It was Theater of the Large - and like the tiny Lilliputians, a worshipful Rush audience found a Gulliver Saturday night at the Knickerbocker Arena, one that was gargantuan compared to everyday life.
Rush, known for its experimentation and technical innovations, particularly drummer Neil Peart's percussion, fulfilled expectations with hits spanning the band's 15-year career as well as several from their recent album "Presto."
The evening's theme was magic, and for the devotees who packed the Knick to its rafters, Merlin couldn't have done better than the Canadian trio.
A pair of giant, dancing rabbits popped out of enormous top hats. A laser show danced over the stage and into the arena's far corners. "The Midget Magicians" transformed from a drawing to an animated cartoon into elaborate film footage.
The visuals were spectacular, but the focus of the evening was on the band's lyrically and instrumentally finely-crafted songs.
Peart's drumming was in fine form, especially during his solo on "YYZ." Alex Lifeson kept up the pace with precise guitar gymnastics and bassist Geddy Lee agrressively stretched the range of his instrument. His distinctive, high-pitched vocals topped with "On the Past," a song about teen suicide from "Presto."
Peart's literary lyrics often probe how society smothers young people's individuality and potential, but with optimism - hope for their ability to overcome obstacles and change the world.
This grandiose theme and numerous lengthy instrumentals eventually wore thin. Rush hit its stride, though, with several songs from "Presto" before their encores.
"Show Me, Don't Tell Me" was a highlight, ironically expressing a desire for communication without hocus-pocus.
Mr. Big played a mighty metal set to open that was heavy on the Spandex, meaty guitar solos and power vocals.
The line-up consists of formerly Buffalo-based Talas and David Lee Roth bassist Billy Sheehan (who could have used more volume); ex-Racer X guitarist Paul Gilbert; one-time Robert Plant drummer Pat Torpey and former solo vocalist Eric Martin.