“Live shows were always religion for us,” says Peart, sipping his double Macallan. “We never played a show — whether it was in front of 15 people or 15,000 — where it wasn’t everything we had that night.”
The lads are ready to give it their all once more. And if you’ve been meaning to glimpse them in their natural habitat, pouring sonic licks and pyrotechnic fury into a throbbing arena, this may be your last chance.
To celebrate four decades and 20 studio albums, the band will fire up the jet engines — or in Peart’s case, motorcycle pistons — and descend on 34 cities this summer forRUSH: R40 Live Tour. It starts in Tulsa on May 8 and ends on Aug. 1 in Los Angeles, close to where Peart now lives with wife Carrie and daughter Olivia.
There will be two Toronto shows, June 17 and 19 at the Air Canada Centre, with tickets going on sale Friday.
Coincidentally, tour plans were hatched at a dinner the same day Peart and I meet for drinks in Yorkville. Before he leaves to Skype with Olivia and then join his mates and manager, Ray Danniels, it’s not clear if R40 will even happen.
“Talks are ongoing, but there are no firm plans yet,” is how Peart foreshadows it, adding with a grimacing smile: “It doesn’t require my participation at this moment.”
It’s no secret, at least to Rush fans, that Peart may be the most reluctant rock star in the galaxy. His contempt for the shallow trappings of celebrity — “Even as a kid, I never wanted to be famous; I wanted to be good” — could form the curriculum for an undergrad psychology class. He doesn’t do meet-and-greets with fans. He gets squirmy in the face of adoration. He doesn’t even travel with the band on tour, preferring instead to mount his purring BMW R1100GS and see “the real world” one dusty back road at a time.
So will this be Rush’s last big tour? The big money is on, “Yup.” The lads are now in their early 60s. They have families and eclectic interests and disposable income. Even in 1989, after Rush cemented lasting fame on the strength of albums such as A Farewell to Kings, Hemispheres, Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures, Signals and Power Windows, Peart was ready to beg off touring forever.
“That feeling of going up on that stage every night, to prove the worthiness of your existence, night after night,” he says. “That’s just the cost and I’ve found ways to recompense that, absolutely. If I have to travel, I’m going to travel my way and travel in the real world. And I’m going to have conversations every day with people in rest stops and people in gas stations and people in hotels and diners. That nourishes me.”
He is also nourished by the fellowship shared with Lee and Lifeson since 1974.
On his travels, Peart once returned to Le Studio, the residential recording hall in Quebec where so many of the band’s albums were made. He hadn’t been back in years. The fond memories, well, they came rushing back.
“When I think about it,” he says, the winter shadows now dancing on his face, “we were young and foolish and brave and fun.”
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