What A Rush; Rush Still Relevant After 2 Decades

Rush, Still A Major Draw After 20-Plus Years, Plays Salt Lake City Tuesday.

By Steven M. Brophy, Salt Lake Tribune, May 16, 1997

Studio time is nice.

And being able to putter around the house, enjoy your family or work on a solo project is great.

But after a while, Rush frontman Geddy Lee feels the urge to do it again.

Time to hit the road.

Even if it isn't the most popular notion with his bandmates, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart.

"I do like to tour," Lee said from a hotel in Phoenix, where Rush had played the first show on its "Test for Echo" tour. "We do have conflicting ideas about it, though. I'm not assigning any blame or anything like that, but understandably, it's more difficult for some of us than others."

The difficulties lie in the things the trio have accumulated in their 24-plus years together, such as families and homes.

"It's hard to do, but it's tolerable," Lee said about touring. "If it was like it used to be, I don't think I could do it."

The way it used to be included 10-month tours filled with a grinding schedule of about 150 shows. Things have been scaled down for this tour. Lee insists that the slower pace satisfies his wanderlust and works better for all.

"I love the fact that I'm enjoying touring as much as I am," he said. "I like how there are never more than a couple of shows in a row, too. It's tough at 40 to put out a 2 1/2-hour show. And it's really tough for me to tell my little girl that I'm not going to be home for 2 months. But this tour is smaller, so it's OK."

The lighter schedule also saves Lee's bread and butter: his voice.

"It really helps me," he said. "But even at only playing two shows in a row, I still spend three months with a constantly hoarse voice."

After two decades of albums and performing, Lee believes that some of the band's early material has withstood the ravages of time and the public's fickle tastes.

"Some of it stands up," he mused. "But some of it is dated, too. That's inevitable in this style of music... Regardless of the serious overtones that people give some segments of pop music, it is all from the same tree. Hopefully, some of it will stand up forever."

Some fans say that Rush has deviated from its early sound over the years, but demand for the music is still there.

Helen Powers, a disc jockey at KBER FM 101.1, constantly is bombarded with listener requests for new and old Rush tunes on her "Power Lunch" show.

"You wouldn't imagine the demand I get for tickets," she said from the station's Salt Lake studio. "And I get at least five requests a day for their music during my show."

The ratio of requests for new and old songs is about even.

"What amazes me most, though, is that they've been around since bands like REO Speedwagon, who was huge back then, but REO is playing dumpy little clubs and smaller venues like that," Powers. said "Rush is kind of like the Rolling Stones and other bands in that they are still playing large venues and they sell out a lot of the time. That proves that they are still relevant after 20-plus years."

The band has changed its sound a little over the years, inviting criticism from older fans.

"I know that some of the fans love to live in the past, but we can't exist in the past."

And the present is busy.

Besides playing on "Test for Echo" and touring, guitarist Lifeson recently completed a solo album. Drummer Neil Peart, widely considered one of the greatest drummers of any style, dedicated more than a year to organizing, producing and playing on a tribute album to drum legend Buddy Rich.

The band also has entered into an agreement that will see first seven Rush albums remastered and reissued.

"Basically, we wanted to put [the music] back in its original form with a fresher sound, something which is long overdue," Lee said. "There have been so many incredible advances in mastering that it was time to update those albums, it was time to do that for the fans. It also gives us a chance to correct a couple of things that were messed up."

One of those things includes a goof that left drummer Peart out of a photo on one Rush album.

"I think it was on 'Moving Pictures,' " Lee said with a laugh. "Neil was left out of the picture. I mean, you know, we're not a duo, and this gives us a chance at correcting things like that."

And what are Lee's plans after this tour? Will Rush stay together and continue to rock?

"It will always exist as the three of us," Lee said. "But you will always see various solo projects."

Lee's solo plans include producing other artists.

"I have a lot of coaching to offer young bands," he said.

His main qualification is experience.

"I've been doing this for a long time, and I've recorded a lot of albums. I don't know if I will enjoy it, but I'd like to try it. See if I have the patience."

Until then, Lee is content to pluck his bass and sing.

He insists that the upcoming concert at the Delta Center will have something for fans old and new.

And fans are in for at least one treat.

"We're playing the entire '2112' album," Lee said. "And this is the first time we've ever done that, even when it came out. But we tried it in rehearsals and it worked and it's really fun to play. It's a gratifying album to play because I think it was the first album that our sound, the Rush sound, came together... It was our defining moment, to a certain degree."

Rush will perform Tuesday at the Delta Center, 301 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City. Tickets are $25 and $35 at Smith's Tix.