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
It was the Beatles by way of Bakersfield on Tuesday night at Iota as a reconfigured Derailers filled the night with strum and twang, unleashing their potent combination of pedal steel, Telecaster and honky-tonk piano.
The Austin band had long been a quartet, with founders Tony Villanueva and Brian Hofeldt sharing the singing and songwriting duties.
Last year Villanueva left the band and now Hofeldt has the reins of a five-piece outfit that is picking up nicely where the quartet left off.
Villanueva's rich baritone and magnetic stage presence are missed, but Hofeldt works overtime to make sure things don't get vocally monotonous.
New songs from a future album -- including "You're Looking at the Man," which captured perfectly the Derailers' signature Buck Owens sound -- compared favorably to the older songs.
Hofeldt worked up pedal steel player Chris Schlotzhauer, drummer Scott Matthews and bassist Ed Adkins into a lather on several wild jams, including "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail" and "I Got Stung," and by the time the band rode hard into Beatles territory in the final moments, with "I'm a Loser" and "Long Tall Sally," piano player Sweet Basil McJagger was channeling Jerry Lee Lewis, playing with his feet and seat and knocking his keyboard off the stage. He missed a few notes in the recovery, but not many.
The Susan Cowsill Band made its area debut as the opening act, making quite an impression in a short time.
The little sister of the Cowsills, the '60s-era family band ("Hair," "Indian Lake"), has developed a wonderfully evocative vocal style that can transfix an audience on power ballads or hooky pop songs without resorting to gimmicks or cliches.
As good as Cowsill's controlled voice is, her smart, emotional songwriting is her biggest asset.
-- Buzz McClain