Rush Of Excitement

Different Stages Covers 20 Years On Stage

By Rick Conrad, Jam!Music, November 17, 1998

Millions of fans around the world can thank Garry Lee Weinrib's Polish immigrant parents for giving us one of the most distinctive voices, and names, in rock music.

"The story of my name is much like Leave It to Beaver," Rush's Geddy Lee says on the phone from his Toronto home.

"I come from a family of immigrants that survived the war and came to Poland and they had thick accents when I was a child.

"And my given name was Garry, but they pronounced that with a very thick accent. And all of my friends kept asking me, 'Why do they call you Geddy?' So (my friends) started calling me Geddy when I was quite young. And eventually, (my parents) just decided to call me Geddy anyway, so we changed my name legally to Geddy quite a few years ago."

The bassist, keyboardist and lead singer of one of Canada's most successful and influential rock bands, Lee isn't the only member of Rush with a mutated moniker.

Guitarist Alex Lifeson was born Alex Zivojinovich, a name which doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

But as Lee, Lifeson and drummer/lyricist Neil Peart have proved in their almost 25 years as Rush, it's the music that really matters.

Having sold almost 40 million albums worldwide, Rush is renowned for its three-hour concerts and up to 200 shows a year.

Enter the recently released three-CD set, Different Stages-Live, Rush's fourth live album and 22nd release.

"I guess (live albums) are kind of an inevitability with us," Lee says.

"We seem to be obsessed with getting better on stage and taping our shows seems to be one way of verifying that. It seems to be a good system of checks and balances with us, to monitor the development of our songs."

Rush can be relied on to release a live disc every four albums or so and Lee says the band does that to keep a historical record of the songs that will inevitably be dropped from the show as new studio albums are released.

"We like to record those and have some sort of document of what they sounded like live," he says.

Discs one and two of Different Stages are culled from Rush's '97 tour of North America.

Lee, who co-produced the collection, says the band decided to record digitally all the shows on their last tour.

It's a less-intrusive, but more frustrating, way to lay it down live, he says.

"It's a whole bundle of machines that records eight tracks at a time, and one of those machines goes down and there goes your whole evening," Lee says.

"You have to throw the whole thing out. And that happened so many times, it was starting to get frustrating."

Still, Lee and his co-producer Paul Northfield managed to glean enough clean stuff from 80-100 shows for both discs.

The third disc was recorded even before digital technology came into vogue.

It's a limited edition recording of the band's 1978 performance at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, England during the Farewell to Kings tour.

"That was a key period for us, it was kind of the romancing of the English period," Lee says.

They intended to release it back then, but Lee had a cold that night and on the first few songs he sounded a little hoarse, so the band decided to shelve it.

When Lee moved last year, he noticed the tapes in his basement, gave them another listen and decided to release it with this set as a thank you to the fans.

"It was kind of the idea, to give them something fun to listen to and not get into this whole expensive five-CD box set. To me, it's hard enough (for fans) to scrounge up enough money for one CD, let alone all these multiple CD box sets."

As for when fans can expect a new studio album from the Toronto trio, Lee says the guys are putting the group on hold while Peart deals with the deaths of his wife and daughter.

Peart's wife Jackie succumbed to cancer this year and their 19-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident in 1997.

"He's going through a devastating period and we all are reeling from that still and it's still fresh," Lee says.

"Time is what's needed here. (This record) is kind of a way for myself to stay sane throughout it."

Even if Peart and the rest of the band weren't dealing with such a loss, Lee says it's always possible that Rush might call it quits.

"After 25 years, there's always a possibility that there won't be another Rush album. I mean, you never know. ... We've been around so long and we've been so lucky for so many years to have such a great following.

"We certainly still love what we do, but there are all kinds of other circumstances that can affect you, so we don't really plan the future anymore.

"We just let it happen."