Rush - A Lesson In Rock

By Robert Nelson, El Paso Times "A Different Beat" section, January 30, 1994, transcribed by pwrwindows

Rush Is Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart and Geddy Lee. The band will be performing Monday at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces.


Who: Rush.
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Pan American Center, Las Cruces.
How much: $21 and $26. Ticket sales are doing well but ticket are still expected to be available at the door.
Information: (505) 646-1420. Tickets may be purchased by phone if using a credit card by calling (800) 654-9545.

The magazine Modern Drummer covers Neil Peart like British tabloids cover Princess Di. When Peart travels, Modern Drummer reports it. If he makes a new album, Modern Drummer puts him on the cover. If the story isn't about Peart, the advertisement next to it claims Peart uses the advertised percussion product.

When Peart's band, Rush, comes to the Pan Am Center Monday, you can bet a large percentage of the audience will be aspiring percussionists airdrumming along with Peart. Rush concerts are traditionally more than mere spectacles - they're seminars on musicianship.

Above most any other rock, band, Rush has maintained a reputation for advancing musicianship in rock. Geddy Lee is the guru of the bass magazines, Alex Lifeson is the same for guitar magazines. It's the Rush philosophy, Peart says: "The idea for us is to keep spreading out and pushing our playing in new directions. That's what keeps it exciting."

Rush's newest of 19 albums, "Counterparts," finds the band "coming full circle," Peart said, by exploring an "edgier sound." Lifeson's guitar is Stripped down and amped up for songs such as "Stick It Out," the band's first release off the album.

It's an album celebrating the resurgence of "real music" in the 90s, Peart said. Guitar and drum-driven hard rock is back from the pop-rock drum-machine doldrums of the late 80s. Rush, a major influence on many of the new rock superstars, is playing along.

"The 80s really were an awful time with Bon Jovi and all," Peart said. "Every so often rock gets a kick in the butt. People know when it's not real."

Out are the heavy layerings of synthesizers and overproduction. In is the sound of engineer Kevin Shirley, nicknamed "Caveman" for his love of raw guitar sounds and heavy drums.

"He added another dimension," Peart said.

On top of Shirley's engineering is technical mix-master Michael Letho, who "trimmed the rough edges," Peart said. This isn't a grunge rip-off album.

"One (engineer) was the miner, one was the refiner," Peart said. "It's still very much a Rush album."

Which means, Peart's high-minded lyrics weave throughout the intricate music. No jokes about the dumb drummer. Much of "Counterparts" role and gender theming comes from Peart's reading of Carl Jung. T.S. Eliot's "Gerontion" plays a part too.

How does one be smart in rock music without being pretentious?

"If it's just conceptual, ... it would be a dry premise," Peart said. "I'll try to take the abstraction and use it - invent characters, express it through conversation. You mix the universal and the particular."

Then you add a huge light show and take it on the road. Rush is presently in Pensacola, Fla., preparing for their North American tour.

Compared to the Rush show two years ago in Las Cruces, Peart said, this one will be a lot more flash and fire.

"I'd pay anything to watch the concert," Peart said. "Why can't we have our clones play? It's just spectacular."