FORGET all your preconceived notions about rock concerts. Not since Pink Floyd has a group redefined the experience like Rush did Monday night at The Arena. Even if the Canadian trio's brand of hard rock isn't your cup of tea, the flawlessly executed show, complete with brilliant sound and lighting systems, as well as an array of lasers and other special effects, was worth the price of admission.
After 16 years, it's still amazing the kind of power these three individuals can bring to bear on a concert stage. Great crashing waves of sound flooded the nearly sold-out hall as Geddy Lee easily manipulated bass and keyboards, while guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart added their own special punch. While the use of synthesizers helped the band approximate the recorded versions of its songs, there were enough impromptu moments in the set, most notably during Lifeson's solos, to maintain the audience's attention.
Touring behind their 1989 LP, "Presto," the three handled their chores with great dexterity and panache. The interplay between drums and bass, most evident in "Show Don't Tell" was classic Rush, and the instrumental virtuosity was as evident in the three-minute radio hits off this album as it was during the couple of multi-layered suites the band threw in for good measure, lest we forget its early days.
Of the new material, "Super Conductor" got the most involved send-off, complete with varilights that dropped from the overhead trusses on accordian-like hangers, video images just this side of surreal, and the use of speakers in the rear of the hall which created a truly quadrophonic sound. The attention-getter of the evening, however, was the magical appearance of a pair of giant rabbits during "War Paint."
Surprisingly, Lee had no trouble being heard, even on tough numbers like "Marathon" and "Subdivisions," two standout tunes in a career brimming with equally expressive songs. And, while it was a nice surprise to find the ultimate Rush classic, "Tom Sawyer" in the set after all these years, the trio still loses points for omitting "Spirit of Radio" this time around.
Opening the show was Mr. Big, a better-than-average heavy metal quartet that derives most of its worth from a convincing display of instrumental technique, including a bass solo executed as if on a classical guitar, and a bass/guitar duel that saw the musicians match each other, note for note, until it passed impressive and bordered on the self-indulgent.