Rush is not in danger of breaking up.
The band is just in a holding pattern.
At least, that's the viewpoint of Alex Lifeson, guitarist for the venerable Canadian rock trio, which has no long- or short-term plans beyond the Nov. 10 release of the triple-CD live set Different Stages.
Lifeson and bassist-singer Geddy Lee are giving drummer-lyricist Neil Peart time to grieve the loss of his wife Jackie to cancer this year, following the death of their 19-year-old daughter in a car accident in 1997.
"As far as the band is concerned, we're just waiting for Neil to really get better," Lifeson said in a telephone interview yesterday.
"I don't think he'll be the person he was, but I think he will cope with life again.
"Hopefully, eventually, he'll be able to find joy in all the things he did in life before."
Such as, presumably, playing drums and writing lyrics for Rush.
"I got to think in my heart there are things about what we do that Neil really loves a lot and is not prepared to give up," Lifeson said.
But the musician admitted he and Lee, both 45, have "spent hours and hours" talking about the tragic turn of events. They've decided there will be no Rush without Peart.
"I wouldn't do it," Lifeson said. "I love working with Ged and Ged is my best friend.... We would probably continue working together in some form, but I don't think it would be Rush. It would never be the same."
Lifeson, a friendly and forthcoming interview, spoke with great gravity when discussing the potential end of Rush.
After all, he has spent his entire adult life in the 29-year-old band.
Conversely, he spoke with great excitement about the prospect of future Rush studio records and, of course, the imminent release of the band's fourth live album (following 1976's All The World's A Stage, 1981's Exit ... Stage Left and 1989's A Show of Hands).
Fans will probably be most excited by Disc 3, a previously unreleased concert recorded in 1978 at Hammersmith in London, England, during the Farewell To Kings tour.
Meanwhile, Discs 1 and 2 are live recordings culled largely from the band's last North American tour behind the Test For Echo album. Disc 1 ends with the title suite for Rush's 1976 breakthrough album, 2112.
Local Rush fans may be particularly interested in Different Stages, as the group bypassed Calgary on both its Counterparts and Test for Echo tours.
The band last played in the city in 1990.
"We don't play 180 shows any more," Lifeson explained. "The last tour was about 84, 85 shows.... I know Neil, over the years, is less interested in touring than perhaps he was in the past. I mean, we all go through that.
"So, we only had so many days we could work and it was a case of going to what's on the A-list."
Although Rush has no future plans, Lifeson ruled out any possibility of a compilation of unreleased material.
"We've always had a policy that we only wrote and worked on songs that were going to be on the records," he said.
"So we never wrote any more music or recorded any unreleased material ever."
Ever? "We've done a few things in the recording sessions, but they would definitely get an X-rating," he offered tantalizingly.
For lyrical content or musical abomination?
"Mostly lyric," he said, "but actually both when I think about it."