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.