First Encounter: Rush 1974
(If I’m going to share some of the most mundane writing of my life, no point in skipping this, my first encounter with Canada’s wonderful Rush! Dig my hip description of new drummer Neal Peart as “scattered and weak”—-he hadn’t played on their first album and the second wasn’t out yet, so nobody had even heard “By-Tor & The Snow Dog” yet. Imagine!–dd)
Getting down to the basics is essential to the art of rock ‘n’ roll. And essentially, Rush is a very basic rock ‘n’ roll band–and a very good one.
The group, performing at the Brewery Monday night, has been hailed as Canada’s newest supergroup. As dubious as that distinction might seem, it could conceivably pan out for the three-man band, providing they learn to value strong self-discipline.
Rush is a raw group. Their guitar-bass-drums instrumentation seems almost anachronistic these days. But the band’s instrumental simplicity became a plus for the group Monday night, partially because of the Atlanta band Brother Bait, which played the show’s warm-up set.
Together, Rush and Brother Bait demonstrated all that is good and bad with contemporary rock ‘n’ roll groups.
Rush was refreshing in its three-man-band context, while Brother Bait proved generally mediocre for all its instrumental complexity. Another victim of the “moog, mellotron, we got all the stuff but we still can’t play” syndrome, Brother Bait was nauseatingly excessive in every department but the production of good music.
Rush was an interesting departure from seventies technology. The only electronic gadgetry used was the guitarist’s echoplex unit, which was wisely utilized to give the band a fuller, two-guitar sound.
The show centered around bassist-vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson. Heavily armed with wall-to-wall amplification, the duo stayed on opposite sides of the stage and simply pulsated.
The capacity crowd at the Brewery, not to be intimidated, offered cries of “Turn it up!” between songs.
Vocalist Lee’s voice was of the sort that one either loves or hates. A continual high-pitched wail, Lee’s vocal cords seemed a combination of Slade’s Noddy Holder and Nazareth’s Dan McCafferty.
The group is in the process of breaking in a new drummer, Neil Peart, and it shows. His drum style did not fit the group comfortably Monday night, being too scattered and weak for a three-piece band. Time should take care of that problem.
Fast material was what Rush played best, hands down. Lee and Lifeson complimented each other very well, and Lee, in the position of having to sing and play bass simultaneously, does very well.
Rush’s slower material, however, just did not measure up. It appears the group feels the need to pace their set, which is commendable, but the quality of their compositions declined.
Aside from Peart’s drumming and the slower material, Rush has few problems left to iron out. The three encores they received at the Brewery would indicate they indeed have potential. Their album, Rush, on Mercury Records, is doing remarkably well for a debut effort.
(Michigan State News, 11/13/74)