Alex Lifeson says Rush is slowing down, not going away

Canadian rock band Rush. Handout

TORONTO – The upcoming Rush tour is billed as a 40th anniversary celebration — but it could just as easily be advertised as a retirement party of sorts.

No, the beloved Toronto power-prog band isn’t going away, exactly.

But the virtuoso trio has said this will likely be their last tour of such significant magnitude — and for fans in many cities, that means it could represent a final chance to marvel at Rush without passing through airport security.

The tour kicks off May 8 in Tulsa, Okla., and will hit Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver before wrapping Aug. 1 in Los Angeles.

Ahead of rehearsals, a candid Alex Lifeson talked to The Canadian Press about Rush slowing down.

How are you feeling about this?

I have such mixed feelings about it. In one way, I feel relief. I think that 40 years is a long time to be touring the way we tour. I really like being home with my grandkids. At 61, I don’t feel there’s anything we need to prove.

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I still love playing. But in (drummer) Neil (Peart)’s case, for example, his job is really tough. Playing the way he does is very, very difficult on his body. He has chronic tendonitis in his arms and he’s had problems with his shoulders.

It’s just getting to the point, no matter how much we love doing it, that it’s much more demanding and much more difficult.

I’ve always hated the idea of being one of those guys who’s just up there, old and barely able to move — just doing it for fear of not doing it, or not making an extra buck or whatever.

If this is the last major tour that we do, (I want to) go out with flying colours, where everybody remembers the show they went to as the best Rush they’ve (seen).

That’s a nice legacy to leave behind — rather than the worn-out shadow of something you once were.

You’re about to enter rehearsal lockdown, right?

I’ve been rehearsing for a month to get ready for the rehearsals. It’ll be two months of playing. I shoot for three-four hours a day, to prep for the actual rehearsals that we’ll do in Los Angeles, and then there’s a full week of production rehearsals.

We rehearse ourselves to death. But it’s worth it. You hit the stage on that first night and you feel like you’ve already been playing for a month.

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But we’ve always been crazy about it. Two Virgos in the band — it’s not surprising.

I enjoyed your speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Did Geddy and Neil know you were going to say “blah blah” over and over?

They had no idea. I had another speech written out. It was even on the teleprompter.

You were there that night so you know — there were some great speeches and there were some very, very long speeches. I just thought this is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s supposed to be irreverent.

Ged and Neil went along with it at first but after a while they were getting a little worried. Afterwards, they said: “We’re gonna kill you. What were you doing?”

The next day I got an email from Neil and he said: “I owe you an apology the size of Texas.”

It’s the one speech everyone remembers from that night.

If Rush’s touring schedule slows, how will you spend your time?

Well, we’re not finished as a band. We still talk about recording.

Who knows, there may be an opportunity in the future to do not a big tour, but a series of concerts … like a week in Massey Hall or Radio City Music Hall.

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Ged and I are just itching to get back into writing. He just revamped his studio, and he’s not a tech kind of studio guy. He doesn’t know how probably even one per cent of that stuff works.

But he’s had this renaissance of being a musician and wanting to play and study more — it’s really inspiring to see. When things slow down we’ll start to do some writing, for whatever purpose. We’ve always talked about doing some soundtrack work.

With Neil, he really wants to take some time off and spend more time with his daughter. His daughter’s very young. After what he’s been through, he’d like to be more connected to his home life.

I don’t blame the guy.

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