Near the halfway mark of their three-month 30th anniversary U.S. tour, Canadian progressive rock trio Rush took the near-full Hollywood Bowl by storm Tuesday with a stunning multimedia performance that may be best remembered for four ’60s cover songs they played — a concert first for the band.
Surely neither the band’s fans nor many dismissive critics nor the band members themselves could have imagined in 1974 — when their debut album was released — that Rush would be playing large arenas 30 years down the road. But the group has charted a uniquely successful course over the years, marked by complete artistic control and an ever-evolving sound that’s produced one of the all-time great live rock bands.
Following a dream-sequence appearance on the big video screens by comedian-actor Jerry Stiller (clad in a Rush T-shirt), this two-part Bowl show opened with a treat for old-school fans, as an instrumental barrage of six songs from the six earliest Rush albums was offered in a well-received 10-minute medley, followed by classic arena rocker “The Spirit of Radio.”
Show featured music from 16 of the band’s 17 studio albums, with emphasis during the first set on songs recorded between the mid-1980s and the 1990s, such as the heavy “Force Ten,” the melodic “Earthshines” and the title track from “Roll the Bones.”
For the first time at a local Rush show, the band played music written by others: Its own oldie “The Trees” closed with a tease of “I Feel Fine” and “Daytripper” by the Beatles, followed by a smart rendition of the Who’s “The Seeker,” one of the tracks included on the just-released covers album “Feedback” (Anthem/Atlantic).
A new animated video short, featuring the three band members in a spacecraft fighting a giant dragon, opened the second set and segued into AOR staple “Tom Sawyer” and the laser-filled “Dreamline.” “Red Sector A,” from underappreciated 1984 album “Grace Under Pressure,” led into an amazing Neil Peart drum solo, while “Resist” and the Yardbirds’ “Heart Full of Soul” were given acoustic treatments.
Other second-set highlights included a 10-minute instrumental workout of 1978’s “La Villa Strangiato”; the exotic “Xanadu,” featuring Alex Lifeson on double-neck guitar; and 1974’s “Working Man,” with a rearranged middle and new reggae ending.
The three-hour show’s encore included two more covers, the Blue Cheer version of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” and the Cream-inspired version of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads.” The popular “Limelight,” from 1981, which addresses fame and celebrity, was a solid ending to a great show. Stiller then reappeared on the vid screen to tell the roaring house the celebratory show was indeed over.
Rush will perform at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, Calif., on Wednesday.