning," lost behind a barrage of guitar distortion.

A lot of it depended on where you were sitting - and basically fans in the bleachers to the right and left of the stage seemed to get the better deal.

Those on the floor often got their view blocked by people, who for some reason, stood on their seats, rather than just on the floor.

From the opening strains of "The Spirit of Radio" to the final bars of "In the Mood," Rush delivered a solid two-hours worth of entertainment - proving once again that the trio of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart isn't getting any older, just better.