The Rush rock 'n' roll experience, circa 2013, is best appreciated as a head-spinning, high-tech pageant of light and sound.
At Farm Bureau Live amphitheater in Virginia Beach Sunday, the Canadian power trio hauled out all the gear and gizmos. They didn't necessarily spray fans with all of their biggest, most-beloved songs, but they did bowl them over with a dazzling multimedia presentation.
Rotating video screens, state-of-the-art lighting, a steam-punk-themed set complete with pipes, globes and valves -- even old-fashioned fireworks, jets of flame and blasts of smoke -- made the band's performance of songs from its 2012 album "Clockwork Angels" a feast for the senses.
Gazing at the stage mid-show on Sunday was like peering into a glowing, animated shadowbox, one alive with energy and color.
The sound was strong, too.
After a first set peppered with mid-career highlights ("Subdivisions," "Big Money") as well as deeper cuts ("The Pass" and "Far Cry") the band kicked off its second act with a suite of tracks from "Clockwork Angels." That portion was bolstered by a small-but-effective string section.
The show ended with hits "Tom Sawyer," "The Spirit of Radio" and tunes from the band's 1976 mini-opera "2112."
Through the two-hour concert, Geddy Lee's singing voice -- a distinctive high-pitched yelp -- managed to hit most of its marks. So did his acrobatic bass playing. Guitarist Alex Lifeson's chords and leads balanced melody with a passion for signal processing. Neil Peart's drumming was busy without sounding too self-indulgent.
A big chunk of Sunday's crowd of about 7,000 seemed to be hardcore Rush followers who were elated with the set list, but more casual fans may have missed some of the band's most melodic tunes: "Bastille Day," "Closer to the Heart," "The Trees," Freewill," "Limelight."
It's both admirable and regrettable that the band didn't turn the show into a greatest hits revue. The choice might have made the show less accessible, but it reflects one reason Rush remains a going concern after 40-plus years.
The Toronto rockers, now members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, have always refused to play the nostalgia game. In Virginia Beach, they opted to plunge into a high-tech, mechanized future.
-Sam McDonald, The Daily Press