Rush Still Revels In Reelin' Off Rapid-Fire Rock

By Dan MacDonald, Jacksonville Times-Union, February 21, 1992

Rush is still in a hurry.

The band is chasing perfection.

The three-man group - guitarist Alex Lifeson, bassist-vocalist Geddy Lee and drummer Neil Peart - has released 18 albums, and according to Peart they are enjoying the tour to support the latest record, Roll the Bones, as much as any in the past.

"This is another chance to get it right, to play perfectly," he said during a recent telephone interview from Houston. "You hope that the night when you play perfectly never arrives, because then you'd have to quit. But there is such satisfaction in playing well, that it is a goal to be achieved. On this tour, we've reached a level of consistency that we never have before.

"I listen to tapes of live shows on most days off. In previous years, it would be a cringing thing of hearing the flaws and wanting to correct them and feeling down about how far from perfect it was. This tour, it is more of a pleasure. I hear little corrections I want to make from the drumming point of view, but at the same time I hear how well the band is playing on a night-to-night basis and that becomes its own gratification, too."

It's that dedication to perfection that makes the next performance as important as the last. Rush performs with opening act Primus at 7:30pm Wednesday at the Coliseum.

"On this tour, for the first time, I feel that this band is really at its peak, really at the height of our powers. That's a nice feeling. No amount of applause ever made me feel better walking off stage if I didn't feel that I had played well."

To think, it's only taken Rush 18 albums to get it right.

The band was first formed in 1969 in Toronto, with John Rutsey on drums. By the time the group was ready to tour to support its 1974 self-titled debut, Rutsey had quit and Peart had joined the group - just six days before the first show. Through the years, Rush has been compared to Yes for its lengthy instrumentals and innovative approach. Its second album, 1975's Fly By Night, established Rush as a contender in the rock world. By touring with highly popular bands like Aerosmith and Kiss, it was introduced to a huge crop of new fans.

Rush is known mostly for its album work, but there have been single hits, too. They include "Tom Sawyer," "New World Man," "Closer to the Heart" and "Big Money."

Unlike many bands that write and record as many as 30 songs for a 10-song album, Peart said Rush only records the 10 that are on a new record. That way, no creative energy is wasted and no riffs are created among band members by leaving off someone's favorite song.

After selling more than 20 million albums, the desire to reach beyond album regimentation is what drives the band. While the full recorded sound is augmented by synthesized samples, Peart insists that these parts are triggered live on stage by one of the three players. There are no roadies off to the side making the magic happen. The only taped vocals are for the video portion of the recent single, "Roll the Bones," and Aimee Mann's ('Til Tuesday) background vocals for the song "Time Stands Still."

Insisting on such stage control also allows Rush to do something new this tour - improvise. Lengthier instrumentals have been arranged and endings of some songs have been left open for free-form improvisation. Such risk-taking doesn't come without years of arena experience, Peart said.

It's possible to do it too early and it's possible to it really wrong. Improvised music has the in-built human weakness of one day you can be brilliant and the next day you can be a bum."

Rush with Primus performs at 7:30pm Wednesday at the Coliseum. Reserved tickets are $22.50.