Geddy Lee is looking forward to playing the Gorge tomorrow night.
"Oh, man," the lead singer and bassist for Rush said from his home in Toronto, "it's gotta be one of the best venues in the world."
He recalled playing there five years ago, the last time the classic power trio toured. "I loved it there. Beautiful place."
Lee sounded upbeat for good reason. Not only will Rush resume its tour at the Gorge, "Vapor Trails," the band's first all-new studio album in more than five years, debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 album chart in May, and the first single, "One Little Victory," was a hit on rock radio. The first three months of the tour were a critical and commercial success.
"I'm really, really proud of the tour we're bringing around," he said.
The 2½-hour show features a 20-by-30-foot video wall that displays live and prerecorded footage. Drummer Neil Peart has a spinning drum riser with two full drum kits. Lee said that state-of-the-art computerized lighting and sound systems allow the band to change its set midconcert, if it wants to. That makes for smoother jams, like when guitarist Alex Lifeson decides to take an extended solo.
The band took a much longer hiatus than expected after the last tour because of tragedies that struck the Peart family. His 19-year-old daughter, Serena, was killed when her car went off a highway in Ontario and crashed in 1997. Less than a year later, Peart's wife, Jacqueline Taylor, died of cancer.
Lee said he and Lifeson decided to let Peart decide when, if ever, the band would reunite. When Peart called them some two years ago and said he wanted to get back to work, it felt right. Back in the studio, things fell into place immediately, almost as if they hadn't taken any time off, Lee said.
Peart writes the lyrics, but Lee sings them, which makes for an interesting creative partnership.
"I kind of act as Neil's sounding board, his editor or whatever you want tocall it," Lee explained.
"I have to shape those lyrics into melody, so it's a fairly intense back-and-forth between the two of us. He gives me fairly wide berth to do what I want with what's on the page, whether I use the entire song as it's written or pull parts of it out that I feel are more compelling than others and would make better music.
"It's a glorious collaboration, actually, because there's very little ego. I mean, there's enough ego to make it interesting but not to the point of destructiveness."
During Rush's hiatus, Lee recorded his first solo album, "My Favorite Headache." Parts of it were recorded here with Seattle drummer Matt Cameron of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. "I found the city very welcoming and very gracious," Lee said.
The experience helped when it came time to record "Vapor Trails."
"I felt very confident after that and very sharp in terms of my studio craft and singing abilities," Lee said. "I had learned a lot about recording my voice."
His high singing voice is one of the distinctive elements of Rush, along with literate lyrics and superb musicianship. Writers have a hard time coming up with ways to describe his unique singing style - many make reference to helium.
"A lot of them have been amusing," Lee said. "My personal favorite was 'sounds like the damned howling in Hades.' I quite liked that one."
Lee said his singing voice is natural to him. "As Popeye said, 'I yam what I yam.' "
7 p.m. tomorrow, Gorge Amphitheatre, George, Grant County; $48.30-$74.55, 206-628-0888 or www.ticketmaster.com.