Give them some time offstage, and the Rush rock 'n' roll touring party turns into a traveling rock show.
On any given afternoon before a show, or on a day off, you'll usually find the three band members and their crew engaged in some physically enriching activity. Sun and surf are the goals, with drummer Neil Peart usually pedaling several miles on his bicycle.
And on the nearest tennis court, guitarist Alex Lifeson and vocalist-bassist-keyboardist Geddy Lee generally bash their way through several sets. "The athletics is just a day-to-day kind of thing," Lifeson, 30, explained. "We're on a real fitness kick. Plus, it gets you out of the hotel room, gets you some sun."
IT DOES, however, put the band out in the open for its fans. Lifeson said the Minneapolis hotel he was calling from seemed inaccessible to random hangers-on: "There's nothing to do except look at the downtown skyline over the barns." But, he admitted, even after 10 years of steady touring, including the current outing to support its latest album, "Grace Under Pressure," Rush isn't big on having hordes of fans around.
"I can't stand being a famous face," said Peart, who shaved his mustache two years ago because too many fans were recognizing him, "It's one of the banes of my life. Onstage I give my blood, sweat and tears, you know? After that, it's my time, and I feel no obligation to play the star."
As Lifeson explained, "Someone knocking on your hotel room out of the blue isn't great. For Van Halen, it works; part of the foundation for their popularity is that they're accessible.
"I SUPPOSE there was a point where we did mingle more, but now we travel in a tight group. We have contact with people that way, so there isn't a need to go out and mingle."
But sometimes there's too much of a demand for the band to resist. Lifeson said that in England Rush often will prepare to leave an auditorium, only to find more than 200 fans outside the backstage entrance, waiting for autographs.
"Usually in those cases we'll organize something - set up a table to sign programs, share a few words," he said. "Those can be fun; you have control."
Rush and the Pat Travers Band will perform at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Joe Louis Arena. Call 567-9824 anytime.