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Timeless Rush rocks out at SPAC

By Michael Lisi

Rush is timeless.

The Canadian power trio - bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart - have been doing it their way since releasing "Fly By Night" in 1975.  Times have changed, musical styles have changed, but Rush has been constant: The band keeps doing what they've always done, grinding out gritty, guitar-fueled rock that's evident on their latest record, ?Snakes and Arrows.?

They did that and more at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Saturday night, wowing a crowd of about 12,000 with almost three hours of Rush rock that had fans - most of them middle-aged guys with more than a few in faded Rush concert T-shirts - shaking their fists in the air to the beat and singing along.

While Rush offered up a retrospective of their past, they certainly stayed in the present, playing eight songs from "Snakes" that were plenty vital - especially the driving instrumental "The Main Monkey Business" and "The Larger Bowl" - preceded by a taped introduction by Canadian hosers Bob and Doug MacKenzie.  The second set was heavy with new songs; the first five were from "Snakes," as were two others later on.

The show - a 70-minute opening set, a 20-minute intermission and a 100-minute closing set - was ripe with the band's quirky sense of humor.  An example: About 20 Barbie dolls (set up by the band's roadies) stood crowded in front of Lifeson, each holding a sign with a message on it.  And three rotisserie ovens loaded with fake chickens stood behind Lee.

Fans were on their feet and playing air guitar from the moment Rush took the stage and launched into a killer version of "Limelight" to start the show.  They stayed with more recognizable tunes during the show's first half, pounding out "Entre Nous," "Freewill," a fine rendition of "Secret Touch" and a reading of "Circumstances" (from 1978's "Hemispheres" album) that lit up some fans faces with delight.

A powerful version of the new "Far Cry" opened the second set, Lee's rumbling bass lines the perfect foil for Lifeson's searing guitar leads and Peart's in-the-pocket drum work.  Rush rocked all night long, sending out versions of "Natural Science," "Sprit of Radio," "Subdivisions" and a wild rendition of the classic "Tom Sawyer" that rippled with excitement.

Lee was incredible on bass, effortlessly winding out his thumping bass lines while hitting all the high notes with his recognizable high-pitched wail.  Lee's vocal was on Saturday night, sounding best on "Freewill," "Workin' Them Angels," "Far Cry" and a new song called "The Way The Wind Blows."

Lifeson was electric, his guitar work immediate and intriguing on "Subdivisions," "Sawyer" and a pair of new songs, "Far Cry" and "Spindrift."  As for Peart, he is the best rock drummer in the business.  His drum solo - which ended with a wild swing-rock flourish, was superb.

Oh, and the light show was cool, too.

Rush rocked at SPAC on Sunday night.  If you missed this one, you missed out.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs
LENGTH: A 70-minute set, followed by a 20-minute intermission and a 100-minute second set.
THE CROWD: About 12,000 classic-rock fans, with more than a few wearing faded Rush concert T-shirts - playing air guitar and cheering like crazy as they listened to a Rush retrospective on a crisp early summer evening.

Originally published in the Albany Times Union, Albany, NY on 06.30.07.

Rush rocks the mountain

By Patrice Wilding

Despite maddening traffic and a distinct chill in the mountain air, more than 8,500 music fans seemed ecstatic with the performance given by Canadian rock legends Rush on Friday night at Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain.

With no opening act, Rush commanded the full attention of all in attendance, beginning the night with former No. 1 hit "Limelight" from their "Moving Pictures" album.  Following this overpowering number were more classic cuts, including "Digital Man," "Entre Nous" and "Free Will," the latter of which offered a minor bass solo by frontman Geddy Lee.

The stage was strangely adorned with numerous odd props, including three large and fully functioning stainless steel "Henhouse" chicken rotisseries behind Mr. Lee, and a collection of dinosaur toys on guitarist Alex Lifeson's amp.

During the next song, the instrumental "The Main Monkey Business" from this year's "Snakes and Arrows" release, a woman appeared onstage in a tall chef's hat to check on the progress of the spinning poultry.  In one of the first displays of multi-instrumental dexterity, Mr. Lifeson appeared to don two guitars at once, opening with an acoustic, and then abandoning it seemingly in mid-air for a yellow electric guitar.  Clips of primates from black and white movies played on the three large screens hovering overhead, and suddenly the music seemed to shift to become a coinciding soundtrack.

Within moments, white lights popped as renowned drummer Neil Peart cracked his snare drum, giving the illusion that fireworks were exploding onstage.  Later, the illusion became reality as firecrackers ignited from behind Mr. Peart's ominous drum set.

During "The Larger Bowl," the pace slowed as Mr. Lee mournfully sang "Some are blessed, and some are cursed," and images of masked children with guns and blue-collar workers were contrasted with snapshots of the wealthy and powerful, reminding all that Rush's lyrics still resonate with political and social commentary.

"Thank you so much," Mr. Lee cried throughout breaks in performances.  An equally appreciative audience screamed back their approval, and the set continued with "Between The Wheels."

Mr. Lee raised a small digital camcorder and told the audience, "the people in Canada have no idea what you people here in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre look like, so will you do me a favor and on the the count of three, say, 'Hi Canada'?"

The cooperative crowd was rewarded a short time later with the revered Rush concert staple: the Neil Peart drum solo, lasting nearly ten minutes.  Mr. Peart demonstrated how he came to be immortalized for his almost unnatural talent.

Before long, Rush brought down the house with what is perhaps their best-known hit, "Tom Sawyer."

Originally published in The Times-Tribune, Scranton, PA on 06.30.07.

Review: Rush fans rewarded for loyalty

A pounding and polished act from longtime Canadian band gets many standing ovations.

By Alan K. Stout

It's hard to view a band like Rush as having a "cult" following, but that is how some people see the Canadian-based power trio.

Perhaps it's because, during its 33-year history, the band has scored only a small handful of hits, and even those weren't big chart busters.  But considering the group has sold 35 million albums, and that some of its songs are still staples at classic rock radio, and that whenever it hits the road for a tour, thousands of people show up each night, "cult" just doesn't seem like the right word.

Rush, without question, is still a very big rock band and a very good rock band, and proved it to the passionate crowd of more than 8,000 on Friday night at the Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain with a pounding and polished performance.

The group, touring in support of its new CD, "Snakes & Arrows," opened the set with 1981's "Limelight," one of the signature songs from its milestone LP, "Moving Pictures."  Immediately, the musical prowess of vocalist bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart was on display.  Rush, more than anything, has always been known as being virtuoso musicians, and nothing has changed, as was evident by an excellent performance of the edgy yet funky "Digital Man."

The group peppered its first set with several tacks from the new album, including "The Larger Bowl" and the jammy "The Main Monkey Business."  Both were well-received, but the crowd obviously roared a bit louder when the band dug a bit deeper into its catalog with a crisp performance of "Freewill" and a slightly trippy rendition of "Circumstances."

The staging was simple, save for some nice use of video screens, traditional concert lighting, a touch of dry ice and an occasional shot of laser lights.  For Rush, which puts music before visuals, it was the perfect touch.  Entertaining, but not Spinal Tap.

The first set ended with "Dreamline," and after an intermission, the band returned with even more selections from the new album.  For some artists with such a lengthy history, this might be a problem, but not this Toronto tandem.  Blessed with an incredibly loyal fan base, its fans - unlike many that fall into a classic rock category - actually still go out and buy the group's new albums.  Still, the band's fans also likely wanted to hear "Spirit Of Radio," "Tom Sawyer," "Subdivisions" and, of course, a dazzling drum solo from Peart.

They got that, too, and Rush got the standing ovations.

Every band wishes it had such a "cult" following.

Originally published in the Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, PA on 06.30.07.

The Essence Of Rush

By Brent Milano

One quick glance at the intense concentration reflected in Neil Peart's face as he plays the stupid drum fill in "Summertime Blues" is all it takes to understand the essence of Rush.  This trio take nothing lightly, not even a cover tune they could play in their sleep - attention to every detail and fiendish complexity are what make Rush so very Rush.  Last Wednesday's two-set show at the Tweeter Center was poised halfway between stadium-rock kicks and arty experiments.  In other words, it was a typical Rush show, though one with surprising song choices like 1980's "Entre Nous."

As a power trio, Rush are the missing link between Blue Cheer and Mission of Burma.  The material from their current Atlantic album, Snakes & Arrows, which hides layers of melody behind walls of noise (and throws in a healthy distrust of Bush-era politics), bears that out.  Rush's fans are also like no others on the arena circuit: instead of jumping or waving lighters when a familiar song strikes up, they're intent on hearing whether Geddy Lee can still hit the high notes or Peart is throwing in any new paradiddles.  There were few signs of rust except perhaps in Peart's tempo, which dragged a bit early in the show.  But he did play for three hours in 90-degree heat.  And they navigated the rock-to-reggae shifts on "Digital Man" and the prog epic "Natural Science" well enough, guitarist Alex Lifeson beginning acoustically before building to a big arena-rock riff.

Even with a pair of shaken-up sets that didn't include "2112" or "La Villa Strangiato," there were plenty of heady mid-tempo numbers clustered early in both, prog epics at midpoint, and fist wavers toward the end.  And there were still moments that made you marvel at the virtuosity.  Like the one an hour into the second set when Peart played an impeccable drum solo, got a rest for one minute while Lifeson played some acoustic, and then came back to thunder his way through "Summertime Blues."  As Frank Zappa once said, you can't do that on stage anymore.

Originally published in the The Phoenix, Boston, MA on 06.29.07.

Time seems to stand still for Rush

By Steve Greenlee

Rush had promised to trot out tunes it hadn't played for decades, and the Canadian trio kept its word Wednesday night at the Tweeter Center.  The band is touring behind a new album, "Snakes & Arrows," but spent the bulk of its three-hour show digging through its voluminous catalog.

In fact, apart from several songs off the new record, the newest tunes they played were the driving "Dreamline" (from 1991's "Roll the Bones") and the obscure "Mission" (1987's "Hold Your Fire").  They served up their biggest hits -- "Tom Sawyer," "Subdivisions," and "Limelight," which opened the show -- but they also dusted off gems no one would expect them to play anymore, such as the plodding "Between the Wheels" and the ominous "Witch Hunt," a song from 1981 that has new resonance today with its lyrics about prejudiced people condemning "immigrants and infidels."  Heck, they played nearly all of the 1980 album "Permanent Waves."

It was exactly what the crowd wanted.  Clearly, few people in the audience were familiar with the new album, except maybe its thunderous single "Far Cry," so the trio didn't dwell on the new stuff.  Geddy Lee, the singer-bassist-keyboardist, didn't banter much, either, though he did joke about his band's longevity.  "Thank you for coming out and celebrating, I think, our 400th album," said Lee, whose nasally falsetto was in fine form despite its 39 years of employment as the voice of Rush.

Though the chatter was limited, there was wry humor.  Last time they toured, Rush had clothes dryers running onstage.  Wednesday it was rotisseries, full of chicken; a guy in a chef's hat came out to baste the birds during "The Spirit of Radio."  There were video spoofs, featuring Bob & Doug McKenzie and the gang from "South Park."  Other videos were less effective and disconnected, such as the computer-generated Play-Doh cinnamon buns that mutated during the instrumental "The Main Monkey Business" and the digital cube that morphed into M.C. Escher's staircase during "Circumstances."  A nation of TV addicts apparently needs a screen to watch, even at a rock show.

The only drawback to this tour-through-the-archives was that every song sounded exactly as it did on the original album.  Even on well-worn numbers like "Tom Sawyer," Alex Lifeson's guitar solos haven't changed a lick all these years.  Strong as they were, Neil Peart's drumming and his solos were, pound for pound, precisely as they were on record.  Close your eyes and you could be home in front of your stereo with your Rush CDs on high volume.

Not that anyone was complaining.

Originally published in the Boston Globe, Boston, MA on 06.29.07.

Power trio Rush can still deliver the goods

By Scott McLennan

The days when Rush ruled rock radio may be behind the band, but the Canadian prog-power trio is still making music of the highest caliber and further searing its iconic stature as blessedly brainy weirdoes.

On its current tour, which hit the Tweeter Center on Wednesday, Rush is playing to the hard-core fans, piling much of its new album "Snakes & Arrows" into the set and choosing to perform such deep-album cuts as "Entre Nous" and "Witch Hunt" over more obvious barn-burners such as "Closer to the Heart" or "Red Barchetta." nbsp;But in many ways, this year's "Snakes & Arrows" show felt more satisfying than the hits-laden 30th anniversary tour that last brought the band to the area in 2004. nbsp;The band seemed more adventurous, not just in which songs it played but also in how it played the songs, drawing numbers out for maximum musical exploration.

Over the course of a generous three-hour show, Rush ably sold its decisions, with guitarist Alex Lifeson, bass player and singer Geddy Lee and drummer Neil Peart laying open the songs with a devastating precision.

Rush has nicely aged, easing out of the flamboyant trappings of its young godlike '70s persona and into a mode perfectly suited to guys in their 50s who can play the tar out of their gear.

Rush also balances prog-rock's tendency toward the pompous by undercutting its philosophical and spiritual musings with completely flaky video presentations and oddball props, which this year include three restaurant-sized rotisserie ovens in which whole chickens were cooking.

Dismounted from any high horses, Rush could freely blast through such philosophical nuggets and "Limelight" (all the world's a stage, and we are merely players) and "Freewill" (even if you do not make a choice, you still have made a choice) without so much as a whiff of pretension.

The band ignored the earliest chapters of its career during the 27-song outing and also bypassed some of its signature sounds (no strains of the sci-fi suite "2112"). nbsp;But songs such as "Mission" from the "Hold Your Fire" album and "Between the Wheels" off of "Grace Under Pressure" seemed to fit in better with the feel of Rush's new work, which consists of songs that circle the idea of looking for hope in an often hopeless world.

The band opened its second set with five new songs, each a big, intricate arrangement that demanded more attention than the average three-minute rock tune. nbsp;And Rush sold that package of new goods, making "Far Cry," "Workin' Them Angels," "Armor and Sword" and others come across as important additions to a catalog that Lee joked now spans 400 albums.

Before all was said and done, Lifeson maintained his stature as one of rock's all-time great guitar slingers, Lee did things to the bass that just didn't seem possible, and Peart gave a workshop on battery work, including a solo that absorbed influences from big-band jazz to tribal ceremonies.

The band cruised through the home stretch of the concert with a string of hits, including "Spirit of Radio" and "Tom Sawyer" (which benefited from a hilarious video intro featuring the gang from "South Park"). nbsp;The band went furthest back into the songbook, to 1976, during the encores when it pulled out the reefer anthem "A Passage to Bangkok." nbsp;Rush ended the show by throwing down the virtuoso instrumental "YYZ," perhaps an unofficial anthem of a scene that has grown to include the likes of Tool, Primus, Coheed and Cambria, and Porcupine Tree. nbsp;Given prog-rock's attention to acumen over age, Rush showed itself still running right in the midst of that free-thinking and hard-playing pack.

Originally published in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, MA on 06.29.07.

Rush mines rarities in energetic outing

By Christopher John Treacy

It was a gold-Rush of goodies new, old and obscure for longtime fans of Canada's premier progressive trio.

Having gone the hits route for their 2004 30th anniversary trek and with no opener cutting in on their time, Rush's "Snakes and Arrows" tour is geared toward hard-core devotees.  And judging by the adoring energy of the sold-out Tweeter Center crowd last night, there's no shortage.

Starting on a familiar note with "Limelight," the first obscurity was unveiled shortly thereafter: "Entre Nous," a winding, suitelike piece from 1980's "Permanent Waves."

Carried by propulsive, undulating rhythms, "Secret Touch," "Between the Wheels" and the new Zeppelin-inspired instrumental "The Main Monkey Business" were all spot-on ferocious.

With three rotating rotisseries (yes, with chickens in them - all 54 of which got basted once each set), a gaggle of hussy Barbie dolls at guitarist Alex Lifeson's feet and video segments of SCTV's Bob and Doug McKenzie, not to mention a visit from the "South Park" boys to open "Tom Sawyer," it's evident that Rush's perceived seriousness in only part of the picture: The band has a definite sense of humor.

Despite years of critical maligning, Rush remains a hardworking band, a progressive vision of challenging rock 'n' roll that revels in shifting time signatures.  Geddy Lee's voice was in astonishingly good shape, and his thunderous slack-strung bass guided each song with able-bodied technique.  Lifeson's deft guitar precision has only improved with time (and technology).

Surrounded by a mind-boggling array of percussive posts, pedestals and padding, drummer Neil Peart was in a percussive frenzy throughout.  His second set solo included acoustic and electronic drumming while his entire station rotated in a half-circle.

After a five-song overview of the new disc, a passionate run through "Subdivisions" was welcomed with a roar.  The numinous "Witch Hunt," another long-retired tune, also was met with heightened approval.

Rush's audience couldn't have been more pumped not to hear the hits.  And the band seemed pretty happy not to be playing them, too.

Originally published in the Boston Herald, Boston, MA on 06.28.07.

Rush quick to show love for local fans

By John Young

Clearly, local fans have formed a bond with the Canadian rock trio Rush over these 30-plus years.  It seems the feeling may be mutual.  "I think I always say this, but I think we've played Pittsburgh more than any other city," bassist Geddy Lee told the Post-Gazette Pavilion crowd Monday night.

That was evident throughout the night as air drummers attempted nearly every fill Neil Peart played and concert-goers tried gamely to bob along to the unusual time signatures of such tunes as "Circumstances."  The band had to be especially heartened by the crowd's reaction to material from the new album, "Snakes & Arrows."  Many fans already knew enough of the lyrics to "Far Cry" to sing along, and the instrumental "The Main Monkey Business" drew a roar of recognition during its opening notes.

Rush devotees clearly appreciate the band's musicality.  They cheered loudly as Alex Lifeson came out of his guitar solo during "Freewill," and Peart's drums solo may have drawn the most ecstatic response of any part of the show.  Without any prompting from the band, the audience even began clapping along to brief mid-song sections of "Natural Science" and "The Main Monkey Business."

Part of Rush's appeal may also be its refusal to embrace the super-serious trappings of so many bands with a progressive, arty edge.  For instance, the show opened with video footage of Lifeson awakening from a nightmare, only to find Peart in bed next to him.  Other previously taped films opened songs in the set, with "Great White North" hosts Bob and Doug McKenzie introducing "The Larger Bowl" and the "South Park" cartoon characters mangling the literary origins of "Tom Sawyer."  The band even dubbed another "Snakes & Arrows" instrumental "Malignant Narcissism," indulging really only in more spectacular playing during it.

If Monday's show had any weakness, it was in the song selection during the band's two sets.  Nine of the 13 "Snakes & Arrows" tracks appeared, a few too many even from a fine new disc already popular with fans.  Also, "Mission" and "Between the Wheels," both dominated by dated-sounding synth work from Lee on his Roland X7, sounded moribund compared with the pulsing pieces surrounding them.  Hearing four of the six tracks from "Permanent Waves" was welcome, though, as were surprising inclusions such as "Digital Man," "Witch Hunt" and "A Passage to Bangkok."

Lee, Lifeson and Peart clearly enjoyed themselves throughout, bringing every song to life with smiles, comic asides, bemused glances and rock star poses with their instruments.  Lee even donned a T-shirt emblazoned with "1979 World Champions Pittsburgh Pirates" during the first set, another nod to local fans and further proof Rush knows how to please an audience.

Originally published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh, PA on 06.27.07.

Expect Rush delivery of long-unheard tunes

By Brent Milano

Rush has always been a band with a strong work ethic.  That much will be clear when the Canadian prog rock legends hit town this week.  Not only are they playing their usual nearly three-hour show, but a large chunk of this year's set list consists of songs that haven't been played live in decades, if ever.

Without giving too much away, fans can expect to hear a good portion of Rush's new CD, "Snakes & Arrows," a number of long-unplayed album tracks and a 20-year-old song never done live before.  While a few hits remain in the set, many Rush standards are getting a rest.

"After doing the 30th anniversary tour, which was very much a nod to the past, we needed to go back and refresh the whole show," singer/bassist Geddy Lee explained from a sound check this week.  "We felt pretty happy with the new material so we ingested a lot of it, and then went looking for songs we hadn't played in a while.  You can play it safe, but I think our fans like to be surprised.  They look deeper into the albums than just the radio hits."

One of the newly unearthed songs is "Circumstances," which appeared on 1978's "Hemispheres" and hasn't been played since that tour.

"I've had people asking me for that one for the past 15 years," Lee said.  "So when we started pulling out songs, I asked if we could do it so they'd stop asking me.  Even though it's a pretty tough one to sing.  It comes from the days when I had a more useful soprano."

Adding to the band's workload, Rush has a rule against using tapes onstage.  So if they want to sample a keyboard part or a vocal harmony, they use one of their hands or feet to trigger it.

"It gets pretty complicated," Lee said.  "For instance, there's a part during 'Natural Science' where there's a long backward echo and it would be so much easier to have our sound guys load it into Pro Tools.  But that would be taking it out of our own control and that would make me feel that it isn't a performance anymore.  So this way if I screw something up, everybody gets to hear it."

The new album's lyrics (written as usual by drummer Neil Peart) are among the band's most topical, with thoughts on religious faith and a few looks at the religious right.

"I think that in his travels around the country, Neil was noticing the fear that North American travelers are inundated by.  I think he felt the need to draw the parallel.  You can sit on one side of the world saying, 'These guys are crazy fanatics,' and someone on the other side is saying the same thing.  He felt that a successful society has to grow beyond that and that was a sentiment I could get behind.  So it's not so much political as being a philosophy of survival."

Rumors have been circulating that this tour may be Rush's last - but then, the same rumors circulated at least two tours ago.

"I think the new album bodes well for the future," Lee said, "but I've given up predicting."

Originally published in the Boston Herald, Boston, MA on 06.26.07.

Concert Review: Bristow, VA

By Tricia Olszewski

There were no cries of "Free Bird!" at Rush's Nissan Pavilion show Saturday.  Instead, one heard: "I want some chicken!"  Sharing the stage with the Canadian trio weren't extra band members to help re-create their famously intricate rock sound, but three industrial-size rotisseries, full of birds that an attendant in a chef's hat occasionally came out to baste during the sensational three-hour show.

Other whimsical touches ("South Park" clips and a monkey montage -- the latter to accompany "The Main Monkey Business," off Rush's new album, "Snakes & Arrows") added to the oddness, but none of it detracted from the music.

Frontman Geddy Lee on bass and keyboards, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart, together since 1974, showed no signs of sonic aging as they tore through a set list made for the serious fan.

Each member proved once again to be a master of his instrument (along with the pedals they used to add layers) as they mingled fresh material with deep cuts, only sporadically pulling out gargantuan hits like "Tom Sawyer."

While Peart attacked his well-stocked drum kit, Lee and Lifeson commanded the stage with the energy unleashed less often by their peers than the newly signed.  The nearly 54-year-old Lee was in incredible voice, too, not needing to trade in his high, shrill, loved-or-hated register for lower keys as many aging rock stars must.

Their secret?  Hard to say, but a long intermission surely helped.

Originally published in The Washington Post, Washington, DC on June 25, 2007.

Rush at the Virginia Beach Amphitheater

By Jeff Maisey

Rush fans struck gold when the Canadian rock band dug deep and mined some real musical gems from its past and present Friday night.

Without an opening act, Rush played two lengthy sets and an encore at the Verizon Wireless Virginia Beach Amphitheater.

Since the Canadian trio debuted with a self-titled album in 1974, the accomplished rock group has been known for its virtuoso musicians - Geddy Lee on vocals, bass and keyboards; Alex Lifeson, guitar; and Neil Peart on drums - and complex songcraft.  Both were on full display.

Rush opened its first set in rousing form with "Limelight."  The intensity of the musicianship set the tone for the entire show.  Lee's high-pitched voice soared, on key throughout, his rampaging bass lines driving each tune like NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt Sr. in his heyday.

Lifeson, who had several dolls attached to paper signs with such phrases as "My grandpa says you're cool" and "I like the drummer" placed at the base of his foot- operated effects pedals, was masterful in every aspect, whether switching mid-tune from electric to acoustic instruments, managing dynamic changes within songs or nailing the solos.

The fan favorite, however, seemed to be Neil Peart.  Grown men in the audience were doing their best air-drum impersonations.

Peart, considered by many as one of the best drummers of all time, was surrounded by what looked to be more than 20 pieces of percussion.  All were incorporated into his "drum clinic."  During his phenomenal solo in the second set, his drum station rotated 180 degrees and the tones changed from traditional to electronic.

There were a few more lines in their faces, perhaps, but time clearly didn't diminish their playing abilities.

"They seem to get better with age," said Randy Bristow, 41, of Virginia Beach.

Early in the initial set, Rush enthusiasts were treated to the rarely performed "Entre Nous," a melodic, passionate piece from the "Permanent Waves" album.

As the sun began to set on the first portion of the concert, "Freewill" and "Circumstances" shed further light on the golden era of Rush.  After "Dreamline," the group took a well-deserved intermission.

Rush's Beach performance was one of nearly 45 stops on their tour of North America in support of the new full-length album "Snakes & Arrows," which recently debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 album chart.

They were keen to showcase much of the new recording at the start of the second half.  Each had an accompanying artistic visual component displayed on the three screens behind the band.  "Far Cry," "Workin' Them Angels" and "The Way the Wind Blows" were well-received.  "The Main Monkey Business," a heavy instrumental reminiscent of Led Zeppelin, played in the first set, was better live than on the CD.

When Geddy Lee switched to his synthesizer for "Subdivisions," the audience roared with its loudest approval of the night, but not for long.  Following a fun version of the rock 'n' roll classic "Summertime Blues," Lifeson's instantly recognizable flurry of guitar notes at the introduction of "The Spirit of Radio" had a sea of people clapping with hands extended over their heads.  "Tom Sawyer," a radio staple once played to death on the airwaves, was the perfect climax, and a semi-euphoric state reverberated around the shed.

The classic Rush material was an enjoyable flashback, but the songs performed from "Snakes" were evidence these aging rock stars are exploring new and interesting hemispheres.

Originally published in The Virginian-Pilot, Hampton Roads, VA on June 23, 2007.

Washington Post Review: Snakes & Arrows

By Catherine P. Lewis

So much of Rush's recent output seemed to be looking backward: The Canadian power trio has recently released several live DVDs ("Rush in Rio," "R30," "Replay x 3") and touted its 2004 tour as a 30th anniversary tour.  Even the group's last studio effort, "Feedback," was an EP of classic rock covers rather than original material.  Luckily, the group chose not to rest on its laurels forever, and "Snakes & Arrows" revisits Rush's finest elements: Alex Lifeson's howling guitar, Neil Peart's pummeling percussion and Geddy Lee's stratospheric vocal melodies.

The return to form is apparent from the album's first song, "Far Cry," whose thunderous instrumental opening is reminiscent of the heavier moments on Rush's "2112."  Peart continues to be the group's lyricist, and "Far Cry" alludes to his personal struggles (his wife and daughter died in the late 1990s): "One day I feel I'm on top of the world / and the next it's falling in on me / I can get back on."

The group still handles instrumentals with remarkable poise: "Malignant Narcissism" is an almost playful interchange between Lee's growling bass and Peart's nimble percussion.  Most impressive, though, is the six-minute "The Main Monkey Business."  The song starts out with an innocent acoustic guitar riff then delves into a darker, more intricate sound, complete with Lee's keyboards and Lifeson's driving guitar work.  The song's expanding energy exposes the trio's organic interplay, showing that the group has not lost its innovative spirit in its many years together.

Originally published in The Washington Post, Washington, DC on June 22, 2007.

Rush in vintage form live, as always

By David Dorsey

I figured my wife and I had only a ghost of a chance to catch one of our favorite bands in concert.  For some reason, whenever Rush toured, our paths never collided.

That finally changed last Friday night at the Sound Advice Amphitheater in West Palm Beach, where the Canadian trio - guitarist Alex Lifeson is a part time Naples resident - performed for three hours.

That's 28 songs, including a wickedly wonderful drum solo by Neil Peart, who also writes most of the band's lyrics.

Vocalist Geddy Lee, at age 54, still hits all the high notes, and he bounces around the stage like a marionette while playing the bass guitar.  The band sounds better live than on CD, which is a bold statement.

Rush played eight songs from their latest release, "Snakes and Arrows."  The set included three giant video screens above the stage, laser lights, pyrotechnics and multi-colored strobe lights that changed throughout the show.

The screens showed up-close shots of the band and also displayed various cartoons and graphics, choreographed to each song.  The characters from South Park introduced Rush's greatest hit, "Tom Sawyer."

Rush is long gone from Florida, having embarked on a 45-city tour.  But if you're a fan of the band and can catch Rush elsewhere, choose "Freewill," - like the title of another one of the band's classics - and go.

Originally published in The News-Press, Fort Myers, FL on June 22, 2007.

'Snakes and Arrows' finds the Canadian trio vital after nearly 40 years

By Scott Mervis

As true believers Tony Soprano and Adam Sandler must know, people don't pay much attention these days to a new record by Journey or Styx.

Most of those bands that emerged in the mid- to late '70s as the pillars of album-oriented rock cling to the work of their past but lost their relevance long ago.  Part of the problem was the challenge they created for fans in even keeping track of who was still in the band.

Rush is another story.  Although the band has always engendered strong feelings, good and bad, a new Rush album still matters, and you won't find the Canadian trio pairing up with REO Speedwagon or anyone else for a nostalgia trip.  It's a full evening of Rush, with two long sets and a focus on new material.

The band's latest record, "Snakes and Arrows," its first in five years, entered the Billboard chart at No. 3 when it was released last month, making it Rush's highest chart debut since "Counterparts" in 1993.  Rather than dropping out of sight, it's still holding at around No. 60, and the single "Far Cry" was the most added track on rock radio.

Not only is "Snakes and Arrows" popular, it's good.  No, great.  Having been at this for nearly 40 years now, Rush remains an instrumental powerhouse, and the record is smartly themed to these times where faith and religion have driven people to war.

Without being too direct or preachy, lyricist Neil Peart addresses such issues as 9/11, the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, Katrina and global warming when he has vocalist Geddy Lee wailing, "It's a far cry from the world we thought we'd inherit/It's a far cry from the way we thought we'd share it."

On "The Way the Wind Blows," Alex Lifeson generates a nasty blues riff worthy of Page or Hendrix for Lee to lament, "Now it's come to this/Wide-eyed armies of the faithful/From the Middle East to the Middle West/Pray, and pass the ammunition."

Ultimately, though, "Snakes and Arrows" isn't the message of despair one might find from an Ozzfest band.  Rush signs off with "We Hold On," which Peart discusses in the essay on the band's Web site: "If many of the other lyrics illuminate the struggles we all have to face, in love and in life," he writes, "this one shows how we deal with it: We hold on."

"Snakes and Arrows" began to take shape in the winter of 2006 when Lee and Lifeson visited Peart in Quebec with demos they had made in Lee's Toronto studio.  They were rough songs made from the lyrics the drummer had sent them.

"It is always a thrill to hear my words sung for the first time, when those dry, printed lines I've labored over finally become charged with life," Peart writes.

"Plus, there's a sense of affirmation in knowing that Geddy found those words worth singing (many are sent; few are chosen)."

While hard-core Rush fans might get impatient through the five-year gaps of new material, Peart notes that it's better that the band work on its own mature time schedule.

"Three decades of working together have given us wells of experience to draw upon, sure, but perhaps more important are the longer intervals between songwriting sessions, when we can let those aquifers fill.  In the early years, it was an album every six months, then every year, then every two years, but in the past decade, for one reason and another, it's been five years between projects.  And it seems that with more time to learn and grow, we can still surprise ourselves."

Among the nice surprises on "Snakes and Arrows" are the instrumentals that showcase Lifeson's guitar work, particularly "The Main Monkey Business," a propulsive blend of acoustic and crunching electric guitars.

"There's a lot of playing on this record," Lifeson told Billboard.  "To me, it's got our whole history in it, somehow.  It's got little bits of the way we wrote songs in the past, the kind of chords we might have used, but not in a nostalgic kind of way."

Part of what keeps Rush current is the renewed interest in progressive rock (even Wilco has a prog song on the new record) and the number of bands that grew up on Rush that now reflect that influence, from Tool to Coheed & Cambria to Mastodon.

"We like to feel we're current," Lee told Billboard.  "We listen to a lot of younger bands, especially Alex.  A lot of those bands cite us as an influence.  It's ironic that bands that have been influenced by our playing or our past have some instruction for us, too.  They help us grow."

Originally published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh, PA on 06.21.07.

Rush: Rock with a brain

Longtime Canadian rockers Rush bring a high-energy show with a brainy tinge.

By Sean Daly

Behold 15,000 Rush fanatics, robustly male, rather sweaty, completely reverent, bowing to the prog-pop power trio famous for feeding urges both primal and cranial.

If you like seven-minute drum solos that'll spin your head around, oh man, was Ford Amphitheatre the place for you Saturday.

Rush, which is closing in on 40 years together, played for more than three hours, mixing dense political allegory with complex but catchy musicianship.  The Canadian-born high-concept band is a little bit AC/DC, a lot Ray Bradbury - brawny and brainy all at once.

Whether you love Rush or hate 'em, it's usually for the same reasons.

From the very start of the show a rather punctual 7:45, with the sun still shining, the band assumed those classic positions: bassist-keyboardist-vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and the most worshiped drummer of all time, Neil Peart.  Each musician is distinctive, bombastic, an aggressive master of his art.

They often play warring, tempo-tricky parts on the same song - and yet ultimately blend in propulsively rocking ways.  This was only the band's third show on a tour backing new album Snakes & Arrows, but their playing is already flawless.

There's Lee, 53, looking like a grownup Harry Potter, his helium-tinged vocal one of the most unique in rockdom.  He immediately hit those heavenly notes in opening song Limelight.

He sings some seriously heavy stuff, but he's not without humor.  He thumped his bass not in front of a stack of amps but a row of rotisserie chicken ovens.  (In previous tours, Lee has bopped in front of washing machines.)  Even funnier, he had Canuck comedy duo Bob & Doug McKenzie introduce new song The Larger Bowl, and South Park's Cartman lead into Tom Sawyer.

And then there was Lifeson, 53, who plays with a bluesman's fury.  His riffs are tough, macho, strong, like AC/DC with a doctorate in psychology.

On the raucous new instrumental jam The Main Monkey Business, he pounded out wicked licks as footage of lumbering men in gorilla suits flashed behind him.  Weird?  Yes.  Awesome?  Heck yes.

And Peart - good lord, the 54-year-old's kit is mind-boggling.  During Freewill, a video screen showed an aerial shot of Peart's domain, and his drum setup had more parts than the space shuttle.  And then there was that long, sexy drum solo, which touched on tribal beats, bebop jazz and straight-ahead heavy metal.  At one point, he stood up, and the entire drum kit rotated, giving him fresh skins to pound on.

Three-plus hours is a lotta Rush for a casual fan, especially since the boys loaded their 27-song setlist with deep album cuts.

That said, they were definitely in the mood to dazzle, firing up a light show reminiscent of the mothership in Close Encounters.  During Dreamline, the best song of the night, they even shot lasers into the crowd.

Rush is a thing of beauty, or headaches.  Me?  I dig three dudes who make the noise of 30.

Originally published in The St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, FL on June 17, 2007.

Audience Gets Quite A Rush From The Past

By Curtis Ross

If Canadian trio Rush has a theme song, it might be "Free Will," the 1980 track performed early in the band's set Saturday night before a Ford Amphitheatre crowd of about 15,000.

The song's message of individual self-reliance is reflected in Rush's success.  Only a handful of Rush tracks made it to the radio and the band has endured brutal reviews, particularly early in its career.

But the threesome - bassist-vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer-lyricist Neal Peart - built a huge audience through relentless touring, stunning live shows and virtuosic playing.

Saturday's show was no exception.  Opening with "Limelight," the band sounded superior throughout.  Lifeson's guitar has plenty of flash but a goodly portion of soul as well.  Lee's voice has mellowed over the years to become a versatile and expressive instrument.

Peart's drumming is busy but never distractingly so.  His solo was genuinely entertaining, employing tuned and electronic percussion as well as his main kit, and ending with him swinging over a big band recording, a tip of the hat to one of his heroes, jazz drummer Buddy Rich.

With 30-plus years of music to draw from, it was a brave move on the band's part to feature so many cuts from its most recent album, this year's "Snakes and Arrows."

It's a strong album, arguably Rush's strongest in some time, and numbers such as "Far Cry" and "Workin' Them Angels" should be well on their way to becoming fan favorites.

But once the second half of the show opened with no fewer than five new tunes, there was a palpable sense of relief - more like an explosion of joy - when Rush launched into '80s favorite "Subdivisions."

But patience was rewarded.  A smashing "Summertime Blues," a la Blue Cheer, was followed by "Spirit of Radio" and "Tom Sawyer," the latter song introduced by a clip of the "South Park" kids mangling the lyrics.

Originally published in The Tampa Tribune, Tampa, FL on June 17, 2007.

Rush delivers energetic music along with technical twists

By Leslie Gray Streeter

Well into the second half of Friday night's spirited "An Evening with Rush," singer Geddy Lee politely explained that at each show, he was shooting video with his little nifty handheld video cam to take back to the band's native Great White North.

"If you wouldn't mind, would you all say 'Hi, Canada!' " he asked, as the enthusiastic crowd at the Sound Advice Amphitheatre west of West Palm Beach yelled back something to that effect.

If our neighbors to the north do, indeed, get that video hello from South Florida, they're going to probably get the same sight they would from other shows: rampant air-drumming, as die-hards play phantom skins along with drummer Neil Peart; superfans throwing their bodies and necks (but hopefully not their backs out) into Alex Lifeson's soaring guitar solos; and at least one guy happily waving a Canadian flag in the aisle, that he only stopped waving to allow bouncers to escort a drunk dude out.

The show was a loud, energetic collision of impressively colorful computer graphics, the expected but still surprising pyrotechnics and a nonstop collection of Rush songs, classic and new, from their just released Snakes and Arrows CD.

Following a humorous video short where Lifeson awakes from a bad dream to find Peart in bed next to him and Lee is berated by a Scottish kilt-clad version of himself, the concert slammed into life with Limelight.  That was followed by Digital Man.

To say that the three members are musically tight is a gross understatement - I am tempted to describe them, as musicians, with a word that rhymes with, uh ... radbass.

There were times, as on Entre Nous, where Lee played the keyboard with his bass still strapped on his chest, or when Lifeson, arguably the biggest radbass of the evening, stepped behind a stand holding an acoustic guitar and played it with his electric still on him, then switched back without missing a beat.

The first half of the show contained a lot of Snakes and Arrows material, including the instrumental Main Monkey Business.

Other neat effects included a huge case of rotisserie chicken, a video of "SCTV" stalwarts and proud Canadian icons Bob and Doug McKenzie introducing The Larger Bowl, and a black-and-white video of working-class people with literal fluffy wings on the touching, excellent Working' Them Angels.

Originally published in The Palm Beach Post, West Palm Beach, FL on June 16, 2007.

Rush, on tour in Florida, moves ahead while looking back

By David Dorsey

The pullout booklet of the new Rush release, "Snakes and Arrows," includes some moving pictures, not to be confused with "Moving Pictures," the band's 1981 release.

And although fans of the three-man band likely won't mistake the new Rush for the classic, they might view it as an extension of the past.

The three-man band seemed to move forward in 2007 by looking back, recapturing the sonic styles of the late 1970s and early 1980s while still forging ahead with a modern feel.

The progressive rock band, which released the self-titled "Rush" in 1974, will make two Florida stops on their 2007 summer tour, a tour that will take drummer Neil Peart, vocalist/ bassist Geddy Lee and part-time Naples resident and guitarist Alex Lifeson to more than 45 cities.

Rush will play at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Sound Advice Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach.

The tour will continue at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Ford Amphitheatre in Tampa.

"'Snakes and Arrows' offers some monkey business, some spirituality, some lover's quarrels with the world, some raw sophistication, some dysentery dreams, some malignant narcissism, the spirit of the '60s, and the Tao of Booujze," Peart said in a released statement.

The band members have declined all recent interview requests in order to focus on preparing for the tour.  The Florida concerts will mark just the second and third stops for the three-man band.

"It combines everything we know about making music with everything we love about making music," Peart said of the newest release, which became available May 1.  Peart writes most of the lyrics.

Peart has drawn inspiration from personal tragedy as well as from his hobby of motorcycle riding that has taken him across North and South America, Africa and other parts of the world.

Peart, 54, has written several books, including "Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road," the account of the emptiness he felt - and his subsequent healing - following the death of his only child, Selena Taylor, 19, in a car accident.

Peart's wife of 22 years, Jaqueline Taylor, died just 10 months later from cancer on June 20, 1998.

The death sent him on a 55,000-mile motorcycle and soul-searching journey across North America.

Peart also wrote "The Masked Rider: Cycling In West Africa," describing his tour of Cameroon in 1988 and "Roadshow: Landscape With Drums, A Concert Tour By Motorcycle," describing his motorcycle rides between Rush tour stops in 2004.

The themes of spirituality and faith permeate "Snakes and Arrows."

Rush also tried to capture some of the sounds of the '60s, which they did in 2004 on "Feedback," a collection of songs that were written by other artists in that decade.

"That spirit of youthful enthusiasm and the spirit of the '60s is alive in several of these songs," Peart said.  "From the blues sections in 'The Way the Wind Blows,' to the feedback solo in 'Far Cry,' and the simple rhythm section backing the melodic guitar solo in 'The Larger Bowl.' "

Peart wrote a six-page essay, which can be read at  It describes the making of "Snakes and Arrows."

Peart concludes: "Naturally, we hope listeners will feel that spirit - all those spirits - and have a rewarding musical experience.  Not just once, but again and again."

Originally published in The News-Press, Fort Myers, FL on June 13, 2007.

Back in time: Rush still playing the game after 30 years

By Grant Britt

They come from a time when power chords ruled the musical universe and rock lyricism was a game of dungeons and dragons.  Most of the rock behemoths of that era were slain by demons from within or without.  Thirty years down the road, Rush still plays the game, titillating a new generation with its unique brand of bombastic arena rock and fulfilling an older one's need for rock visionaries that can stay the course.

Charlotte musician Ryan Sullivan has been a fan for decades.  "Rush is actually what got me started playing guitar and bass back when I was a teenager, and I turn 35 around the time the show comes through town," Sullivan says.  "It's gonna be like the birthday present to myself to go see Rush again."  The guitarist says he has every album the band has released since its self-titled 1974 debut.  "Even the solo albums that nobody else seems to like, except for me."

But Sullivan is not just a fan.  He pays homage to Rush with his tribute band, A Farewell to Kings, named after the band's first album to go gold in the United States in '77.  It's somewhat of a departure for Sullivan, who has previously led punk bands in the area.  Pen15, which he describes as "transcontinental UK pub-brawling music," sounding like Slade inbred with early Green Day, was active from '96-'99, putting out a full-length CD, In Beer Goggles, in '97.  You can still find spiffy videos featuring Sullivan and his punk pals in Pen15 on their MySpace site and on their own site,  His next, Hungry Ghost, built up a local following in the late '90s before imploding.  He now fronts Tax $lave, which he says is "kinda like libertarian political punk."

But his heart still pumps to the Rush beat.  Their music made him a fan, but it's the songs that keep him coming back.  "I never heard songs before that were like a science fiction movie," he says of drummer Neil Peart's otherworldly lyrics.  Peart is one of the most well-read songwriters in rock, merging elements of the works of writers including T. S. Elliot, Shakespeare, Robert Frost and Ayn Rand in his musical vocabulary.

Peart says the title for the band's latest effort, Snakes and Arrows, comes from a game invented by Buddhist sages over 2,000 years ago as a game of karma.  It was later adapted in the '70s in America as a children's game, Chutes and Ladders.  He's not as extraterrestrial in his musings on this outing as he has been in previous incarnations.  On S&A, his worldview is more down to earth, as in how did we as a people get this way and what are we gonna do to fix it.

But that's not to say he can't still get out there a bit.  On the opener "Far Cry," he has "pariah dogs and wandering madmen barking at strangers and speaking in tongues" as he's being broken on the wheel of karma: "One day I fly through a crack in the sky, the next it's falling on me."

The lyrics may have softened somewhat, but Rush hasn't mellowed sonically over the years.  Bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and Peart still bear down hard.  It's been a long journey from their first single, a cover of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," in 1973.  Their current sound is a return to the hard driving arena rock of their early days.

Their synth-laden '80s era soundscape is a thing of the past, with Lifeson once again out front thundering out power chords.

That suits Sullivan just fine.  "I really like 'Which Way' -- got that blues riff that switches into a metal riff.  It's very unusual to hear Alex Lifeson play that style of blues guitar again."  The song starts as a bluesy, psychedelic, Hendrix-like glide before trotting off into a head-banging metal gallop.

He's also impressed with Peart's polyrhythmic percussion at the beginning of the song.  He says he's mystified as to how he's doing it because overdubbing is against Rush's religion.  "Rush doesn't have a religion; they're atheists, but if they did have one, I guess it would be that if they can't pull it off live, don't put it on the record."  Peart, the acknowledged inventor of the rock drum solo, still keeps things more inventive and interesting than the majority of the generations of rock drummers he influenced, who too often reduce the percussion showcase of a show to something that sounds like a drunk falling down a flight of stairs.

From the reaction to the new release, plenty of fans share that opinion.  Released in March, Snakes and Arrows' first single, "Far Cry," charted in the top 10 on rock radio.  "It's the best thing I've heard from them since at least ('85s) Power Windows, one of my favorite albums from the '80s," says Sullivan.

But there are a couple of problems Sullivan has with Rush.  Unlike that group, who's had the same three guys for more than 30 years, he's having trouble holding his tribute band together.  "As soon as we get somebody and we're starting to move forward, somebody drops out."  The band hasn't played their first gig yet, but he and core member/guitarist Eric Esposito get together once a week to practice the classics, from 1976's 2112, 1981's Moving Pictures, to the present.

Then there's the sound.  "Anybody can tell from talking to me that in order for me to sing like Geddy Lee you'd have to surgically remove couple of pieces of my anatomy," Sullivan says of the difficulty of reproducing Lee's Robert Plant-like wail.  "So I just play the bass, and that's a job enough in itself."

Meanwhile, he'll continue to practice before doing some up-close scrutiny courtesy of his Rush tickets.

"I bought them the day they came out," Sullivan says.  "I can't wait."

Rush plays Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on June 18 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 and up.

Originally published on Creative Loafing Charlotte on June 13, 2007.

And now, Rush . . . (air drumroll, please)

By Sean Daly

A wise, gently mocking colleague once told me that a Rush show is the place where rock fans prefer air drumming to air guitaring.  Such is the mythical allure of Neil Peart, the time-keeping marvel behind the prog-pop trio that rocketed to cult status in the '70s.  Bassist-singer Geddy Lee is a hero, and guitarist Alex Lifeson is an underrated great.  But Rush's Peart, who sits behind a drum kit larger than Rhode Island, is a legend whose rhythm prowess can be heard from classic rock stations all over the world.  Peart is also the band's allegory-happy lyricist, which makes him even more of a deity with rabidly protective fans.  I recently gave Rush's new album, Snakes & Arrows, a B- grade, and from the amount of hate mail received, I almost had security walk me to my car.  I can't have someone air drumming me into an early grave.

Rush performs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Ford Amphitheatre, Interstate 4 at U.S. 301 N, Tampa. $42-$82. (813) 740-2446.

Originally published in The St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, FL on June 13, 2007.

antiMusic Review: Snakes & Arrows

by Robert VerBruggen

Rock 'n' roll is capable of so much - accessibility, complexity, introspection, provocation, aggression, swagger, serenity.  Yet maybe one record out of a million encompasses all of that without seeming scattered.

Rush's Snakes & Arrows is that record.

A casual listener will find 13 incredibly catchy and well constructed songs.  It's the kind of album anyone can listen to straight through without thinking twice.  The tracks end before anyone realizes six minutes have passed, and even the odd time signatures feel natural.  Three instrumentals entrance the listener even when they're repetitive.

It's a shame that many will stop here, because there's much to enjoy in Snakes & Arrows' innumerable layers.  The band, along with producer Nick Raskulinecz (about whose work with Shadows Fall I remarked, "One could listen to Threads of Life for days") have created a sonic masterpiece.

Acoustic and electric guitars weave together seamlessly, blending into an open and textured sound.  In the superb "Workin' Them Angels," for example, gentle strumming in the pre-chorus builds into loud power chords for the chorus.  And on "Faithless," the audience can hear synthesized strings in the background, reminding it that Rush was once known for heavy keyboard use.

There is no weak spot here.  "Spindrift" provides intensity, while "The Way the Wind Blows" builds a smoky, bluesy vibe into a gentle peace.  "Hope," a folksy acoustic instrumental from guitarist Alex Lifeson (under the name "Lerxst Lifeson" in the credits), gives a nice break from the layered bombast.  There's uplift in "Good News First" and "We Hold On."

"Armor and Sword," a standout, showcases a heart-wrenching vocal performance from Geddy Lee, with drummer Neil Peart helping not a little with ethereal and intellectual lyrics: "Our better natures seek elevation / A refuge for the coming night / No one gets to their heaven without a fight."

Indeed, Snakes & Arrows features some of the most thought-provoking rock poetry ever written.  Peart addresses everything from war to atheism to poverty.  On the latter topic he writes: "If we're so much the same, like I always hear / Why such different fortunes and fates? / Some of us live in a cloud of fear / Some live behind iron gates."  Later he adds, "It's somehow so badly arranged."

He also weighs in on religion as it pertains to the War on Terror: "From the Middle East to the Middle West / It's a world of superstition."

In fact, about the only criticism one could make of Snakes & Arrows is Peart's occasional lapse.  Take the cheesy chorus from "Bravest Face": "In the sweetest child there's a vicious streak / In the strongest man there's a child so weak / In the whole wide world there's no magic place / So you might as well rise, put on your bravest face."

But wait!  There's more: "In the softest voice there's an acid tongue / In the oldest eyes there's a soul so young / In the shakiest will there's a core of steel / On the smoothest ride there's a squeaky wheel."

And in "Faithless," he posits this rather lame objection to religion: "I've got my own moral compass to steer by."  There's certainly something to be said for following one's conscience, but it doesn't work for everyone (think John Wayne Gacy).

But enough nitpicking, for Snakes & Arrows rises monumentally above the competition.  It models everything progressive rock ? and rock in general ? should strive for.

Rating - *****

Originally published on on June 11, 2007.

Drums Only Version of Monkey Business

Visit to hear a drums only version of The Main Monkey Business.

MSG Show Announced

RUSH have just announced they will be playing Madison Square Garden in New York City on Monday, September 17th, 2007!  This will be the last US date on the Snakes & Arrows tour and is sure to be a great show!  Tickets will go on-sale to the public on Saturday, June 16th at 10AM EST and will be available through

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Click on the link below to purchase pre-sale tickets through an exclusive RUSH fan pre-sale beginning Tuesday, June 12th at 10am EST and ending on Thursday, June 14th at Noon EST.  You will need to register your email address with the website, so please ensure you do so before you attempt to order tickets.

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American Express card holders may purchase pre-sale tickets between Monday, June 11th beginning at Noon EST through Friday, June 15th, ending at 10pm EST.  Please visit for more details.

Snakes & Arrows MVI Update has confirmed that the Snakes & Arrows MVI Limited Edition has been pushed back to June 26th, due to "a handful of unfortunate yet unavoidable production delays".  There is also a link to, which includes screenshots of the MVI menus, including an "Extras" section which shows, among other things, the the making of video, wallpaper and a screensaver.  Unfortunately, the Far Cry video does not seem to be included.