Rush hour...or three

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HERE’S a rock fact worth bearing in mind for that tricky pub quiz decider...

HERE’S a rock fact worth bearing in mind for that tricky pub quiz decider...



Which Canadian band is ranked behind the Beatles and Rolling Stones as having been awarded the most consecutive gold and platinum albums?

If Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson is surprised to hear confirmation he doesn’t show it. Then he has spent his formative and adult years with an Ontario trio who remain one of rock’s most prolific and hardest-touring.

The outing that returns them to Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena on May 16 will keep Alex, inimitable singer Geddy Lee and drum legend Neil Peart on stage for three and a half hours.

“Yeah, most bands play an hour and 30 minutes,” Alex says when asked if Rush are trying to put acts half their age to shame.

“It’s shocking to me, but in our case we don’t have much choice. The catalogue is so deep for us to do it justice we have to play for a long time. The show’s paced really well, though, and taking a short intermission gives everybody a loo break and we can catch our breath.”

The Time Machine tour started last summer and sees Rush play all of Moving Pictures, the seminal album that saw Rush break into the international big league.

“It was a turning point for sure, but it wasn’t like we were an overnight success. We had already been working very hard on tour for six years prior to the release of that record, we’d really paid our dues.

“It was a new era, a new decade, music was changing. We were reaching our late 20s, excited about where we were going as a band. We were getting away from longer, more involved pieces of music to shorter, economical songs, so it was a heady time for us. And then the success all of a sudden, having much larger audiences, was probably the biggest change for us.”

Tom Sawyer and Limelight found chart success while tracks such as YYZ and Camera Eye signalled a gear change that arguably resonates today through bands such as Muse who have taken the modern prog-rock genre to stadium level.

Rush remained arena regulars across the world and are still breaking new global territory in where they play.

“The idea this time was to do a fairly short tour of about 45 dates in preparation for going into the studio,” says Alex, having already named planned new album Clockwork Angels.

“We seldom have that luxury, to be in tour form when we go in the studio. Usually there’s a break, then we do a bit of writing, then in.

“We thought it would be nice for a change to go in at our peak. Along the way we ended up having so much fun on tour and were so well received, with a documentary out around the same time, we realised this was something we needed to extend and it was important to come to the UK, particularly doing the Moving Pictures set.”

Alex won’t commit to claiming that album as his favourite, however.

“That’s like saying ‘which of your kids do you love most’,” he laughs. “Certainly it was an enormous record for us and we could feel the change. We were really bouyed by the electricity that was in the air making it.

“You took more chances back then or you got into your groove and played beyond what anybody’s expectations were. That was certainly the case with us and always has been.

“We’ve become our greatest critics when writing and it’s good for us to work with a producer - we’ve always had a tendency to go a little too far and it’s definitely a skill to bring it back.”

From early endeavours such as Fly By Night to 2112, Rush have never cowered from big musical statements, construciting huge instrumentals alongside more commercial moments. Alex agrees they over-indulged occassionally.

“Yeah, there are quite a few moments when we think that, but it’s all part of who we are, it’s our characters, if I could go back and re-write 90 per cent of songs we wrote I would probably.

“But you move ahead. You think you’re always progressing and you can do a better job, even if it’s changing a couple of notes or the way you approach an idea.

“You’d probably get the same argument from any artist that their new work is always their best and it’s hard to look at old work. I’m not saying I’ve a problem looking back on our material but I love where we’re going.”

But ask most fans and they probably wouldn’t change a thing and this tour encapsulates the effect music has on many, to be placed back in a situation in life.

“Those things happen with everybody. You make a connection to music playing at those hallmarks in your life, those points. Sometimes they’re not that important but there’s something about the connection or whatever experience you’re having and the music being the soundtrack for that experience. It never leaves you.

“For us to be in a band that’s recorded so much material that’s had this sort of connection with fans is pretty remarkable. We’re very fortunate to be part of that, to have our music leave that kind of indelible mark on people’s lives. It’s an amazing thing.”

And the reward has been devotion to almost obsessive levels from some. “We certainly have our share of intense fans that really take every little scrap of anything to do with us very seriously. It’s interesting, I don’t know if it’s scary, that someone can dedicate so much of their life to something like a rock band. Obviously we speak to them in a certain way.”