The State Fair grandstand show featured energetic classics and an awesome eight-minute drum solo by Neil Peart.
Love them or hate them, you've got to give Rush credit: While they may be the most polarizing band of all time among rock fans, the Canadian power trio has been a model of music-business integrity, doing pretty much whatever they've wanted for 36 years -- trendiness or hipness be damned.
It was in that spirit that one of the biggest cult rock acts ever played to 13,248 of the faithful at a sold-out State Fair grandstand Friday, for one of the highest-ticket concerts ever at the fair. Over three-plus hours, the trio of 57-year-olds (with guitarist Alex Lifeson celebrating his birthday alongside bassist-vocalist Geddy Lee and drummer-lyricist Neil Peart) showed that the decades had done little to dull their sense of purpose.
The theme of the tour was time travel, which meant a clever Jules Verne-influenced production and the band taking a whirlwind tour through its entire career, with a first set heavy on anthemic if less distinctive 1990s and 2000s material. Opening with the band's 1980 classic-rock staple, "The Spirit of Radio," Lee seemed to have lost some of the edge to his famous high wail, but later he hit every note on the stratospheric bridge of "Freewill."
For the second set, Rush turned the clock back to perhaps its most timeless album -- 1981's creative pinnacle "Moving Pictures" with its iconic, synthesizer-drenched FM opus "Tom Sawyer" -- performing the album in its entirety for the first time ever. It was here where the band really cut loose and seemed to be having the most fun, transforming the grandstand into a freewheeling party.
All three players were predictably virtuosic, particularly late in the evening on their 1975 sci-fi/metal/Objectivist classic "Overture," from the "2112" album. And drum god Peart dazzled with the obligatory eight-minute solo on a revolving turntable, displaying mastery of hard-rock, big-band jazz and world-music styles.
Simon Peter Groebner • 612-673-7012