Music News & Reviews

Walter Tunis: Rush's longevity might defy expectations, but success is indisputable

Rush — Alex Lifeson, left, Neil Peart and Geddy Lee — perform during its induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at a ceremony April 18 at Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.
Rush — Alex Lifeson, left, Neil Peart and Geddy Lee — perform during its induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at a ceremony April 18 at Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP


7:30 p.m. July 2 at Riverbend Music Center, 6295 Kellogg Ave., Cincinnati. $27.50-$92.50. (513) 232-6220 or Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or

Even if you were a diehard fan soaking up albums like Moving Pictures and Signals in the early '80s, you probably gave little thought to where Rush would be in 30 years. But here we are in 2013, and the Canadian trio has a new album, a new mega-grossing tour and an unlikely new honor: induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Rush, once dismissed by the pop mainstream as playing a nerdy mix of prog, metal and narrative fancy, has endured in ways that fans and critics could not have foreseen. Its 2010-11 Time Machine Tour, essentially a career retrospective, sold out in nearly every city where it played and resulted in a critically lauded live album. The Hall of Fame selection followed last winter.

Now we have perhaps the most unusual Rush project ever: an album called Clockwork Angels that augments its thunderous guitar/bass/drums sound with a string section. Think that's wild? Then check out Rush's return to the region, when it will enlist string players to bring the Clockwork Angels material to life in a concert setting. Being heard over Neal Peart's titan drum sound surely will require a miracle of modern engineering, or at least, sound mixing.

Longstanding fans shouldn't fret at the prospect of a dinner-size serving of new material, though. Rush's concerts this year have been averaging more than three hours and have included the return of such forgotten '80s and '90s tunes as The Analog Kid, Force Ten and Bravado.

Rush hasn't played Lexington since a 1984 outing at Rupp Arena. But the band remains a regular in Cincinnati. It will get next week's holiday fun started two days early with a performance Tuesday at Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati.

Ladies' nights

The women get the spotlight at Willie's Locally Known, 805 North Broadway, this weekend.

On Friday, Louisville's Cheyenne Marie Mize has the floor to showcase her new album, Among the Grey, which was released Tuesday. Ancient Warfare will open. (9:30 p.m. $10. (859) 281-1116.

On Saturday, it's another night of honky-tonk soul courtesy of Coralee and the Townees, with warm-up from Dan Tedesco. (8 p.m. $10.)

Miss Coralee then switches gears big time at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Avenue, on Wednesday, when she rejoins an all-star local collective known as Get the Led Out, which will offer its third performance devoted to the music of Led Zeppelin. That will get your July Fourth rocking and then some. (10 p.m. $10. (859) 309-9499.


Buddy Guy at the Lexington Opera House: The only break in the guitar squall created at the onset of this sold-out performance came when Guy drew his hands off his instrument, curled them into fists and let out a blues howl harrowing enough to wake the spirits of Muddy Waters, Little Walter or any of the other musical forefathers who figured so intensely in his music.

True to ferocious form, the performance took Chicago blues tradition and amped it up to rock 'n' roll proportions. Sure, there were plenty of instances when tradition came first, like a playful Hoodoo Man Blues, where Guy mimicked the low blues moan of his late longtime performance partner, Junior Wells, and snippets of salutes to the likes of Waters (by way of an exquisite but shamefully abbreviated Long Distance Call). But a mash-up of Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Chile, limited mostly to its wah-wah-saturated preamble, and Cream's Sunshine of Your Love, reworked as an instrumental jam, revealed greater texture and intensity within Guy's soloing through long, unrelenting guitar lines that maintained the jam's gale force potency.

Of course, Guy was often as strong a singer as he was an instrumentalist. His voice still has a youthful gospel gusto that has grown mightier with age (he turns 77 next month), but he proved equally pervasive in a number of quieter songs that included John Hiatt's Feels Like Rain, the self-penned title tune to 2008's album Skin Deep and a fascinatingly contained —and primarily acoustic — take on another Cream staple, Strange Brew.

But perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the performance was watching a remarkably fit looking and sounding Guy in full possession of the creative firepower that has fueled his musical cunning and his tireless profile as a master showman. That level of vigor underscores Guy's commitment to the blues. But it also continues to make his performances, for all their rockish volume and drive, such fun for artist and audience alike.