Canada Day celebrations came early last night at Molson Amphitheatre as hometown prog-rockers Rush played their first-ever show at the outdoor shed.
And to an enthusiastic capacity crowd, no less.
In fact, the band -- powered by bassist-vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart -- went so far as to have a camera crew, an impressive camera crane, and an overhead camera on hand to document the event for their own archives.
Universal Concerts had earlier claimed this was Rush's first ever outdoor show in Toronto, but they did an outdoor concert at Varsity Arena some 20 years ago.
Last night, however, time seemed to have stood still for the three accomplished musicians, recent recipients of the Order Of Canada who have sold a staggering 35 million albums over their 22-year career.
Aided in their multi-media presentation by a huge video screen and elaborate laser lights, Rush couldn't have asked for a more receptive crowd to applaud their homecoming.
The male-dominated audience, who played instruments in the air to their hearts' content, seemed to know every nuance of every song and jumped to their feet at the end of each tune.
Crowd favorites over the course of two and a half hours and two sets proved to be new songs Driven, Half The World and Limbo from Rush's latest album, Test For Echo; Animate and Nobody's Hero from 1993's Counterparts, and older songs that went back 20 years, including The Trees, Closer To The Heart and 2112.
The band -- Lifeson gets a special fashion bravery award for wearing black leather pants in exceptionally muggy weather -- stuck to a fairly straight-ahead, workman-
like approach, avoiding any flashiness in favor of some
of the tightest playing I've seen this year.
Okay, so maybe Peart did perform a spectacular drum solo about two hours into the show, but then, what would a Rush concert be without one?
He was especially entertaining as his circular stage rotated mid-performance, enabling him to play a second drum kit hidden behind his first set, while hilarious stock footage of people dancing played on the video screen behind him.
Rush gave a sneak preview of their Test For Echo tour last December with "a blind date" show at the Phoenix, but only 800 contest winners got to see that. Last night's show was able to accomodate 20 times as many with 16,000 seats filled, making it the first capacity concert of the season at the Amphitheatre.
The first 107 concertgoers to bring a bag of non-perishable food got a free copy of Test For Echo.
The same food drive is taking place for tomorrow night's second Rush show. Tickets are still available.
SUN RATING 4 OUT OF 5