Rush has always been special – a trio that projects a sound worthy of a quintet and is able to attract fans to its live show because of the lengthy drum solo.
They’re also one of the most polarizing outfits in rock. The die-hards remain so because they savor the lengthy songs, the winding chord progressions and time changes and the utter uniqueness of Geddy Lee’s voice.
The detractors see those same traits as a) boring and b) annoying.
But a band that is 30-plus years into its career doesn’t need to worry about winning new fans. The faithful – about 12,000 of them proudly displayed their Rush T-shirts and jackets at Wednesday’s sold-out show in Alpharetta – are always willing to play air drums, rabidly cheer Lee’s robust bass jams and give a middle finger to anyone to doesn’t appreciate one of the most successful prog-rock bands in rock history.
During its three-hour (including intermission) concert at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park, Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drumming god Neil Peart exhausted themselves with one set full of favorites and another that included 1981’s “Moving Pictures” album played in its entirety.
Even though Rush isn’t an overly mobile band – the synthesizers frequently played by Lifeson and Lee during certain songs prevented any significant movement — for guys staring down 60, they impressed with a taut, tireless show. And keep in mind that this “Time Machine” tour has been rolling since July and will end its U.S. run this weekend (then head to South America for a handful of shows).
While Rush always has been firmly about musical prowess, the band’s sense of humor peeked through in a couple of videos that opened each set, acting as a slick segue into the live versions of the songs being played onscreen.
Under a platoon of lights and in front of a massive video screen, the trio slashed through “The Spirit of Radio,” “Time Stand Still” and “Presto” with veteran aplomb.
Lee, who still looks like Bono’s lankier cousin, has taken good care of his yelp of a voice that mostly hit the high notes all night (a few key changes aided the more difficult reaches in “Tom Sawyer”).
Peart, meanwhile, demonstrated from the first cymbal crashes that he isn’t about to relinquish his crown as the king of the sticksmen, as he sat behind his workshop of drums spinning his sticks and nimbly navigating some truly awesome drum fills.
Of course, with iconic bands such as Rush, the tendency is to revere them regardless of their output – sort of a reward, perhaps, for outlasting the competition. But while their classics are, indeed, mini musical epics, that doesn’t mean that some songs, such as “Stick It Out,” don’t get mired in prog-rock pretension.
Still, the band has consistently crafted a significant number of durable songs notable not for their catchy choruses or melodies, but for interesting musicianship. And, judging from the new “BU2B,” from the upcoming “Clockwork Angels” release, Rush isn’t going quietly.
From the whizzing “Subdivisions” to the crunchy “Red Barchetta,” the semi-poppy “Freewill” to the muscular instrumental “Leave That Thing Alone,” Rush demonstrated that experience does not, in fact, slip away.