ANYONE fortunate enough to have seen Rush live can attest to the fact that the Canadian hard-rock trio's concerts are more than a musical happening; they're an audio and visual event that assaults the senses from all sides.
And based on the band's performance at The Arena Thursday night, it appears Rush has been able to maintain the spectacular nature of its stage show through the years without taking anything away from its thoughtful, intelligent, highly developed musical compositions.
While some of the stunts and some of the video clips were repeated from concerts past, the new visual effects were numerous enough to hold the audience's attention.
Chief among these were the videos displayed during the playing of the funky title song from the group's latest disc, "Roll The Bones." The images of skeletons, rolling dice and playing enhanced the lyrical message of this tune and indeed the entire new release - that no matter how well prepared we are, life is a crap shoot, and the only way we can improve the odds is by the choices we make.
The group also made points with its choice of material - a fine mix of vintage Rush and newer tunes. Lengthy instrumentals accompanied by dizzying laser light displays were balanced with synthesizer-enhanced, polyrhythmic pieces.
Vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson did a phenomenal job playing off one another, but drummer Neil Peart really stole the show. He displayed his prowess on electronic drum pads, then switched to a more conventional set of skins. Finally, he augmented his drumming with digitally sampled sounds.
Guitar wunderkind Eric Johnson was the opening act. His dexterous fingering and almost magical ability to achieve otherworldly tones by bending notes as far as they will go puts him in a class by himself. Like a jazz musician, he frequently strays from the main theme of his compositions, taking us on new and exciting adventures before returning to the familiar melody.
The highlight of the 40-minute set was Johnson's lengthy introduction to "Cliffs of Dover," which is not heard on the radio version of the tune.