Return Of The Rush Hour

South Yorkshire Star, October 4, 2007

RUSH guitarist Alex Lifeson has vivid memories of the first time his Canadian trio played Sheffield.

"It was our first UK gig and I can visualise the venue," he says 30 years on. "We started it with Finding My Way from the first album and I had a technical problem with the intro tape."

That was at the City Hall on June 1, 1977 and back in June this year South Yorkshire Rush tribute band Bravado performed the same set the Canadians brought in 1977, in its entirety, at The Boardwalk.

This Saturday the original Spirit Of Radio and 2112 trio return 35 million album sales to the better for their first Sheffield arena show in 15 years.

"We wanted to come and play the UK back then because this was the place where it all started for so many bands. Led Zeppelin and Jeff Beck were about and it all came from Britain. So to come over and play was really exciting especially knowing this was a knowledgeable audience. And back then you could be an Abba fan and a Black Sabbath fan; you could have very diverse musical interests, nothing was pushing anything else out of the way."

A generation on Rush have sustained that and continue to make thoughtful, complex rock music powered as much by cerebral lyricism as virtuoso playing from Alex, motorcycle-mad drummer and lyricist Neil Peart and bass-playing singer Geddy Lee.

New album Snakes & Arrows, their first in five years, brings them our way this time armed with songs majoring on spirituality, faith and hope, tied in with the current state of the world.

"Particularly with the religious and ethnic strife, you cannot help but be moved. America is in a terrible state with a government that?s out of control; religion is used as a basis for igniting fear and hatred. And it?s happening all over the world, so to not talk about these things...I am 54 now and I have two young grand children and I am afraid for them, for what they will inherit."

It is that kind of social awareness, alongside classic albums such as Hemispheres, Fly By Night, Moving Pictures and Test For Echo, that has kept fans listening, the internet doing its bit to boost the sense of community and forum surrounding the veteran Canadians.

"The last tour was a celebration of our 30th anniversary, taking a walk down memory lane, playing the older stuff.

This show has nine songs from Snakes & Arrows and a big production with lasers and video screens and a lot of film work. We don?t want to think of ourselves as a nostalgia band but as moving forward."

That said Rush have always stuck to traditional musical ethics alongside the effects - they still throw in a drum solo amid a sprawling setlist -and continue to sound much bigger than a trio.

"Certainly our playing has been the most important thing. And we?ve always tried to sound like more than we are," concurs Alex 33 years on from their eponymous debut.

"I probably play more now than I have in years. At home on my off time I cannot stop. I really love it. I am fortunate in being able to do that; to play an instrument whether you do it for a living or for life."