Rush is a Canadian rock band formed in August 1968, in the Willowdale neighbourhood of Toronto, Ontario. The band is composed of bassist, keyboardist, and lead vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist and backing vocalist Alex Lifeson, and drummer, percussionist and lyricist Neil Peart. The band and its membership went through a number of re-configurations between 1968 and 1974, achieving their current form when Peart replaced original drummer John Rutsey in July 1974, two weeks before the group’s first United States tour. Rutsey’s departure stemmed primarily from health concerns regarding his diabetes.
Since the release of the band’s self-titled debut album in March 1974, Rush has become known for its musicianship, complex compositions, and eclectic lyrical motifs drawing heavily on science fiction, fantasy, and philosophy. Rush’s music style has changed over the years, beginning with blues-inspired heavy metal on their first album, then encompassing hard rock, progressive rock, and a period with heavy use of synthesizers.
Rush has won a number of Juno Awards, was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1994, and later inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. Over their careers, the members of Rush have been acknowledged as some of the most proficient players on their respective instruments, with each band member winning numerous awards in magazine readers’ polls. As a group, Rush possesses 24 gold records and 14 platinum (3 multi-platinum) records. Rush’s sales statistics place them third behind The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for the most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band. Rush also ranks 79th in U.S. album sales, with 25 million units. Although total worldwide album sales are not calculated by any single entity, as of 2004 several industry sources estimated Rush’s total worldwide album sales at over 40 million units.
The band finished the second leg of the Time Machine Tour in July 2011 and released their latest studio album, Clockwork Angels in June 2012 with a supporting tour that began in September 2012.
Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee, and Neil Peart of Rush
30th Anniversary Tour photo, 2004
|Origin||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Genres||Hard rock, progressive rock, heavy metal|
|Labels||Moon, Mercury, Anthem, Atlantic, Roadrunner|
|Past members||John Rutsey
The original line-up formed in the neighbourhood of Willowdale in Toronto, Ontario, by Lifeson, bassist and front man Jeff Jones, and drummer John Rutsey. Within a couple of weeks of forming, and before their second performance, bassist and lead vocalist Jones was replaced by Geddy Lee, a schoolmate of Lifeson. After several line-up reformations, Rush’s official incarnation was formed in May 1971 consisting of Lee, Lifeson, and Rutsey. The band was managed by local Toronto resident Ray Daniels, a frequent attendee of Rush’s early shows.
After gaining stability in the line-up and honing their skills on the local bar/high school dance circuit, the band came to release their first single “Not Fade Away”, a cover of the Buddy Holly song, in 1973. Side B contained an original composition, “You Can’t Fight It”, credited to Lee and Rutsey. The single generated little reaction and, because of record company indifference, the band formed their own independent record label, Moon Records. With the aid of Daniels and the newly enlisted engineer Terry Brown, the band released their self-titled debut album in 1974, which was considered highly derivative of Led Zeppelin. Rush had limited local popularity until the album was picked up by WMMS, a radio station in Cleveland, Ohio. Donna Halper, a music director and DJ working at the station, selected “Working Man” for her regular play list. The song’s blue collar theme resonated with hard rock fans, and this newfound popularity led to the album being re-released by Mercury Records in the U.S.
Immediately after the release of the debut album in 1974, Rutsey was forced to leave the band due to health difficulties (stemming from diabetes) and his general distaste for touring. His last performance with the band was on July 25, 1974 at Centennial Hall in London, Ontario. Rush held auditions for a new drummer and eventually selected Neil Peart as Rutsey’s replacement. Peart officially joined the band on July 29, 1974, two weeks before the group’s first U.S. tour. They performed their first concert together, opening for Uriah Heep and Manfred Mann with an attendance of over 11,000 people at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 14. In addition to becoming the band’s drummer, Peart assumed the role of principal lyricist from Lee, who had very little interest in writing, despite penning the lyrics of the band’s first album. Instead, Lee, along with Lifeson, focused primarily on the instrumental aspects of Rush. Fly by Night (1975), Rush’s first album after recruiting Peart, saw the inclusion of the band’s first epic mini-tale “By-Tor and the Snow Dog”, replete with complex arrangements and multi-section format. Lyrical themes also underwent dramatic changes after the addition of Peart because of his love for fantasy and science-fiction literature. However, despite these many differences some of the music and songs still closely mirrored the blues style found on Rush’s debut.
Following quickly on the heels of Fly By Night, the band released Caress of Steel (1975), a five-track hard rock/heavy metal album featuring two extended multi-chapter songs, “The Necromancer” and “The Fountain of Lamneth”. Some critics said Caress of Steel was unfocused and an audacious move for the band because of the placement of two back-to-back protracted songs, as well as a heavier reliance on atmospherics and story-telling, a large deviation from Fly by Night. Intended to be the band’s first “break-through” album, Caress of Steel sold below expectations and the promotional tour consisted of smaller venues, which led to the moniker the “Down the Tubes Tour”. In light of these events, Rush’s record label attempted to pressure them into moulding their next album in a more commercially friendly and accessible fashion. However, the band ignored the requests and developed their next album, 2112 with a 20-minute title track divided into seven sections. Despite this, the album was the band’s first taste of commercial success and their first platinum album in Canada. The supporting tour for the album culminated in a three-night stand at Massey Hall in Toronto, which the band recorded for the release of their first live album titled All the World’s a Stage. Allmusic critic Greg Prato notes that the album demarcates the boundary between the band’s early years and the next era of their music.
After 2112, Rush retreated to the United Kingdom to record A Farewell to Kings (1977) and Hemispheres (1978) at Rockfield Studios in Wales. These albums saw the band members expanding the use of progressive elements in their music. “As our tastes got more obscure,” Geddy Lee said in a recent interview, “we discovered more progressive rock-based bands like Yes, Van der Graaf Generator and King Crimson, and we were very inspired by those bands. They made us want to make our music more interesting and more complex and we tried to blend that with our own personalities to see what we could come up with that was indisputably us.” Trademarks such as increased synthesizer usage, lengthy songs reminiscent of miniature concept albums, and highly dynamic playing featuring complex time signature changes became a staple of Rush’s compositions. To achieve a broader, more progressive palette of sound, Alex Lifeson began to experiment with classical and twelve-string guitars, and Geddy Lee added bass-pedal synthesizers and Minimoog. Likewise, Peart’s percussion became diversified in the form of triangles, glockenspiel, wood blocks, cowbells, timpani, gong and chimes. Beyond instrument additions, the band kept in stride with the progressive rock movement by continuing to compose long, conceptual songs with science fiction and fantasy overtones. However, as the new decade approached, Rush gradually began to dispose of their older styles of music in favour of shorter, and sometimes softer, arrangements. The lyrics up to this point (most of them written by Peart) were heavily influenced by classical poetry, fantasy literature, science fiction, and the writings of novelist Ayn Rand, as exhibited most prominently by their 1975 song “Anthem” from Fly By Night and a specifically acknowledged derivation in 2112 (1976).
Permanent Waves (1980) dramatically shifted Rush’s style of music via the introduction of reggae and new wave elements. Although a hard rock style was still evident, more and more synthesizers were introduced. Moreover, because of the limited airplay Rush’s previous extended-length songs received, Permanent Waves included shorter, more radio-friendly songs such as “The Spirit of Radio” and “Freewill”, two songs that helped Permanent Waves become Rush’s first U.S. Top 5 album; both songs continue to make appearances on classic rock radio stations in Canada and the United States to this day. Meanwhile, Peart’s lyrics shifted toward an expository tone with subject matter that dwelled less on fantastical or allegorical story-telling and more heavily on topics that explored humanistic, social and emotional elements. Rush joined with fellow Toronto-based rock band Max Webster on July 28, 1980 to record “Battle Scar” for their 1980 release, Universal Juveniles. While on tour together following the release, both bands would join between sets to play “Battle Scar”. The song acted as both a transition from Max Webster to Rush, as well as a warm-up for Peart. In addition, Max Webster lyricist Pye Dubois offered the band lyrics to a song he had written. The band accepted; the song went on, after reworking by Peart, to become “Tom Sawyer”.
Rush’s popularity reached its pinnacle with the release of Moving Pictures in 1981. Moving Pictures essentially continued where Permanent Waves left off, extending the trend of highly accessible and commercially friendly progressive rock that helped thrust them into the spotlight. The lead track, “Tom Sawyer”, is probably the band’s best-known song with “Limelight” also receiving satisfactory responses from listeners and radio stations. Moving Pictures was Rush’s last album to feature an extended song, the eleven-minute “The Camera Eye”. The song also contained the band’s heaviest usage of synthesizers up to that point, hinting that Rush’s music was shifting direction once more. Moving Pictures reached No.3 on the Billboard 200 album chart and has been certified quadruple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Following the success of Moving Pictures and the completion of another four studio albums, Rush released their second live recording, Exit…Stage Left, in 1981. The album delineates the apex of Rush’s progressive period by featuring live material from the band’s Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures tours. As with their first live release, Exit…Stage Left identified the margin of a new chapter of Rush’s sound.
An OB-X synthesizer, the kind used by Geddy Lee on the album Signals (1982).
The band underwent another radical stylistic transmutation with the release of Signals in 1982.
While Lee’s synthesizers had been featured instruments ever since the late 70s, keyboards were suddenly shifted from the contrapuntal background to the melodic front-lines in songs like “Countdown” and the lead-off track “Subdivisions”. Both feature prominent lead synthesizer lines with minimalistic guitar chords and solos. Other previously unused instrument additions were seen in the song “Losing It,” featuring collaborator Ben Mink on electric violin.
Signals also represented a drastic stylistic transformation apart from instrumental changes. The album contained Rush’s only U.S. top-40 pop hit, “New World Man”, while other more experimental songs such as “Digital Man”, “The Weapon”, and “Chemistry” expanded the band’s use of ska, reggae, and funk. Although the band members consciously decided to move in this overall direction, creative differences between the band and long-time producer Terry Brown began to emerge. The band felt dissatisfied with Brown’s studio treatment of Signals, while Brown was becoming more uncomfortable with the increased use of synthesizers in the music. Ultimately, Rush and Brown parted ways in 1983, and the experimentation with new electronic instruments and varying musical styles would come into further play on their next studio album.
Neil Peart began incorporating Simmons Electronic Drums beginning with Grace Under Pressure (1984)
The style and production of Signals were augmented and taken to new heights on Grace Under Pressure (1984). It was Peart who named the album, as he borrowed the words of Ernest Hemingway to describe what the band had to go through after making the decision to leave Terry Brown. Producer Steve Lillywhite, who gleaned fame with successful productions of Simple Minds and U2, was enlisted to produce Grace Under Pressure. However, he backed out at the last moment, much to the ire of Lee, Lifeson and Peart. Lee said “Steve Lillywhite is really not a man of his word….after agreeing to do our record, he got an offer from Simple Minds, changed his mind, blew us off,… so it put us in a horrible position.” Rush eventually hired Peter Henderson to co-produce and engineer the album instead.
Musically, although Lee’s use of sequencers and synthesizers remained the band’s cornerstone, his focus on new technology was complemented by Peart’s adaptation of Simmons electronic drums and percussion. Lifeson’s contributions on the album were decidedly enhanced to act as an overreaction to the minimalistic role he played on Signals. Still, many of his trademark guitar textures remained intact in the form of open reggae chords and funk and new-wave rhythms.
With new producer Peter Collins, the band released Power Windows (1985) and Hold Your Fire (1987). The music on these two albums gives far more emphasis and prominence to Lee’s multi-layered synthesizer work. While fans and critics took notice of Lifeson’s diminished guitar work, his presence was still palpable. Lifeson, like many guitarists in the late 1980s, experimented with processors that reduced his instrument to echoey chord bursts and razor-thin leads. Hold Your Fire represents both a modest extension of the guitar stylings found on Power Windows, and, according to Allmusic critic Eduardo Rivadavia, the culmination of this era of Rush. Whereas the previous five Rush albums sold platinum or better, Hold Your Fire only went gold in November 1987, although it managed to peak at number 13 on the Billboard 200.
A third live album and video, A Show of Hands (1989), was also released by Anthem and Mercury following the Power Windows and Hold Your Fire tours, demonstrating the aspects of Rush in the ’80s. A Show of Hands met with strong fan approval, but Rolling Stone critic Michael Azerrad dismissed it as “musical muscle” with 1.5 stars, claiming Rush fans viewed their favourite power trio as “the holy trinity”. Nevertheless, A Show of Hands managed to surpass the gold album mark, reaching number 21 on the Billboard 200. At this point, the group decided to change international record labels from Mercury to Atlantic. After Rush’s departure in 1989, Mercury released a double platinum two-volume compilation of their Rush catalogue, Chronicles (1990).
Rush started to deviate from their 1980s style with the albums Presto and Roll the Bones. Produced by record engineer and musician Rupert Hine, these two albums saw Rush shedding much of their keyboard-saturated sound. Beginning with Presto (1989), the band opted for arrangements that were notably more guitar-centric than the previous two studio albums. Although synthesizers were still used in many songs, the instrument was no longer featured as the centrepiece of Rush’s compositions. Continuing this trend, Roll the Bones (1991) extended the use of the standard three-instrument approach with even less focus on synthesizers than its predecessor. While musically these albums do not deviate significantly from a general pop-rock sound, Rush incorporated traces of other musical styles. “Roll the Bones”, for instance, exhibits funk and hip hop elements, and the instrumental track “Where’s My Thing?” features several jazz components. This return to three-piece instrumentation helped pave the way for future albums in the mid-90s, which would adopt a more straightforward rock formula.
The transition from synthesizers to more guitar-oriented and organic instrumentation continued with Counterparts (1993) and its follow-up, Test for Echo (1996), again both produced in collaboration with Peter Collins. Musically, Counterparts and Test For Echo are two of Rush’s most guitar-driven albums. Although the music in general did not meet the criteria for progressive rock, some songs adopted a dynamic format. For instance, “Time and Motion” possesses multiple time signature changes and organ usage, while the instrumental track “Limbo”, consists of multiple musical passages. Musically, Test For Echo still retained much of the hard rock/alternative style already charted on the previous record with Lifeson and Lee’s playing remaining more or less unchanged; however, a distinct modification in technique became apparent in Peart’s playing from his jazz and swing training under the tutelage of jazz instructor Freddie Gruber during the interim between Counterparts and Test For Echo. In October 1996, in support of Test For Echo, the band embarked on a North American tour, the band’s first without an opening act and dubbed “An Evening with Rush”. The tour was broken up into two segments spanning October through December 1996 and May through July 1997 with the band taking a respite between tour legs.
After wrapping up the tour promoting Test for Echo in 1997, the band entered a five-year hiatus primarily due to personal tragedies in Peart’s life. Peart’s daughter Selena died in an automobile accident in August 1997, followed by the death of his wife Jacqueline from cancer in June 1998. Peart took a hiatus to mourn and reflect, during which he traveled extensively throughout North America on his BMW motorcycle, covering 88,000 km (55,000 mi). At some point in his journey, Peart decided to return to the band. Peart wrote Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road as a chronicle of his geographical and emotional journey. In this book he writes of how he had told his bandmates at Selena’s funeral, “consider me retired.” On November 10, 1998 a triple CD live album entitled Different Stages was released, dedicated to the memory of Selena and Jacqueline. Mixed by producer Paul Northfield and engineered by Terry Brown, it contained three discs packed with recorded performances from the band’s Counterparts, Test For Echo, and A Farewell to Kings tours, marking the fourth officially released live album by the band.
After a time to grieve and reassemble the pieces of his life, and while visiting long-time Rush photographer Andrew MacNaughtan in Los Angeles, Peart was introduced to his future wife, photographer Carrie Nuttall. Peart married Nuttall on September 9, 2000. In early 2001 he announced to his band mates that he was ready to once again enter the studio and get back into the business of making music. With the help of producer Paul Northfield the band returned in May 2002 with Vapor Trails, written and recorded in Toronto. To herald the band’s comeback, the single and lead track from the album, “One Little Victory” was designed to grab the attention of listeners with its rapid guitar and drum tempos. Vapor Trails marked the first studio recording not to include a single synthesizer, organ or keyboard part since the early 1970s. While the album is almost completely guitar-driven, it is mostly devoid of any conventional sounding guitar solos, a conscious decision made by Lifeson during the writing process. According to the band, the entire developmental process for Vapor Trails was extremely taxing and took approximately 14 months to finish, by far the longest the band had ever spent writing and recording a studio album. The album was supported by the band’s first tour in six years, including first-ever concerts in Mexico City and Brazil, where they played to some of the largest crowds of their career.
A triple CD live album and dual DVD, Rush in Rio, was released in late October 2003 featuring an entire concert performance recorded on the last night of their Vapor Trails Tour, November 23, 2002, at Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. To celebrate their 30th anniversary, June 2004 saw the release of Feedback, a studio EP recorded in suburban Toronto featuring eight covers of such artists as Cream, The Who and The Yardbirds, bands that the members of Rush cite as inspiration around the time of their inception. To help support Feedback and continue celebrating their 30 year anniversary as a band, Rush hit the road again for their 30th Anniversary Tour in the summer of 2004 playing dates in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands. On September 24, 2004 a Frankfurt, Germany concert was recorded at The Festhalle for DVD (titled R30: Live in Frankfurt), which was released November 22, 2005; a complete version of the R30 Frankfurt set (the original DVD release omitted eight songs) was released on Blu-ray on December 8, 2009.
During promotional interviews for the R30 Live In Frankfurt DVD, the band revealed their intention to begin writing new material in early 2006. While in Toronto, Lifeson and Lee began the songwriting process in January 2006. During this time, Peart simultaneously assumed his role of lyric writing while residing in Southern California. The following September, Rush chose to hire American producer Nick Raskulinecz to co-produce the album. The band officially entered Allaire Studios, in Shokan, New York in November 2006 in order to record the bulk of the material. Taking the band five weeks, the sessions ended in December. On February 14, 2007, an announcement was made on the official Rush web site that the title of the new album would be Snakes & Arrows. The first single, entitled “Far Cry”, was released to North American radio stations on March 12, 2007 and reached No.2 on the Mediabase Mainstream and Radio and Records Charts.
The Rush website, newly redesigned on March 12 to support the new album, also announced that the band would embark on a tour to begin in the summer. Snakes & Arrows was released May 1, 2007 in North America, where it debuted at No.3 in the Billboard 200 with approximately 93,000 units sold in its first week. It would go on to sell an estimated 611,000 copies worldwide. To coincide with the Atlantic ocean hurricane season, “Spindrift” was released as the official second radio single on June 1, 2007, whereas “The Larger Bowl (A Pantoum)” saw single status on June 25, 2007. “The Larger Bowl” positioned within the top 20 of the Mainstream Rock and Media Base Mainstream charts, however, “Spindrift” failed to appear on any commercial chart. The planned intercontinental tour in support of Snakes & Arrows began on June 13, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia, coming to a close on October 29, 2007 at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland.
The 2008 portion of the tour started on April 11, 2008 in San Juan, Puerto Rico at José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum and culminated on July 24, 2008 in Noblesville, Indiana at the Verizon Wireless Music Center. On April 15, the band released Snakes & Arrows Live, a double live album documenting the first leg of the tour. Those same performances featured on Snakes & Arrows Live filmed at the Ahoy arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands on October 16 and 17, 2007 were released November 24 as a DVD and Blu-ray set. The video also includes footage from the 2008 portion of the tour, recorded at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Atlanta.
As the band neared the conclusion of their Snakes & Arrows tour, they announced their first appearance on American television in over 30 years. Rush was interviewed by Stephen Colbert and they performed “Tom Sawyer” on The Colbert Report on July 16, 2008. Continuing to ride what one movie reviewer has called a “pop cultural wave,” they also appeared at a live show in April 2009 for the comedy film I Love You, Man.
On February 16, 2009, Lifeson remarked that the band may begin working on a new album in the Fall 2009 with American producer Nick Raskulinecz once again producing. On March 19, 2010, the CBC posted a video interview with Lee and Lifeson where they discussed Rush’s induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on March 28, 2010, at the Toronto Centre for the Arts’ George Weston Recital Hall. The band was recognized for the songs “Limelight”, “Closer to the Heart”, “The Spirit of Radio”, “Tom Sawyer” and “Subdivisions”. In addition to discussing their induction, Lee and Lifeson touched on future material. During the interview, Lee was quoted as saying “… Just about a month and a half ago we had no songs. And now we’ve been writing and now we’ve got about 6 songs that we just love…” On March 26, 2010, in an interview with The Globe and Mail, Lifeson reconfirmed that the band had already written a half-dozen songs and that there was the potential for two supporting tours, one planned for Summer 2010 and a more extensive tour planned for Summer 2011. While still uncertain of exactly how and when the new material would be released, at the time he projected a tentative Spring 2011 release date. Soon after, Peart confirmed that Nick Raskulinecz had returned as co-producer.
In April 2010, Rush entered Blackbird Studios in Nashville with Raskulinecz to record “Caravan” and “BU2B”, two new songs to be featured on the band’s studio album Clockwork Angels. Mixing was done by record engineer Richard Chycki at the Sound Kitchen in Franklin, Tennessee. “Caravan” was released June 1 to radio stations and made available for digital download at this time along with “BU2B”. On April 8, both the official Rush website and PR Newswire announced that the band would embark on the Rush Time Machine Tour, confirming Lifeson’s earlier predictions from March. The first leg of the tour began on June 29 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and finished October 17 in Santiago, Chile, at the National Stadium. It featured the album Moving Pictures played in its entirety, as well as “Caravan” and “BU2B”. It was suggested that Rush would return to the studio after the completion of the Time Machine Tour with plans to release Clockwork Angels in 2011. However, Rush announced on November 19, 2010, that they would extend the Time Machine Tour. The second leg began on March 30, 2011, in Fort Lauderdale, and came to an end on July 2, 2011, in George, Washington. On November 8, 2011, the band released Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland, a concert DVD, Blu-ray and double CD documenting the April 15, 2011, concert at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Confirming an announcement from Richard Chycki via Twitter on December 20, Rush entered Revolution Recording studios in Toronto, Ontario, following completion of the tour’s second leg, to finalize the recording of Clockwork Angels. The second single, “Headlong Flight,” was released April 19, 2012, to radio stations and made available for listening via online streaming. Peart and author Kevin J. Anderson collaborated on a novelization of Clockwork Angels that was released in September 2012.
Clockwork Angels was released in the United States and Canada on June 12, 2012,and its supporting tour began on September 7, 2012. As of August 31, 2011, Rush switched their American distribution from Atlantic Records over to the Warner Brothers majority-owned metal label, Roadrunner Records. Roadrunner is handling American distribution of Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland and Clockwork Angels. Anthem/Universal Music will continue to release their music in Canada. On April 18, 2013, Rush was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
Rush’s musical style has changed substantially over the years. Their debut album was strongly influenced by British blues rock: an amalgam of sounds and styles from such rock bands as Cream, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple. Over the first few albums their style remained essentially hard rock, with heavy influences from The Who and Led Zeppelin but also became increasingly influenced by bands of the British progressive rock movement. In the tradition of progressive rock, Rush wrote protracted songs with irregular and multiple time signatures combined with fantasy/science fiction-inspired lyrics; however, they did not soften their sound. This fusion of hard and progressive rock continued until the end of the 1970s. In the 1980s, Rush successfully merged their sound with the trends of this period, experimenting with New Wave, reggae and pop rock. This period included the band’s most extensive use of instruments such as synthesizers, sequencers, and electronic percussion. With the approach of the early ’90s and Rush’s characteristic sound still intact, the band transformed their style once again to harmonize with the alternative rock movement. The new millennium has seen them return to hard progressive rock, as they sounded in their early years, albeit with modern production and more use of acoustics.
More than 40 years of activity has provided Rush with the opportunity for musical diversity across their discography. As with many bands known for experimentation, changes have inevitably resulted in dissent among critics and fans. The bulk of the band’s music has always included synthetic instruments in some form or another, and this is a great source of contention in the Rush camp, especially the band’s heavy reliance on synthesizers and keyboards during the 1980s, particularly on albums Grace Under Pressure, Power Windows, and Hold Your Fire.
The members of Rush have themselves noted that people “either love Rush or hate Rush”, resulting in strong detractors and an intensely loyal fan base. In July 2008, Rolling Stone commented that “Rush fans are the Trekkies/trekkers of rock”. They have been cited as an influence by various musical artists, including Anthrax, Foo Fighters, Metallica, Primus, Rage Against the Machine and The Smashing Pumpkins, as well as progressive metal bands such as Dream Theater and Symphony X. Trent Reznor considers Rush to be one of his favorite bands in the 2010 documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage and has particularly cited the album Signals as a major influence on how to incorporate keyboards and synthesizers to hard rock.
Rush was eligible for nomination into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame beginning in 1998. After several years of being overlooked, the band was nominated for entry in 2012 and their induction was announced on December 11, 2012. The Hall’s long refusal to induct Rush may have been a consequence of the band’s insistence on remaining outside the mainstream of rock when it comes to self-promotion, in favour of maintaining a high degree of independence.Another problem may have been their genre, as the Hall of Fame has repeatedly come under criticism for excluding progressive rock entirely. Supporters cited the band’s accomplishments including longevity, proficiency, and influence, as well as commercial sales figures and RIAA certifications. In the years before induction, Lifeson expressed his indifference toward the perceived slight saying “I couldn’t care less, look who’s up for induction, it’s a joke”.
On April 24, 2010, the documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, directed by Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. It went on to receive the Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award. The film explores the band’s influence on popular music and the reasons why that influence has been underrepresented over the years. This is done via interviews with popular musicians, music industry professionals, and the band members themselves.
On June 25, 2010, Rush received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 6752 Hollywood Boulevard. Critical acclaim continued to mount for Rush in 2010 when, on September 28, Classic Rock Magazine announced Rush would be that year’s Living Legends awarded at the Marshall Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards in the UK. The award was presented November 10, 2010. On September 29, Billboard.com announced that Rush would also receive the 2010 Legends of Live award for significant and lasting contributions to live music and the art of performing live and reaching fans through the concert experience. The award was presented at the Billboard Touring Awards on November 4, 2010.
The three band members were made Officers of the Order of Canada in 1996. On March 5, 2012, the band won the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.
Geddy Lee in concert, 2010
Geddy Lee’s high-register vocal style has always been a signature of the band – and sometimes a focal point for criticism, especially during the early years of Rush’s career when Lee’s vocals were high-pitched, with a strong likeness to other singers like Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. A review in the New York Times opined that Lee’s voice “suggests a munchkin giving a sermon.” Although his voice has softened over the years, it is often described as a “wail”. His instrumental abilities, on the other hand, are rarely criticized. He has cited Jeff Berlin, Jack Casady, John Entwistle, Jack Bruce and Chris Squire as the bassists who had the biggest impact on his playing style. An award-winning musician, Lee’s style, technique, and ability on the bass guitar have proven influential in the rock and heavy metal genres, inspiring such players as Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, John Myung of Dream Theater, Les Claypool of Primus, and Cliff Burton of Metallica among others. Lee is notable for his ability to operate various pieces of instrumentation simultaneously. This is most evident during live shows when Lee must play bass, supply lead vocals, manipulate keyboards, and trigger pedals during the course of a performance, as in the song “Tom Sawyer”. Because of this, he is required to remain in one place during songs containing complex instrumentation. Lifeson and Peart are, to a lesser extent, responsible for similar actions during live shows.
Alex Lifeson in concert, 2010
Instrumentally, Lifeson is regarded as a guitarist whose strengths and notability rely primarily on signature riffing, electronic effects and processing, unorthodox chord structures, and a copious arsenal of equipment used over the years.
During his adolescent years, he was influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. For versatility, Lifeson was known to incorporate touches of Spanish and classical music into Rush’s guitar-driven sound during the 1970s. Taking a backseat to Lee’s keyboards in the 1980s, Lifeson’s guitar returned to the forefront in the 1990s, and especially on Vapor Trails (2002). During live performances, he is still responsible for cuing various guitar effects, the use of bass-pedal synthesizers and backing vocals.
Peart has been voted the greatest rock drummer by music fans, critics and fellow musicians, according to Drummerworld. He is also regarded as one of the finest practitioners of the in-concert drum solo. Initially inspired by Keith Moon, Peart absorbed the influence of other rock drummers from the 1960s and 1970s such as Ginger Baker, Carmine Appice, and John Bonham. Incorporation of unusual instruments (for rock drummers of the time) such as the glockenspiel and tubular bells, along with several standard kit elements, helped create a highly varied setup. Continually modified to this day, Peart’s drumkit offers an enormous array of percussion instruments for sonic diversity. For two decades Peart honed his technique; each new Rush album introduced an expanded percussive vocabulary. In the 1990s, he reinvented his style with the help of drum coach Freddie Gruber.
Neil Peart in concert, 2012
Peart also serves as Rush’s primary lyricist, attracting much attention over the years for his eclectic style. Known for penning concept suites and songs inspired by literature, music fan opinions of his writing have varied greatly, running the gamut from cerebral and insightful to pretentious and preachy. During the band’s early years, Peart’s lyrics were largely fantasy/science fiction-focused, though since 1980 he has focused more on social, emotional, and humanitarian issues. Peart’s lyrics continue to divide audiences today.In 2007, he was placed second on Blender magazine’s list of the “40 Worst Lyricists In Rock”. However, Allmusic has called Peart “one of rock’s most accomplished lyricists”, Gibson.com describes Rush’s lyrics as “great”, and others believe the lyrics are “brilliant”.
Over the course of their career, Rush has released 24 gold records and 14 platinum records (3 of which have gone multiplatinum), placing them in the top 3 rock bands for the most consecutive gold albums. Rush ranks 79th in U.S. album sales according to the RIAA with sales of 25 million units. Total worldwide sales approximate 40 million units. Moving Pictures is currently the band’s highest-selling album (4.4 million units).
Despite completely dropping out of the public eye for five years after the gold-selling Test for Echo (which peaked at number 5 on the Billboard 200) and the band being relegated almost solely to classic rock stations in the U.S., Vapor Trails reached number 6 on the Billboard 200 chart in its first week of release in 2002 with 108,000 albums sold. It has sold approximately 343,000 units to date. The subsequent Vapor Trails tour grossed over $24 million and included the largest audience ever to see a headlining Rush show – 60,000 fans in São Paulo, Brazil. Nevertheless, Vapor Trails remains their first album not to achieve at least gold status in the United States.
However, Rush’s triple CD live album, Rush in Rio (2003), was certified gold by the RIAA, marking the fourth decade in which a Rush album had been released and certified at least gold. Moreover, in 2004 Feedback cracked the top 20 on the Billboard 200 chart and received radio airplay. The band’s 2007 album, Snakes & Arrows, debuted at number 3 (just one position shy of Rush’s highest peaking albums, Counterparts (1993) and “Clockwork Angels” (2012), which both debuted at number 2) on the Billboard 200 selling approximately 93,000 its first week of release. This marks the 13th studio album to appear in the Top 20 and the band’s 27th album to appear on the chart regardless of position over the course of their career. The album also debuted at number 1 on the Billboard’s Top Rock Albums chart, as well as peaking at number 1 on the Top Internet Albums chart when the album was released on the MVI format a month later. Still, Snakes & Arrows has yet to accumulate sales that approach or eclipse Vapor Trails or Rush in Rio.
The two consecutive tours in support of Snakes & Arrows in 2007 and 2008 accrued $21 million and $18.3 million, respectively, earning Rush the number 6 and 8 spots among the top ten summer rock concerts.
The members of Rush share a strong work ethic, desiring to accurately recreate songs from their albums when playing live performances. To achieve this goal, beginning in the late 1980s, Rush has included a capacious rack of digital samplers in their concert equipment to recreate the sounds of non-traditional instruments, accompaniments, vocal harmonies, and other sound “events” in real-time to match the sounds on the studio versions of the songs. In live performances, the band members share duties throughout most songs. Each member has one or more MIDI controllers, which are loaded with different sounds for each song, and use available limbs to trigger the sounds while simultaneously playing their primary instrument(s). It is with this technology that the group is able to present their arrangements in a live setting with the level of complexity and fidelity fans have come to expect, and without the need to resort to the use of backing tracks or employing an additional band member. The band members’ coordinated use of pedal keyboards and other electronic triggers to “play” sampled instruments and audio events is subtly visible in their live performances, especially so on R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour, their 2005 concert DVD.
A staple of Rush’s concerts is a Neil Peart drum solo. Peart’s drum solos include a basic framework of routines connected by sections of improvisation, making each performance unique. Each successive tour sees the solo more advanced, with some routines dropped in favour of newer, more complex ones. Since the mid-1980s, Peart has used MIDI trigger pads to trigger sounds sampled from various pieces of acoustic percussion that would otherwise consume far too much stage area, such as a marimba, harp, temple blocks, triangles, glockenspiel, orchestra bells, tubular bells, and vibraslap as well as other, more esoteric percussion.
Rush actively participates in philanthropic causes. The band was one of a number of hometown favourites to play Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto, also dubbed SARStock, at Downsview Park in Toronto on July 30, 2003, with an attendance of over half a million people. The concert was intended to benefit the Toronto economy after the SARS outbreaks earlier in the year. The band has also sustained an interest in promoting human rights. They donated $100,000 to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights after a concert they held in Winnipeg on May 24, 2008. Rush continues to sell t-shirts and donate the proceeds to the museum.
The individual members of Rush have also been a part of philanthropic causes. Hughes & Kettner zenTeras and TriAmps have been endorsed and used by Lifeson for many years. A custom signature amplifier was engineered by Lifeson and released in April 2005 with the stipulation that UNICEF will receive a donation in the amount of $50 for every Alex Lifeson Signature TriAmp sold. Lee, a longtime fan of baseball, donated 200 baseballs signed by famous Negro League players, including Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Josh Gibson, to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in June 2008. In late 2009, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson launched an auction for their initiative “Grapes Under Pressure”, in support of the cause “Grapes for Humanity”. The auction consisted of items from the band such as signed guitars, cymbals and basses, as well as autographs on all items by the band members. There were also autographs by band members from Depeche Mode, Tool, the Fray, Judas Priest, Pearl Jam and more, as well as signatures from Ricky, Julian and Bubbles from “Trailer Park Boys: The Movie” on a rare Epiphone guitar.
The band is featured on the album Songs for Tibet, appearing with a number of other celebrities as an initiative to support Tibet and the current Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso. The album was made downloadable on August 5, 2008 via iTunes and was released commercially August 12, 2008.