RUSH, Ozzy Osbourne just two reasons why, for this summer at least, Alberta Rocks!

Good, bad or otherwise, there can be no denying that in Alberta at least, there’s plenty of other things to do rather than attacking politicians – especially if you’re into the heavy metal bangin’!

Good, bad or otherwise, there can be no denying that in Alberta at least, there’s plenty of other things to do rather than attacking politicians – especially if you’re into the heavy metal bangin’!

Take for example last weekend when, for the second time in just over a year, I had the pleasure of attending a major concert – this time in Calgary, by one of the entertainment world’s most recognized and at times, most disturbing rock icons – at least he was in his past.

But more on him later.

For myself, the highlight of the summer thus far was the May 27 concert up in Edmonton featuring Canadian rock legends RUSH. Regular readers of this newspaper may recall several references to the band over the past 12 months, including dubbing them, ‘the world’s greatest power trio’.

I had actually written up as bit of a review of the show back then that was going to be featured in this column, but something else must have come up and bounced them from the page. I can’t recall for certain, but it most likely had something to do with the ineptness coming out of the politicians in Edmonton or Ottawa,

Either way, you don’t get to be called ‘the world’s greatest power trio’ because of smoke and mirrors. And no offense to fans of ZZ Top, The Police or even Green Day – all of whom are trios, but combined, they still couldn’t hold a candle to the professionalism, musicianship or longevity of RUSH, and probably never will.

As for the concert itself, one can only describe it as an assault on all five senses.

If you’ve ever been to a rock concert of any magnitude, you’re probably already well aware of the assault you most likely got on your sense of smell, so we’ll just skip over that one all together.

The lights, laser beams, smoke and fire, and three huge video screens easily satisfied everyone’s sense of sight who were in attendance and obviously with an act of that stature, the sense of hearing was also more than satisfying to the 10,000 or so who turned out.

Featuring the world’s greatest-ever drummer in Neal Peart and arguably the world’s greatest bass player in Geddy Lee, the sense of touch was very well-taken care of thanks to an incredibly clear sound system that, with every pluck of the bass and every hit of the drums, sent out a sound wave concussion that felt like one was getting punched in the chest by a young Mike Tyson, only in a much more pleasing and enjoyable way.

As for the sense of taste, well that was the only disappointing part of an otherwise exceptional show, and it certainly had nothing to do with the band.

Being a bit of a hick from…let’s say…elsewhere, the biggest shock of that night came when I decided that since I had all the bases covered, i.e.: was already inside Rexall Place, had enough gas to get home, had arranged for a place to spend the night, etc., I decided to treat myself to an ice-cold brewski just before the start of the show, and that’s when the brutal reality of life in an NHL city, and in an NHL arena really hit home because that one, single, ice-cold beer, as tasty and refreshing as it was, set me back…are you ready for this… $7.75! Heck, the beer cost more than the gas I used to get there – even with the ridiculous prices we’re paying at the pumps!

Aside from that, RUSH put on, as expected, an outstanding performance and were well worthy of the many standing ovations they received.

Turn the clock ahead a few months to two Saturdays ago, and on a spur-of-the-moment thing, I found myself in McMahon Stadium in Calgary – also known as one of the home stadiums of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, at least it is when they play there, for the Monsters of Rock extravaganza featuring 11 heavy-metal, black leather-clad, multi-tattooed, fist-pumping rock bands – most of whom I had never heard of before, and featuring the Madman of Mayhem himself, the legendary Ozzy Osbourne.

While the production value of the 11-hour show was nowhere near that of RUSH, the atmosphere was bordering on frantic shortly before Ozzy took to the stage, and that goes without saying.

It goes without saying that both RUSH and Ozzy have enjoyed long, prolific careers in the heavy-metal rock business, and both have legions of dedicated, hardcore fans both in North America and around the globe, but oh my, when it came to the crowds, the comparisons quickly ended.

In their early days, RUSH tended to produce very long, very lyrically-deep albums based for the most part in science fiction and fantasy such as 2112 and Hemispheres and as such, attracted a more cerebral-type following while always maintaining the highest level of musicianship. In other words, they attract rock geeks – if you will.

Ozzy Osbourne, on the other hand, spent most of his early career in debauchery, various addictions and even a bit of dancin’ with the devil – if you will.

Luckily for him, he met his wife Sharon who eventually straightened him out, but his original reputation as a ‘rock madman’ stuck with him and by the looks of the gathering at McMahon – what with the plethora of piercings, spiked hairdos and, for lack of better words, weird lookin’ zombie-type critters wandering around the stadium just prior to his taking the stage, there’s no denying that his legions of fans, although equally into heavy metal, most certainly would never be describes as either “cerebral” or “geeks”, and probably newer will.

To put it another way, if RUSH assaulted all five senses; Ozzy ripped them out, threw them on the ground, and stomped all over them, much to the enjoyment of the 20,000 or so in attendance.

There’s plenty more coming up for metal fans this summer too including another day-long extravaganza, this time at the Saddledome, featuring headliners Motley Crue and the original ‘shock rocker’ himself Alice Cooper, who’ll be hitting the stage in Calgary, Edmonton and even Red Deer.

Good, bad or otherwise, for fans of heavy metal there can be no denying that for this summer at least, Alberta Rocks!