Canadian trio Rush plays the Spectrum

By Scott Brodeur, Philadelphia Inquirer, April 25, 1990

At least the light show and special effects were innovative at last night's sold-out Rush concert at the Spectrum. The music sure wasn't.

One of the premier power trios of the progressive movement, Rush was embraced by the album-oriented rock movement only to be shoved aside by the MTV set. During its two-hour performance last night, the Canadian band, which is still able to pack arenas, showed how badly its songs have curdled with age. Suite-like numbers such as "Subdivisions," "Free Will" and "Tom Sawyer," once staples of the FM airwaves, sounded as dated as the worst Mersey beat sounds or '70s disco music.

Even the material the band showcased from its latest effort, Presto (Atlantic), was laced with cobwebs. For instance, "Show Don't Tell" and "Superconductor," with a few adjustments, could have fit onto early '80s albums such as Moving Pictures or Permanent Waves almost seamlessly.

Most disappointing, however, was the failure of drummer Neil Peart or guitarist Alex Lifeson -- both revered in the past for their pioneering musicianship -- to step out of the mix and offer anything exceptional. Peart's drum solo was boring for the most part, while Lifeson's guitar was consistently shrouded with cloudy, indistinctive tones.

Singer-bassist Geddy Lee, despite his shying away from some high notes, was the top performer of the night. Aided by a bubble bath of vocal enhancement, including lots of echo and taped background vocals, Lee's voice was strong and less piercing than in the past.

The band was further saved by an extraordinary laser and light show as well as other effects, including three-dimensional cartoons and interesting videos, that were worked into the show. Another extra was the placement of two additional sets of speakers above the rear of the floor that provided a stereo sound when used.

The show, with opening band Mr. Big, will repeat on Friday. Tickets are $18.50.