Rush: Perpetually Closer To The Hearts Of Their Fans

By Brad Wheeler, Toronto Globe And Mail, June 15, 2015


Fly by night? No, not them.

With the hard-rock trio Rush currently on a tour to celebrate 40 years of high-concept, high-watt aural adventures, we took a look back through The Globe and Mail archives in search of early-career concert reviews. Were there signs that the Toronto noisemakers would last four decades? Put out two dozen gold records? Survive their fashion statements of the 1980s?

The different critics all had their own takes on what the band was up to and where it might be going, but the common thread through the reviews was the special attention paid to the fans – fiercely loyal followers who stuck tight to their style-trekking heroes.

What follows is a mash-up of five early-career concert reviews in Toronto – from 1974 at Massey Hall opening for Nazareth to a sold-out 1981 concert at Maple Leaf Gardens – by four different Globe music writers (Robert Martin, Sam Charters, Ray Conlogue and Alan Niester):

It was a pop, wine and good times crowd that came out to get their heads wrecked. Rush did the job. (1)

Any nervousness that the three members of the power trio might have felt due to playing in front of a hometown audience last night must have been dashed the moment the lights went down. The instant the switches were pulled, the entire inside of the arena erupted in one hellish shrill whistle, louder and more intense than all the canaries in Hades singing en masse. Those who didn't cheer stoked up their disposable lighters in such numbers that the inside of the hall looked like Toronto as seen by night from a descending 747. In case there was ever any doubt, this is Rush country, buddy, and proud of it. (2)

The 20,800 souls who twirled luminescent green flashlights like interstellar glow-worms, and bathed in visceral quanta of sound were there to use music for the same purpose the glassy-eyed Wagnerians do when they immerse themselves in Magic Fire music: self-magnification on a massive scale. (3)

Rush fans are hard-rock fanatics. Many were up shaking raised fists in time with the beat of the music and others were stamping their feet so hard it's a wonder the balconies didn't collapse. Some brought banners to hang from the railings; others had air horns, and a few threw down handfuls of the leaflets distributed at the door. (4)

All this for Rush? I could see it for the Rolling Stones, who passed through town last week, but Rush? Well, the young and fresh-faced crowd seemed to be completely content with Rush's totally unsophisticated approach to rock. There is obviously still a place for a band whose approach is tantamount to aural assault. (5)

The crowd, all between 14 and 20, were in a state of pent-up rock enthusiasm. The more cheering, whistling and clapping energy the followers gave off, the more Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart put into their performances. (6)

Of course, the band does have a couple things going for it besides pure volume. Bassist Lee's banshee vocals are immediately arresting and are bound to become the band's most distinguishing characteristic. (7)

Lee sounds like the damned howling in Hades. The music is pretty standard heavy-metal stuff, guaranteed to rattle the loose change in your pocket. Still, they must be doing something right, judging by the number of young women who leapt onto the stage to give Lee roses and plant wet ones on his cheek. (8)

"What you need is your own glory," trilled Lee's ecstatic falsetto singing Something For Nothing from the 2112 album, "What you need is your own story," and the thousands responded. (9)

It may not be new, but the group's knock-down power is appreciated. Rush's first album is charted and climbing in the United States and that means success. (10)

Rush made an occasional attempt at variety, but it can't get away with that for very long. The players have adopted a heavy-metal formula approach and their fans expect to have their earwax loosened. Anything less would be as serious a sell-out to them as Dylan going electric was to his fans during the sixties. (11)

How far can drummer Peart and his cohorts go in a more artistic direction without overly disturbing the power-tripping sublimation of all that wattage, which is what the mob shows up for? (12)

But even long-time fans who haven't seen the trio in a year or two will undoubtedly be pleasantly surprised by the show that the band is now capable of performing. It was an intensely energetic set, and the band members are willing to take more risks and more extended instrumental forays within the pieces that fill the set. (13)

It will be interesting to see how far Rush's fans are willing to travel with them. (14)

Legend

  • Rush ear-splitting band with no variety, at Massey Hall, by Robert Martin, June 26, 1975: 1, 5, 8, 11
  • Nazareth has sound of Money, at Massey Hall, by Robert Martin, Oct. 25, 1974: 7, 10
  • Rush whips up a perfect frenzy, at Massey Hall, by Sam Charters, June 14, 1976: 4, 6
  • Cosmos cruising with Rush, at CNE Grandstand, by Ray Conlogue, Aug. 24, 1977: 3, 9, 12, 14
  • Pleasant surprises in Rush’s flashy set, at Maple Leaf Gardens, by Alan Niester, March 24, 1981: 2, 13