TORONTO - In keeping with the Canadian tradition of caring for her own, Rush returned home for their first national-headline tour to be served notice that they were being assessed for sound and light rental equipment brought into the country to the tune of $15,000 by the tax department.
Levied as import taxes on sound and light equipment that is rented from two separate U.S. firms, the group had previously filed papers with the tax department in Ottawa and received the necessary approval to bring the gear in. According to one person travelling with the tour, the governmental approval was revoked after a Canadian sound and light company applied pressure on the tax department, leading to a reversal on the decision.
The grim news hit the band shortly before playing the first date in Moncton's Louis Levesque Arena, September 28th. The same night, government officials swooped down on the arena to do a spot check on the group, continuing their case of blatant intimidation but were unable to find any further points to quibble over and have since left the tour alone.
Reports of attendances in the Maritime region are inconsistent, but overall, Rush appear to have generated a good bit of excitement. Speaking from a hotel room in Sault Ste. Marie last week, drummer Neil Peart said that "The Maritime dates drew respectable crowds, but it is hard to gage personal reaction. We are used to vociferous crowds, down there they are passive."
In the Sault for a one night concert at the Memorial Gardens, October 13th, Neil Peart said that the real thrill of the tour was first felt as the group crossed into Ontario. "The Ottawa date on the 10th was really an amazing high. We had an excellent turnout and of course Max Webster and Ian Thomas were also billed for that one show. I think that one concert made up for the hassles we went through in the Maritimes."
Asked about the reaction in the band, following the tax reversal, Peart explained: "It is hard for us to justify a tour here, we have worked closely with promoters Donald K. Donald and CPI on doing this cross-country tour and it means a lot to us. You know, just being able to do it in our own country, but the $15,000 is going to have to come out of our profits and it brings our margin on the line. We obviously lost some money in the Maritimes, we knew we were going to because of the size of the population there, but we wanted to do it. Ontario will be good because of its size and the number of venues to play in, then it is pretty dry right through to the west. Last year we toured nationally with Nazareth, it was fun but we wanted to do it on our own. This is our chance and to look on the bright side - we will never have to pay that money again."
At the time of the interview, lead-guitarist Geddy Lee was feeling under the weather, following an all night drive from Kingston to the Sault and was sleeping in bed in preparation for a show that night.
Neil Peart explained how the Rush concert production has evolved since last time playing in Canada. "We have greatly increased the lighting equipment and are constantly adding to our video equipment. At present we are using a rear view projector to add a little splendor to the Overture of 2112. The synthesizer parts open it up and on the screen we have a NASA film that depicts actual space flight, the film flashes onto a simulated shot of the S.S. Enterprise shooting down a space ship just as the band starts to play. We have also added to our slide library and the sound system is the best we have ever had to work with."
With 2112 just certified gold in Canada and All The World's A Stage moving with bullets in the U.S., the conversation drifted toward the next album. Neil took the usual tack and remained elusive but did go as far as to say that it could be a "continuation" from the 2112 approach. "Rush has undergone a number of subtle changes in the past while," he said, intimating that the next studio album will obviate the clues he is leaving us now.
Following the tour in Canada, which winds up at the Victoria Arena, B.C., on October 27th, Rush heads back into the U.S. for a series of concerts with Blue Oyster Cult, then returns home for a well deserved rest. RW hopes to carry more news of this first Rush national tour as it enters the final leg in B.C.