concert reviews

Rush at Nissan Pavilion, Bristow, VA, Tuesday 3 August 2004

In most cases, a 30-year anniversary tour would signal a surrender to a "best-of," hits-only concert. Thankfully, that wasn't the case for Rush on Tuesday night at Nissan Pavilion, where the Canadian trio sandwiched forgotten songs like "Between the Wheels" and more recent tunes (an acoustic version of "Resist") among their biggest singles ("Subdivisions") and crowd-pleasing singalongs ("Working Man").

Seeming to find a new energy at the dawn of its fourth decade, the threesome used stacks of amps instead of backing musicians to fill the huge arena, with vocalist Geddy Lee alternating between bass and keyboard on tunes that included the staple "Tom Sawyer." While Lee juggled instruments, sometimes the band needed only one: A highlight of the second set was Neil Peart's 10-minute drum solo, in the middle of which he spun his platform 180 degrees to attack a second drum kit.

Rather than retreating to separate corners of the stage, the three spent much of the night interacting with each other. Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson playfully roughhoused during "By-Tor and the Snow Dog," and when Lifeson began scatting deliriously during "La Villa Strangiato," Lee and Peart shared a few knowing grins that were projected larger than life on the arena's video screens.

Throughout the show's three hours, Rush revisited its musical beginnings with covers of songs that influenced the musicians, including the Who's "The Seeker" and Cream's version of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads." While the band's interpretations were more straightforward than Rushified (in fact, Lee's vocals dropped from the stratosphere to a more human register), it was clear, here and throughout the rest of this stellar show, that Rush was just having fun with songs it loves to play.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 5 August 2004
.: Selected discography: Feedback (Rush, 2004); The Spirit of Radio (Rush, 2003).