Rush was never cool with the hip kids, which might explain why the veteran prog-rock trio is only now celebrating induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after 15 years of eligibility.
“Their legacy is that of a band that stayed true to themselves no matter how uncool they may have seemed to anyone,” the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl said in his induction speech for Rush earlier this month.
The newly fashionable band stayed faithful to its muse in a musically precise, visually stylish two hours and 45 minutes on Sunday at Amway Center. Cool or not, Rush remains a formidable source of intricately designed rock.
Songs such as the introductory blast of “Subdivisions” and “The Big Money” were fodder for air-drummers and air-guitarists in the crowd, which only required opening part of the arena’s upper bowl.
Playing pretend keyboards isn’t as much fun, but “Subdivisions” owed a lot of its power to the sounds that frontman Geddy Lee coaxed from a keyboard that competed with bass guitar for his attention.
“The Big Money” and the churning “Force Ten” also allowed guitarist Alex Lifeson to showcase his fluid style. On the latter, a radar image tracked a storm on the giant video screen behind the band.
In the first of two sets (followed by an encore nod to the “2112” album), Rush focused on vintage material. Lyrically, themes of corporate greed (“Big Money’) and ominous storms (“Force Ten”) still seem timely.
An understated rock star, Lee skipped around the stage energetically, occasionally engaging the audience:
“As usual, we have too many songs this evening,” he said in the opening moments, putting that number in the thousands.
That was an exaggeration, but after more than two dozen songs, the band couldn’t be faulted for its generosity.
Some of it was ponderous, but not because of the musicianship.
Lee offered frenetic bass figures in “YYZ” in the show’s second half, otherwise devoted to material from the 2012 album, “Clockwork Angels.” The new material was augmented by more special effects and a 7-piece string section.
Neil Peart is still an animal on drums, executing stop-on-a-dime maneuvers on songs such as “Analog Kid” and unleashing two extended drum solos that made that tired concept sound cool again.
Just like Rush.
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