Air Canada Centre, Toronto - September 19, 2007

-- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 4:53 AM ET

TORONTO -- Fans of Canadian prog-rock legends Rush got their money's worth, and them some, as the band arrived on friendly turf last night to kick off the first of two sold-out dates at the Air Canada Centre with a marathon show.

The homecoming gigs of Toronto singer-bassist-keyboardist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart are always special events for their audiences who have, for the most part, remained fiercely loyal for the past 30-plus years.

It helps that Snakes & Arrows, the latest studio effort from Rush released earlier this year, is one of their more vibrant sounding records and was well represented last night by over a half-dozen songs, including the instrumental The Main Monkey Business (nicely complimented by some black-and-white footage of said animals doing everything from using a hula hoop to shaving a human) and The Larger Bowl with an filmed introduction provided by Canadian hosers Bob and Doug McKenzie.

The three accomplished musicians were also thoroughly warmed-up, having been on the road since mid-June when they launched their tour in Atlanta.

"So nice to see you guys in our hometown," Lee said. "We've got a lot of music."

No kidding.

The lengthy evening, which eventually clocked in at well over three hours including a 30-minute intermission, began with a new film that reflected their love for both animation and hammy acting.

And even though the opening guitar chords of the band's classic Limelight heralded a promising set list, for every major hit they played -- Free Will, Subdivisions, a cover of Summertime Blues, The Spirit of Radio and Tom Sawyer, there were patience-testing rarities such as Circumstances.

Now all in their mid-50s, the musicians of Rush don't appear to be resting on their laurels.

Lee, in particular, was an enthusiastic performer, jumping around the stage even if the audience in the stands stayed rooted to its seats until the very end of the night while those on the floor stood for the duration.

Otherwise, Rush's stripped-down stage had great sightlines with the lighting and sound rigs high above the band while a large video screen showed three-way split-screen images.

Bells and whistles included a blue-and-red-lit rig that impressively lowered space-ship-like during Between The Wheels, green laser lights that kicked Dreamline up a notch, exploding fireworks that literally commanded attention for the new song Far Cry, and fire bursts during Witch Hunt.

The group's sense of humour also was on full display.

Having toured in the past with both clothes dryers and vending machines on stage, this time out it's three glass-enclosed rotating chicken roasters with the word "henhouse," on each. (A woman dressed in a white apron, tight jeans and high heels even came out to baste the chickens during The Spirit Of Radio.)

Meanwhile, the animated boys of South Park, called Li'l Rush in a filmed segment, introduced Tom Sawyer and rows of tiny dinosaurs lined the tops of speakers to the left of Peart's enormous rotating drum kit, which was painted blood red and had the Snakes & Arrows symbol everywhere.

And yes, eventually there was a fierce, sometimes funny, drum solo performed by Peart toward the end of MalNar that simply defied description.

Lee even brought out his digital movie camera at one point and instructed the crowd to scream in unison: "Take off, eh?" while he filmed them. When they co-operated enthusiastically, he responded: "That's beauty, Way to go, eh?"

Rush plays Ottawa tomorrow night before returning for a second Toronto date at the ACC Saturday night.


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