The Andrew Lloyd Webber of Stadium Rock

By Jonathan Gold, Los Angeles Times, April 4, 1990

Time has been kind to Rush, the grand old men of "progressive" rock, in the way it has been to Aerosmith and no other '70s hard-rock band.

New metal bands such as King's X and even Voivod ape Rushisms, Rush's albums still sell millions, and the elements of Rush songs so reviled by rock 'n' roll intellectuals - turgid meandering, sections that don't seem to have anything to do with each other, dopey, slightly mystical lyrics, sterility of execution - could just as well apply to critics' faves Metallica. Rush, which played the Pacific Amphitheatre on Saturday, has never been racist or sexist; they've never been on rock 'n' roll power trips; their quiet on-stage smugness is almost refreshing compared to the obnoxious braggadocio of a Skid Row or a Motley Crue.

But to the unconverted, the Rush show at the Forum on Monday still sounded like a Rush show from the '70s, the kind of screeched melodies (ever-evocative, rarely memorable) you're more likely to hear on Broadway these days than in rock arenas, floating on a stale wash of guitar drone. Rush might be the Andrew Lloyd Webber of stadium-rock cliche.

The guys didn't move around a lot: Geddy Lee played bass, wailed into a stationary mike and played keyboards, all at the same time (when he managed to walk around a little, they cheered him like Michael Jordan), and guitarist Alex Lifeson moped around on the other side of the stage. Drummer Neil Peart was all but hidden behind a forest of cymbals, except when the riser rotated during the epic-length drum solo.

When things really got rockin', Lee and Lifeson dashed to the stage's lip in mad little bunny hops, or leaned toward each other, faces almost bumping, like 6-year-olds in a Hummel figurine. And though the videos projected behind the stage tended strongly toward the tree, the rabbit and the field of what, even a mute Canadian travelogue was more interesting to look at than the band.

Following a second Forum show, Rush plays the San Diego Sports Arena on Thursday and the Pacific Amphitheatre on Saturday.