Intimate Venue Is A Real Rush

By Jane Stevenson, Toronto Sun, December 20, 1996

What a Rush!

That would be bassist-keyboardist-vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart.

The trio of musical virtuosos who make up the veteran Canadian band Rush gave 800 people at the Pheonix on Wednesday night a scaled-down but powerful sneak preview of their current road show that's expected to pull into the Gardens in the spring.

The group has been touring the U.S. since October, where they have sold 500,000 copies of their latest album, Test for Echo. (It's almost reached platinum status in Canada).

"Hello Canadians!" welcomed Lee after the band whipped through Dreamline and The Big Money. "It's lovely to see you here. How are you doing? It's nice to be in such intimate surroundings for a change. I can see each and every one of you." Rush normally trot out the large video screen and laser light show to enhance their extremely loud but dynamic prog-rock sound in a stadium setting. But Wednesday night's event was another "blind date" show, in which contest winners arrive to see "a big band at a small venue" supposedly without knowing whom they are going to see.

Previous groups in Toronto have included Metallica and the Sex Pistols, but Molson Canadian's final promotion of the year is different in that the same 50 people are travelling across the country to see three shows in a row. It began Monday night in St. John's, Nfld., with Sheryl Crow, and wraps up Dec. 29 in Vancouver.

For their part, Rush often seemed more excited than the crowd to be performing in such a small space, decorating the stage with a life-size cutout of soon-to-be-ex Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson Lee.

"This is kind of fun," said the sunglasses-wearing Lee, who jumped around like a kangaroo all night long. "Getting sweaty up here and all that stuff". The black leather pants-clad Lifeson, meanwhile, played the clown, striking rock star poses, making goofy faces and occasionally meeting Lee at the front of the stage to play side-by-side. The usually serious Peart cracked a smile at one point, but otherwise remained hunched over his enormous kit, wowing the audience every time he threw a drum stick high up into the air and caught it.

The band's 19-song set included five new songs from Test for Echo, most notably their latest hit, Half The World.

But the crowd seemed more interested in Rush classics Closer To The Heart, Subdivisions, The Spirit Of Radio and Tom Sawyer. (Hey, even I had a few high school flashbacks during Lee's high-pitched vocals.)

This is a group who perform the musical equivalent of finishing each other's sentences with finesse. They appear to have never been fresher.