Plenty of bands are sitting out the recession. But Rush took a chance - and won. It's filling arenas while many other shows are languishing on the road.
Rush forged an ever-evolving sound on its new album, "Roll the Bones," taking a chance when other bands stayed put in their established styles.
And chance plays a prominent role on the album itself, although drummer and lyricist Neil Peart says it wasn't planned that way.
"The idea of chance and randomness on the album came out of one incidental image - the wild card. I thought of that image more and more: how randomness affects us as a band, and people at large. There's so many different areas."
On the album, "Ghost of the Chance" reflects the chances taken in a love affair; "Heresy" is about the bad luck in Eastern Europe just before its liberation. The title song concerns, among other things, children born with AIDS.
"They are things there are no explanation for," Peart says. "Yet you're forced to address these questions: Why are we here, and why do these things happen? And the only answer I can come up with is: It happens because it happens. But I do believe in evolution. And if these things happen, what can we do about it?"
Peart tried to answer these questions in the lyrics of the album. "That's what kept driving me deeper and deeper. These are the kind of intellectual questions I'd throw around with my friends, one of whom said, 'Because they happen' sounds like something his dad would say. I'm not trying to diffuse the question. But I wanted to avoid being pretentious or facile about it."
Things on earth, he says, are "not futile, but it is random."
But to come to any conclusion, or song lyrics, "I had to juggle all these things in my own head, to see if I could say anything about them."
Lyrics are not the only reason people have followed Rush for 17 years and just as many albums. "For a lot of people, lyrics just aren't that important," Peart concedes. "I can enjoy a band when the lyrics are shallow. But I can enjoy it more if the lyrics are good."
"I readily confess to being didactic sometimes and not expressing things clear enough," Peart says. "But one time Geddy [Lee, the band's lead vocalist] pointed out, I'm just giving my idea, saying what I think and asking, 'What do you think?' I'm not saying anything black and white. I'm saying, 'Maybe this is something you'd like to think about.' " Part of the longevity of Rush has to do with the equal creative input from the members. Lee, on vocals and bass, works up the music with guitarist Alex Lifeson, as a rule, to mesh with Peart's words. "We are all very individual, but there's enough overlap in our personality to give us mutual respect, and we can feed ideas off each other. We're not all the same, so [we] don't get bored with each other. That doesn't mean we're arguing all the time. The chemistry among us is very low in friction. If we disagree on something, we work on it," Peart says.
The result of the longevity is a growing backlog of songs fans might want to hear in concert.
"Sometimes you can alter old songs to refresh them live," Peart says. "Other times you just can't, and you have to retire them. If you feel slave to playing a song a certain way instead of with true feeling, you might stop playing it for a while." But, Peart adds, "We're closing with a monster medley of old songs; some of them we had not played for 15 years. Most of them we wouldn't feel like playing a whole song, but we put in a minute of it," he says. "It's great for us to do and a constant surprise to the audience."
The drummer is thankful that, in an age of poor concert business, old and new Rush fans are buying tickets for the band's shows. "There was plenty of doom and gloom in the industry about the concert business, and we had to be concerned," he says. "It's a very pleasant surprise. At the same time, we never take anything for granted."
Leaving things to chance, maybe. But never for granted.
Rush performs Friday at the Hartford Civic Center in a concert rescheduled from Dec. 1. Vinnie Moore opens the show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $17.50, $21.50 and $27.50. For more information, call 727-8080.