of course people are entitled to their opinions but obviously Michael Judge, the writer of the review for http://www.kansascity.com is not a Rush fan and doesn’t understand the concept of being a Rush fan. He mentions how Rush could play such old songs as Freewill and 2112 after all of these years. Michael, that is because those songs are trademark to Rush. Just as Tom Sawyer, Spirit of Radio and others. Those songs are what you hear playing in the rotation on the radio stations. Neil Peart is the last person to tell you he is a great drummer. He would tell you he just loves drums. Neil is considered one of the greatest drummers of our time but others beg to differ. Thats fine. Neil would agree. So its no surprise that you would see people air drumming along with Neil. It is also one of the things that Neil notices while behind the kit. If you have ever read any of his books you would learn more about him as a person and his way of thinking and how he sees the industry and the idea of fans. Fans know that catchy signs and air drumming are just ways that they may end up with a pair of NEP sticks after his drum solo.
Rush is progressive rock. There are bands that play their songs live as they did on the album. Honestly, there is nothing wrong with that. People like Britney Spears and such that lip sync must go along with the music as its played or else risk going off sync. Lets take for instance Slipknot. Slipknot performs their songs for the most part as they are on the albums. The difference is the energy. You dont get the same energy in the album and you do at a live show. Its heavier and it is RAW. Same goes with Rush. Neil Peart doesn’t play every fill the same. He will tell you he lagged and that he didnt do this fill right or that part of his solo right and he will critique himself. Just as Alex Lifeson will say that he amazes himself that he makes it through a solo at times because he likes to go in different directions at times depending on his feel. Geddy going between keyboards and bass…..Not an easy feat for many and on top of that singing.
Rush sets themselves apart from other bands. Neil Peart’s lyrics dont have to make sense to others. Those that have followed the band know what he is saying in his songs. There is a story behind his lyrics and his way of writing which he describes in detail in his books. Neil uses the MalletKAT and Alex and Geddy MIDI-controllers that control certain sounds and effects used in their show. What is the problem with that? Pink Floyd also has done the same. Rush could employ touring musicians for keyboards and such but they choose not to. Triggering of effects and sounds is common in the touring world now. When Dimebag Darrell was alive his techs would activate manually some of his effects so he didnt have to onstage.
The point of it all is this….Critics can review and criticize and that is their right. Rush doesnt sound the way they once did in their earlier days. True Neil Peart may not hit the skins as he once did but I take into account that Neil spent years and years on the road and suddenly lost his daughter and wife. Everything seemed to be taken from him he said. His wife, daughter, dog, best friend. In his book Ghost Rider he describes how his life seemed similar to the book Dorothy Parker’s What Fresh Hell Is This by Marion Meade. After all of that pain and sorrow he returned to the band with a new outlook on life and love. I remember reading that Neil said he did not want to be in his 60s and still touring now that he and his wife have a new daughter.
I think Rush has progressed over their 40 year career. They may not be as they once was in their younger days and the “Rush-ians” know that but the devoted fans of the band that enjoy hearing those songs over and over never tire of them. As a musician myself I can play guitar and drums all day with few breaks. One would think that after a long tour run I would put down the sticks or guitar pick and not even touch one but I always end up doing so. A workout for me is sitting behind my R30 Drum Kit and running through an entire 2.5-3 hour set of Rush live. have to put that inherited kit to good use. Its what my friend Victor wanted. He bought it but couldn’t play but always liked me coming over to play it because I would teach him. Then he suddenly died after and arguement with his wife and he had left the kit to me in his will. Stating that I was the only one he knew that could really appreciate having such a drum kit and knew I would take care of it. Neil Peart grew up idolizing Keith Moon and Buddy Rich. I grew up idolizing him.
Rush is a cult following. You wont see many women at their shows and the band will say openly say they know it. Rush has a huge man-following just as portrayed in the movie I Love You Man. It was one way Rush accepted their following for what it is. Rush fans are called geek boys and music techies but hey thats fine. Rush is technical in their music and their music is far more appreciated in its album form live that a fully improvised set. So Neil and Alex may go off with different rifffs and fills but hey thats part of a live show. It doesnt have to be completely different. Sure it may get old playing the same songs over and over again but yes they do it for the fans and yes even at their age it pays the bills. I mean a person works well into their 50s and 60s. Why? Well it pays the bills. As Neil says in his Anatomy of a Drum Solo DVD. Drummers go into solos building their solo and to make it their own. He said also that for a drummer in the end a drummer must go back to accompanying a band because they are part of a band.
I happen to enjoy Rush because of the music and how each song structure stays the same. You can change a song all you want live or on an album but what really attracts the fans is how you perform live. So even if you do it note for note as played on an album or fully improvise the set its the energy the band gives out that the fans pick up on and they return that energy to the band. That energy for that entire show is a loop between the band and the fans. If the crowd doesn’t feel it then the band will eventually not play up to their full potential. There is no energy to feel. Nothing there. Bands will play 40 shows and maybe 2 of those 40 will be “special or magic” shows. Also, someone that is not a fan may pick up on mistakes by the guitarist or drummer. They are human and can make mistakes. The fans get into the music. They feel the music and feed off that energy so even if Neil Peart screws up a fill the fans will either not notice or really wont care because they are there live and feeling that energy….That explains why people will spend $50 to see their favorite band just as a person spends $20 or so for their favorite movie or CD. Would be a pretty boring world if we heard music just once and never heard it again because it was considered “old or outdated.” Jimi Hendrix is dead yet people continue to hear his music and study his techniques.
Thats what makes a live show what it is. An energetic exchange between artist and fan. its the equilibrium.