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Pop Music Reviews : Trio Rushes In Despite The Warnings

February 07, 1986|CHRIS WILLMAN

Five warning signs of a miserable night at a rock concert: 1--Lots of tailgate parties in the parking lot. 2--A crowd that's at least 85% male. 3--Flash pots exploding on stage. 4--Surrealistic images on a giant screen. 5--Lasers.

Rush's appearance Wednesday at the Forum was accompanied by all those danger signals, but was surprisingly impressive nonetheless.

The Canadian trio certainly has a spotted progressive-rock past, with some epic digressions on the future, libertarianism and other subjects that for some reason appeal especially to 19-year-old guys in black T-shirts. But Rush's newer music has more down-to-earth punch to go with the big ideas and high idealism.

The superb musicianship has never been in question, but it's less showy and more rock-solid these days. In songs from "Power Windows," Rush's latest and strongest LP, the band might pull out some tricky time signatures--but in the service of the song, not at the expense of it. Overall, the music is far more forceful and driving than ever before--especially when singer Geddy Lee is on bass instead of synthesizers.

That doesn't mean that recent converts should be ready to reconsider Rush's entire oeuvre , for the often ponderous older material provided a fair share of deadly stretches during the generous two-hour set.

The lunkhead lighting effects were a constant irritation, and the filmic accompaniment was a mixed bag: Setting images of Kabuki dancers burning the world's flags to the tune of the anti-nationalistic "Territories" was inspired, but the stock footage of mushroom clouds and Einstein during the anti-nuke "Manhattan Project" was strictly condescending.

The show (scheduled to be repeated Thursday) was opened by guitarist Steve Morse, who used to play a marvelous brand of boogie-fusion with the Dixie Dregs. He and his new band offered a mixture of dull album-rock and cut-loose instrumentals, and in spurts he was able to transcend the pedestrian surroundings.

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