Touring behind the new studio album, Snakes & Arrows, Canadian rock veterans Rush performed at the HiFi Buys Amphitheatre in Atlanta last night. An old band friend from Athens called me from the show during the band’s rendition of “Circumstances” (off the album Hemispheres). I caught about 45 seconds before the call ended — it was all fuzzy and distorted, but the Geddy Lee voice cut right through.
Rush sounded heavy and serious. Lee’s crackly, high-pitched voice worked in extreme registers and was frightening and earnest. Alex Lifeson’s guitar and Lee’s bass grinded simultaneously. It sounded like a machine, devoid of superfluity. Most important to my impressionable ears, Neil Peart’s fiery drumming was a study in precision, dynamics and control. I dove head first into the Rush catalogue and, by age 13, had
Of course, Rush’s triple-album pinnacle — Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures, and Signals — coincided with the whole post-punk/new wave movement that was happening in the U.K. and the States. The trio never quite fit into any of it, despite main lyricist Neil Peart’s “futuristic” tales (new technology, Cold War apocalypse, a society subdivided, etc.), additional keyboards and synth sounds, and a curious new element of reggae-tinged pop. Even Lee’s new skinny ties and Lifeson’s new surfer haircut (circa ‘82 or so) looked awkwardly unfashionable. No matter. The songs, hooks and solos were all there, intact and as effective as ever.
Through the late ’80s and ’90s, their material fluctuated in quality and sagged with excessive sound affects and low energy, but by 2000 or so, they stripped things down and went all rock trio again. I caught them in Atlanta and Charlotte recently and thoroughly enjoyed both shows. Damn, I wish I was there last night.