Canadian rock trio Rush - Neil Peart, Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee - has been taking advantage of its rental of Greenville Memorial Auditorium, using the facility to rehearse for its tour, which kicks off Saturday night in Greenville.
The picture frames have been rattling off the walls at Greenville Memorial Auditorium this week, as Canadian rock trio Rush is inside plowing through rehearsal for its upcoming tour.
Like .38 Special last year, Rush is kicking off its tour Saturday night in Greenville, having booked pre-concert rehearsal time at the auditorium for a few days before the show. The band has been rehearsing there since Tuesday night, said Chip Gray, the auditorium's executive director -- and, as he'll quickly attest, not exactly at soft volumes.
Nor, exactly do Rush fans come in soft volumes.
The first concert of the tour, which is in support of the band's new album "Presto," sold out Wednesday, pulling in ticket buyers from as far away as Canada, Detroit and Arkansas.
Gray estimated that more than 1500 tickets (the auditorium holds 6800) were nabbed by fans outside the area, including several dozen from Ohio.
"We had one guy call from New Jersey to charge his tickets," said Gray.
"And then he asked, 'Do you know where the bus station is in Greenville?'"
The rabid fan club comes to hear drummer Neil Peart, guitarist Alex Lifeson and vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee perform technically flawless yet emotionally soul-less hard rock.
The new album, the group's 17th album over the last 15 years, is receiving more critical praise than many others in its discography.
True, Peart's lyrics are literate and he's long been a drummer's drummer because of his technical facility and fancy work. But between the over-arrangement of the music and Lee's shrill and unconvincing vocals, it's hard to find the heart.
Those who flock hundreds of miles to hear a Rush concert and gobble up their records must hear something different in the music.
A sold out opening tour night is what every rock band dreams of and that's one of the reasons several groups opt to launch tours in Greenville, said Gray.
"This place is so small for a rock show that it's a good bet to sell out," he said.
"Pre-tour rehearsals at the auditorium look attractive because the building is easy to work in and relatively inexpensive to rent," said Gray. "Area hotel accommodations are reasonable, and it's a good market for rock 'n' roll," he added.
Opening the Feb. 17 Rush concert will be Mr. Big, a driving rock quartet whose personnel has led to "supergroup" labels.
The lineup is strong singer Eric Martin; gifted guitarist Paul Gilbert; Billy Sheehan, who three times has been named "Guitar Player" magazine's top rock bass player of the year; and touted session and tour drummer Pat Torpey.
Although the foursome often lapses into typical power rock pitfalls -- especially recycled riffs and the more-is-better school of presentation -- the combination of Martin's soulful voice and Gilbert's guitar work sometimes catches fire.
Mr. Big will make an appearance at Horizon Records Saturday afternoon.
The band will be on hand 1-2:30 p.m. for "autographs and rock 'n' roll talk," said store owner Gene Berger.