Rumors of Rush's demise have been greatly exaggerated - at least according to guitarist Alex Lifeson.
The Canadian trio's R40 tour earlier this year - documented on the new R40 Live CD and home video set due Friday - was accompanied by reports that it would mark the end of Rush, mostly owing to physical ailments suffered by Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart. It may well prove to be the last tour of its kind for Rush, but the band is still very much alive and ongoing, as far as Lifeson is concerned.
"That question was posed many times: Is this it? Is this the end?" Lifeson tells Billboard. "I don't think it is the end, and we never really said this is definitively our last tour. I think it's likely to be our last major tour, but we're still in contact, very close contact with each other, all three of us, and I don't think it's certainly the end of the band. There are still lots of things we want to do. It's not to say that we wouldn't do something in the future on a smaller scale, and there's always the fun project of making a record, which we've all loved forever. Right now I think we're just kind of relaxing and taking it in and getting reconnected with our families and friends and more of a domestic life, and then we'll kinda sort of review it, I think, in the new year and see what we want to do."
Lifeson adds that reports about his arthritis were a bit overstated - "Who my age doesn't have some aches and pains?" explains the guitarist, who still boasts an impressive 10 handicap for golf - but Peart's issues with tendinitis are more debilitating. "It's a very difficult endeavor for Neil," Lifeson says. "It's very physical, and it hurts. It's painful for him to play for three hours the way he does, so it's come to a point in his life where he just can't tour anymore." So as much as there's a resolve to do more with the band, there's also an open-endedness that's different from other hiatuses during Rush's career.
"Coming off the tour in August, it was a little bit of an adjustment, particularly to Geddy [Lee] and myself, coming to terms that this could possibly be the end of touring, and what does the future hold for being up onstage and playing," he says. "I think we were in just a little bit of a state for awhile, but we're settling down and it's not bad just kinda kicking back and having this [R40 Live] come out."
R40 Live was filmed and recorded during hometown shows on June 17 and 19 at Toronto's Air Canada Centre. The set, which comes in five different configurations, captures an ambitious, reverse-chronological presentation in which Rush celebrated its career with time-appropriate props and instruments, right down to an encore segment featuring Rush playing songs from its debut album in a high school gymnasium setting, with amplifiers sitting on chairs and stools.
"It seemed to be the right thing for us to do this one in Toronto," Lifeson says. "We also had the luxury of having two shows, which is always a great thing for a setup. I think the first night was good, but we had some technical glitches, which you always have when you record, but the [second show] felt great. It was one of the best shows on the tour, we thought, so we had some really good material to work from, and having the two nights and the two different sets, we could include stuff that we played on the [first] night in the final version."
As Rush goes into hiatus mode again, Peart is preparing for the Nov. 20 publication of Clockwork Lives, his second science-fiction novel co-written with Kevin Anderson, while Lifeson has been working on electronic music projects with his son and singer Tyler, and both he and Lee have been "buying up crazy amounts of old vintage equipment, guitars and basses, so we're still active and have it in our blood." And they're not buying those things just to look at them.
"I'm getting very itchy," Lifeson says. "There's nothing specific we're looking at, but I think ultimately I'd like to get back in with Ged and start writing and then have Neil join in and take it from there. That's how we always start: [Lee] and I jamming, and we'll do that for a little while, and then Neil will start sending lyrics and we'll kind of piece it together with what we're doing. So I'm hoping that's somewhere in the near future."