By Dave Mikolajek Special to Published Jul 04, 2010 at 4:03 AM Photography: David Bernacchi

 In 1968, three teens from Willowdale, Ontario formed the band Rush, playing their first gig in a church basement venue called The Coffin.

Six years later, Geddy "Dirk" Lee and Alex "Lerxst" Lifeson dropped drummer John Rutsey, picked up Neil "Pratt" Peart, went on their first major tour in 1974 and achieved iconic rock status. Most recently, Rush played at Milwaukee's Marcus Ampetheater to a nearly sold out show last night as a part oftheir Time Machine Tour 2010.

 This show, billed as "An Evening With Rush: began with a short fictional film titled "Rash," which featured original band members with three turbulent teens trying to find their sound in a small restaurant in Willowdale. They found their sound and this is what led into opening song, "Spirit of Radio." The crowd's eyes were drawn like moths to the stage as they proved  appreciation with a show of hands.

"Spirit of Radio" led into "Time Stands Still," followed by "Presto."
Three songs in, Lee took a breath and welcomed the captivated crowd with "Hello, Milwaukee; hello Brew Crew! This is not beer in my cup," bringing laughs from the crowd. 

The next five tunes were from more recent albums as "Counterparts" and "Snakes & Arrows." The set concluded with classics "Freewill," "Marathon" and "Subdivisions" -- songs that reminded me of cruising up and down Hwy. 100 and hanging out at Dyer Park, State Fair, Honey Creek and Gilles' Custard Stand in my youth. Then, once again, Lee addressed the adoring audience and explained a little needed break from the action.
And a little break it was; barely 20 minutes during this show that pushed past thre hours.  Another short segment from the film was shown -- this one very loosely based on the band's past with the time machine theme leading into their huge hit "Tom Sawyer." Lee mentions "Moving Pictures" to be the band's "commercial peak" in the newly released documentary, "Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage."
The band went on to play the entire album, including the seldom-performed "Camera Eye" (which nearly made me cry). I tell you, no band can mingle super science with the bright stuff of dreams like these guys. And they use their art as expression -- not as marketing campaigns.They have integrity and no one can dare question their honesty to function and form.

The show continued with a rocking rendition of "Caravan,"  followed by an eight-minute Neil Peart drum solo which included tribal, jazz, and big band beats. Amazing. Nearly 60 years have come and gone, but time has not passed Peart by. So grand. So complex. And that goes for the rest ofthe band, too.

Thirty-five year Rush fan Jim Szewczyk told me after the show, "Age hasn't caught up with them, man. Theirs ound is just as good as the first time I saw them twenty-some years ago."
After the drum solo, they somehow managed the strength to finish the second set with three masterpeices "2112," "Closer to the Heart" and "Far Cry."

After "Far Cry," I told my friend Doris that I felt guilty (and tired) clapping because no encore was really needed and no one should expect one after this performance. But they did it anyway and played absolute classics "La Villa Stangiato" and "Working Man." What a working band! What a working stage complete with a steam-powered time machine attached to the drum kit! What a robotic spider web shaped spaceship-like lighting machine above the lighted stage!
So, after three-plus hours of playing, they were done.... and  after three bottles of water and a Mountain Dew, I bowed defeated. See you next time you come to town, guys.

Dave Mikolajek Special to
Dave Mikolajek is a longtime Milwaukee bartender and loyal reader.