Rush survive 40 years on rock’s very edge

‘Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone’
By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  June 9, 2008

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RUSH LIMBO: Rush are an oddity in a rock biz founded on oddities: forging ahead long enough to create their own niche.

Prog bites: Eight completely awesome Rush moments. By Daniel Brockman
“When we started out, we were just kids playing the kind of music that we liked,” says bassist/singer Geddy Lee. “It was kind of progressive rock, it was kind of heavy metal, but it didn’t really fit into any easy description, and by virtue of that it was not of the taste du jour for most mainstream rock periodicals, and I think that’s what made us outsiders. We were not groovy-looking, we were not the pop taste of the moment. We were suburban kids made good.”

No fucking kidding! Rush, who play the Comcast Center (what used to be the Tweeter Center, and before that Great Woods) on Sunday, are one of rock’s most quietly enduring success stories: 40 years later, the Canadian trio’s rabid fan base and enduring legacy continue to frustrate those who’d like to pretend that ’70s prog never existed. (And who but Rush would do something like follow up last year’s Snakes & Arrows with this year’s Snakes & Arrows Live?) Of course, Geddy thinks that the whole “prog is a four-letter word” stigma is all smoke and mirrors. “Look at a band like Radiohead: they are a big-themed band, and they’re kind of the leader in the current prog-rock parade, in my opinion. They are probably loved by a lot of people who don’t like ‘prog rock,’ because they have an image that makes them acceptable, a grooviness that supersedes their music. And I think that’s part and parcel with acceptance of certain bands: if they have a groovy buzz, then it almost makes what they are doing musically acceptable by association. I think it’s a lot about a time and a place, more than the actual music that they’re playing.”

This assessment makes sense from a member of a band who, with their virtuoso chops, raised the bar stultifyingly high in terms of actual music being played. “We’re just concerned with playing well — even after 400 years of touring, we still discuss, you know, how we sucked last night, or how can we make that one song better, or with that song that we’ve played for 35 years, how the chorus could be played better. In some ways we’re overly focused on playing well, it’s the part that makes us feel best about what we do.”

Rush — Lee, drummer Neal Peart, and guitarist Alex Lifeson — are an oddity in a rock biz founded on oddities. Never having fit into any formal categorizations, even among hard-rock and progressive-rock bands, they forged ahead long enough to have created their own niche. Part of that niche was addressing their surroundings honestly — while the rest of the ’70s rock parade was coming to your town and partying down, Rush were penning meditative masterpieces about the suburban condition, like 1982’s “Subdivisions.”

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