I shouldn't be doing this, you know - writing about Rush. At least two things should prevent it. Rush is one. I'm the other.
Let me explain. By now Rush should have been long past the point of having to do a pair of Maple Leaf Gardens shows, for personal and professional reasons.
Who would have thought they'd want to after all these years and all their achievements.
And to be more blunt about it, who would have guessed that they'd still have a huge enough audience to fill that big concrete cave on Carlton St.? But these questions [are] simple compared to the ones I must ask myself: Why do I care?
It has to do with honor. Rush's honor.
Not that you would have guessed this from the past. To say I didn't like the band in its earlier days is to understate the case in the extreme. I knew they struggled. I knew other critics trounced them regularly. I heard all about the months after months on the road, slowly building a following, even while these critics stomped away.
Despite the zillion things a zillion critics have said about a zillion rock 'n' roll bands growing, changing, developing, whatever you want to call it, Rush did just that.
This is not to congratulate them for reaching my standards, nor is it an attempt to kiss and make up. I don't think that would be entirely possible, although I did talk pleasantly with Geddy Lee in recent years and we seemed to get along. He's a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Senator Restaurant, tastes I share.
And I ran into Alex Lifeson at a party some time ago and met his son (although to this day, I cannot figure out how the kid guitar whiz has a kid who's not really a kid anymore).
I've never seen Neil Peart and I get the feeling he might not be that keen to see me. I guess I've argued too long, too publicly, about his lyrics.
Yet, while this is not about friendship, there's something that Rush has done that hits me hard. The band has worked in isolation, despite the ongoing support of its fans. It has been isolated because it is not in the critical-culture mainstream, which means that while you might read about Bruce Cockburn in Saturday Night, you likely won't read about Rush.
Yet Rush is as much a part of Canadian culture, my culture, as Cockburn. It's just that that part of the culture has little fashion these days. It's about the shopping malls and the suburbs, subjects that critics, rock critics prominent among them, would prefer didn't exist.
I've understood their isolation for some time - you can see it in their self-reliance - but only recently have I come to understand the dignity it has given them. And I like that. I also like their music more and more.
Reason has it that I'm too old, too crotchety and maybe too snooty to deal with musicians who call an album Power Windows.
But critics must recognize what goes on behind the art as much as the art itself and seeing the honesty and honor behind what Rush has done is easy to do.
It's easy even for a crotchety and snooty old critic.