Sunday, 23 September 2012

Why Rush is Awesome

As many of you know, Rush is my all time favorite band.  And many of you may have heard my long winded rants about why they are.  Love em or hate em, I hope this will convince you why they should be considered one of the all time greatest bands.  I believe this blog entry is an appropriate precursor to the upcoming Rush concert in Edmonton on the 30th of September, which as you can tell I am very excited for.

I probably had heard many rush songs on the radio before, but I guess the first Rush song I could identify as Rush was Tom Sawyer.  Believe it or not, it was from an episode of Futurama.  Fry is fighting off an invading alien fleet through the video game, Space Invaders and the famous Tom Sawyer synth riff is played.

“All right. It's Saturday night, I have no date, a two-liter bottle of Shasta and my all-Rush mix-tape... Let's rock.”

The song was very catchy to me, so shortly after I asked my friend Sarah if I could borrow a Rush CD.  She lent me their debut album, Rush and a compilation album, Retrospective 1 and I’ve been a fan ever since.  But I didn’t become a super-fan until band until 3 years after. 
In the years of 2010 and 2011, Rush was on their Time Machine world tour.  They were playing the entire Moving Pictures album.  This was very cool for me because it was my favorite Rush album at the time.  Unfortunately for me there were no Alberta gigs on the tour.  The closest concert to me was in Vancouver.  But I decided that it would be worth it to fly out to, see one of my favorite bands.  They are getting old and I had no idea when I would have the chance to see them again.  I didn’t know all of the songs being played at the concert but I knew that their live show was phenomenal and I could check one more off my concert bucket list.  So in late June of 2011, I had a whirlwind 24 hour experience of the city of Vancouver.  Luckily by chance I met up with a guy in downtown Vancouver who I had chatted with earlier in line at Tim Hortons at the Calgary airport, who was also going to the Rush show.  We ended up hanging out for most of the day and he taught me in the ways of the Rush.  He graciously let me crash on the floor of his hotel room as I had drank too much beer to make it to the airport after the show as I was previously planning on.

My seat to see Rush in the Rogers Arena, Vancouver

The show itself was incredible and It is the best live music show I have experienced.  It was a full 3 hours with an intermission midway through.  Ever since then I have become obsessed with the great Canadian trio’s music and here’s why:

Musical skill
I don’t think anyone who takes music seriously can overlook the musical skill of Rush. You don’t have to like their music to appreciate the talent of all three musicians.   Because one of the most amazing things about Rush is their ability to make a 3 piece rock band sound like a huge prog-rock production with five or six members.  As individual musicians (bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart), Rush represents the best of the best in their respective feilds.  Neil Peart is usually listed as the greatest living drummer in the world.  Geddy Lee is often listed in the top 5 bassists of all time.  Alex Lifeson is often left off the list of greatest guitarists but I think it’s because he is overshadowed by the genius of Lee and Peart.  But in my opinion Lifeson has the greatest solo of any instrument of any rush song in their instrumental masterpiece La Villa Strangiato

Rush’s fearlessness to experiment with different types of music is also one of their best qualities.  Their career has ranged from early heavy metal in their debut album to strange psychedelic progressive rock in Caress of Steel.  They have become new wave-ish when they experimented with heavy use of synth keyboards in the mid 80s.  They have never really cared for making music to top the charts.  The only thing that has mattered to them is their love of making their music no matter how weird it may be.

“His mind is not for rent to any god or government.  Always hopeful, yet discontent. He knows changes aren’t permanent but change is.”
From Tom Sawyer, Moving Pictures 1981

Another thing that I really like about Rush is their lyrical themes.  The ideology that is expressed in the music, especially in their later albums speaks to me in ways other bands never have.  Although Neil’s writing isn’t especially poetic, his intellect is expressed beautifully.  These themes range from science fiction & fantasy, politics, religion, love & sex.  Their songs are observations about the world around us and songs that ask what it means to be a human.  Their latest album, Clockwork Angels is a science fictional concept album but most of the songs seem like life lessons written mostly from Neil’s perspective.  There are many atheist themed songs throughout their catalogue of music:  BU2B, Freewill, Roll the Bones, Ghost Of A Chance, Faithless, Sweet Miracle.
A screen capture from the Rush documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage.  Alex Lifeson  is reading  God is Not Great by the famed atheist, Christopher Hitchens.

Neil Peart also includes some libertarian ideas in his earlier works.  The band’s unofficial logo is the image that appears on the flipside of the 2112 album cover.  The image has become to be known as the “Starman”.  It is supposed to represent the individual against the collective.
The star representing the star of Communism

 The song Anthem is based off the Ayn Rand novel of the same name.  Also the album 2112 is dedicated to “the genius of Ayn Rand”.  Rand was probably the most influential thinker in the libertarian movement. 

Live show
Rush is renowned for their amazing live show performances.  I consider the ability to put on a great live show to be a huge factor for the music I listen to.  I find that I get into a band’s music much more if I think I can eventually see them concert.  The Rush show in Vancouver was certainly the best show I’ve ever seen and I expect no less from them next week in Edmonton.


Let’s face it there is a lot of crappy Canadian music out there.  Ok that’s a little unfair but at least most the stuff that is popular and Canadian is crap.  Nickelback, Justin Beiber, Celine Dion, ect.  But the fact that Rush is Canadian makes up for all of that.  I admit I have lost a lot of my nationalism since finding my libertarian and humanist ideologies, but it does feel good to have such a great band from my homeland.

Rush was formed in 1968.  The very same year that Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Yes and Deep purple were formed.  These are all great and influential bands and they are all probably more popular and better known than Rush.  But none have been as continuously prolific as Rush has been for as long as they have.    Rush continues to innovate, improve and create new music into their 60s.  In fact their newest albums(Clockwork Angels and Snakes & Arrows) is in my opinion some of their best work.    
                  Their single, "Headlong Flight" from their 2012 album Clockwork Angels
Genuine friends
Probably the reason for their legendary longevity is their genuine friendship with each other.  Unlike many popular bands that break up because of infighting, drinking, drugs and whatnot, Rush seems to be in a rare situation for a rock band where they are legitimate friends outside of the band.

Here is an out-take from the Rush documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage where Rush is having dinner with each other.  its an example of their goofy & genuine friendship that still lasts even after 40+ years as a band.

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