Neil Peart, Rush’s drummer, refers to his bandmates as “the guys from the office.” After all, they’ve been working together, creating together, touring together and building a brand together for more than forty years, and the quintessential working men of rock and roll must have some sense of office space. And so, facing the last three weeks of their last big arena tour, what is implied as the denouement of their touring years, it’s time for some proper acknowledgements.
Thank you for helping me introduce then four-year-old Ben to live music. His first show was during the Counterparts tour, in 1998, and he stood on his seat at the PNC Bank Arts Center until he rocked out just a bit too hard, slipped off the back of the seat and fell between the bench and the seat back. No harm, no foul, he got right back up, without so much as a yelp, and went back to the music. It was the energy of the music, the quality of the show, the musicianship and professionalism on stage that made him a life-long fan. Day one.
Thank you for creating music with thematic elements drawing on literature, politics, history of science, and social awkwardness. “Passage to Bangkok” is less about drugs and more about adventure and geography. “Manhattan Project” was the underlying theme song for Ben’s junior history project.
Thank you for showing that three guys can perform songs of wondrous complexity, through hard work, team work and professionalism. It’s been a benchmark for group dynamics at my office for 30 years.
Thank you for never giving up on your musical, personal or band ethics and dynamics. It sends the right message, and a consistent message. And after forty years maybe even “Rolling Stone” noticed.
Thank you for allowing Ben and me to create our own not-quite-secret language, with “Rocinante”, “Lerxst”, “Cygnus”, “Syrinx” and “hold my sausage” conveying rich context and a shared smile.
Thank you for providing the sound track for a lot of late nights, long drives, difficult problem sets, and most of all, much-needed air drumming breaks. I think I have my air tom-toms oriented in reverse of Neil’s kit, and I can’t time a paradiddle to with any consistency in tempo, but it’s been fun for thirty-five years.
Thank you for never, ever, ever mailing it in on stage. Never. Reading Neil Peart’s show and tour diaries I have wondered if he is too much of a perfectionist, but I realize that the consistently high quality of Rush shows comes from that constant self-correction and criticism.
Thank you for breaking out the twin double necks. The Hemispheres-era poster with the band in flowing shirts, striking a pose (while striking cymbals, no less) is timeless, and to see the scene created live — with better clothes, better sound reinforcement, and better optics — is a life experience. The only thing that’s come close was seeing Michaelangelo’s David in Florence — after years of seeing it in pictures, to stand before the sculpture was awe-inspiring and humbling at once. That’s how I felt during “Xanadu,” decades of listening and watching and vignettes of rock history all composed on stage — while the boys from the office were clearly having fun with it.
Two weeks from tonight I will attend (I think) my 11th and quite possibly last Rush show. It is fitting that it’s the last leg of a 3-month celebration of Ben’s 21st birthday, in Vegas, with trips to Ed Roman’s guitar store and the Bellagio poker room also on the itinerary. Thanks, Alex, Geddy and Neil, for helping me raise a young adult with some good role models.
“Any pain is acceptable if love is involved” — Buzz Bissinger, from “Father’s Day.”
It’s all the stuff outside the office that counts.