The veteran Canadian hard-rock trio Rush played their first Southern California show in more than five years on Monday, following the first hiatus of their 28-year career, and this still-inspired band delivered an excellent show. The trio found success five years ago eschewing opening acts and they do the same on this, the second leg of their U.S. tour, to promote the recent “Vapor Trails” album, the group’s 17th studio effort.
First set opened with an energized version of that all-time arena-rock classic “Tom Sawyer” and continued with a satisfying blend of favorites from throughout the extensive Rush catalog (“Distant Early Warning,” “New World Man,” etc.) plus a couple from the new album.
The moving and melodic “Earthshine” is one of the many new ones that bears the unmistakable mark of drummer/lyricist Neil Peart’s ongoing grief over the death in 1997 of his teenage daughter and, a year later, the death from cancer of his wife.
Second set revealed a relaxed and even playful band. Guitarist Alex Lifeson, who now prefers layered chords to scales and solos, joked with people in the front rows as he ran around the large stage. Three matching faux clothes dryers spun behind bassist-singer Geddy Lee as he plucked thundering bass lines; dryers somehow also served as Lee’s bass amplifiers.
The power of new track “Ceiling Unlimited” and a new acoustic arrangement for the 1996 track “Resist” highlighted set No. 2, which also included the 1976 favorite “2112” and an extra tasty solo from Lifeson during “Limelight.”
Rush may have began in the early 1970s as a critically flogged, Led Zeppelin-motivated garage band, but the group has evolved and matured into one of contemporary pop music’s most compelling acts, with increasingly affecting recordings and unbeatable concerts.