TORONTO - This month, the finely tuned machine that is Toronto power trio Rush will rumble across the country for a Canadian tour that includes the beloved band's first visit to Halifax in 26 years.
The pair of shows, to be held July 12 and July 14 at the Metro Centre, have been long-awaited indeed. Because as the members of Rush know, the influential band's uniquely passionate fans also get uniquely angry when the band neglects them for too long.
"I feel bad when we're not able to get to a place," frontman Geddy Lee said during a sit-down in Los Angeles in recent months. "We had the same thing with Winnipeg. We didn't get there forever. And people were making up crazy stories about why we wouldn't come to Winnipeg."
"The dots didn't connect," interjected percussion virtuoso Neil Peart.
"They never connected," agreed Lee. "So we're trying harder now to make those dots connect."
They're having to try harder in other ways, too.
For the cross-country summer jaunt, Rush will start at Hamilton's Copps Coliseum on Saturday before winding through Ottawa, Quebec City, Calgary and Vancouver.
Freshly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after years of fan outrage over their exclusion, Rush continues to possess one of the most highly renowned live shows in music: a carefully honed spectacle covering four decades of infinitely complex power prog delivered with surgical meticulousness by three of the best players still working in rock.
But maintaining that high level of excellence through consistently physical, marathon shows - Peart manoeuvres around upwards of three dozen elements in his drum set, Lee coolly transitions between bass and keyboards and all three members of the band are in constant supervision of various electronic elements - is a challenge, especially as they advance in age (Peart is 60, and Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson will each reach that milestone this summer).
"That's the nature of live performance - the ultimate challenge of musicians playing live," said Peart. "There's nothing more testing than going up on that stage."
"They're hard songs to play and our arrangements are pretty much like choreography," agreed Lee. "You have to be in the right place at the right time and hit the right button.... We're all triggering electronics all at the same time. And sometimes it can go disastrously wrong."
As the years add up, the trio does acknowledge that they take greater pains to stay road-ready.
"It's a discipline that you have to be fit for it in an athletic sense and that becomes a responsibility," Peart said. "When we're off I try not to get out of shape so I don't have to go to a health farm. I try to stay active enough so that the peak can endure. Inevitably, time wounds all heals. So eventually we'll hurt for it."
And yet, the members of Rush agree that - age be damned - the band is actually improving.
They've been on the road since April (their Rock hall induction providing a mere rest stop along their endless highway of gigs) and will continue to play gigs through August.
As the years stack in their rear view, their live presence only gets tighter and smoother.
"We know we're getting better as a band," Peart said. "(We've found) a new level of understanding, a new level of groove, a new level of unity that just happened in our last few years."
"It's that whole Malcolm Gladwell thing - after all those hours, you arrive at that place where what you can think of, you can play, pretty well. Which is a beautiful thing," Lee added. "The last two tours for me, we kind of hit a new level of playing with each other onstage. Just our ability to get the job done and raise our game. So it's like, let's just go with that flow."
In other words, Halifax or other Rush-starved markets will still be seeing the venerable rockers at the pinnacle of their power.
"On this tour, we really feel like we're at our peak so far," Peart agreed. "What happens from there - that's in the hands of the gods. But right now, we really feel like we are playing at our best."