Rush plays bone-crunch, shatter-gut rock and plays it well. Neil Peart is a powerhouse drummer; Alex Lifeson, a facile guitarist; Geddy Lee, a solid-bottom bassist. Unfortunately, when they sing, those basic tools are outweighed by the slight and/or bombastic projects that have nevertheless propelled the Canadian trio to superstar status, a.k.a. a sellout at the Capital Centre last night.
Rush, with its futurist tendencies and moralist stances, is a power-trio update of such art-rock bands as Yes and Genesis, refracted through the macho energy of Led Zeppelin. (This is especially noticeable in Lee's Robert Plant-ish, high-pitched vocals--except Lee adds an off-pitch, whining edge.) Obtuse lyrics shift from suburbia present and future to the raptures of space: Both territories are dealt with in simplistic, unimaginative terms matched by a sense of minimal melodic invention that confuses ascending notes with musical development.
Lee's synthesizer work, an increasingly noticeable element in the group's music, was unconvincing, simply washing over Lifeson's slashing guitar line and Peart's increasingly dull drum rolls. After a while, Rush's ponderous songs started fading into one another. Even occasional graphics, film, swirling smoke and the like couldn't obscure the fact that Rush was all thunder without the requisite flash. But 18,000 kids loved it. Then again, listening to Rush is like going to rock 'n' roll junior high school.