Writing about Rush is hard. On the one hand, it's tempting to talk about the long-running Canadian progressive rockers as a guilty pleasure, but that ironic tone is hard to sustain in the face of what's often startlingly original, compelling music. On the other hand, an unblinkingly earnest assessment is impossible with a band known for songs about "the priests of the temple of Syrinx."
So I'll just say that, if you've never seen Rush -- or if it's been decades -- this is a very good time to go.
The virtuosic trio of Geddy Lee (vocals/bass), Alex Lifeson (guitar) and Neal Peart (drums) play the Post-Gazette Pavilion on Wed., July 2 -- their second time through on a tour that began in the spring of 2007, supporting their latest album, Snakes & Arrows. That album, with its modern-rock riffs and guitar-oriented focus, stands up well alongside 1978's Hemispheres or 1981's Moving Pictures, classics from Rush's last guitar-dominated phase before a series of synthesizer-dominated albums in the 1980s and a five-year hiatus that began in 1997. In other words, it's a return to many of the progressive-rock elements that defined their heyday, while songs like "Far Cry" and "Bravest Face" sound fresh and modern.
And you might want to pick Snakes up before seeing them -- Rush's stop here last year featured much of the new album, alongside the obligatory favorites. (The set list has been updated since the last leg of the tour.) While the album may display a tougher side of Rush than was apparent in the 1980s, there are still elements of the band's goofy humor live, mainly in the cheesy video-screen projections.
But all that aside, I'll be going back again for one reason: When they kicked into the epic, keyboard-driven "Subdivisions," something I didn't know was inside my brain exploded. Or perhaps I should say, something inside my hemispheres.
Rush. 7:30 p.m. Wed., July 2. Post-Gazette Pavilion, 665 Rt. 18, Burgettstown. $26.50-84. All ages. 724-947-7400 or www.postgazettepavilion.com