Rush on stage, with strings attached
DETROIT — The Midwest has been mighty good to Rush. The trio’s four-decade rock ride got its U.S. start in the heartland, which embraced the Toronto band with gusto before the rest of the country caught on.
Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart have embarked on a Rush tour that will stretch into summer 2013.
Guitarist Lifeson remembers the band’s first U.S. foray — an honour claimed by Michigan.
“We actually snuck in and played a festival in Lansing, spring of ’74, before our first major tour that August,” he says. “There’s always been a great affinity between us and the fans there. The Midwest is such a strong rock area, between places like Detroit and Cleveland. I think that’s the heart of the rock ’n’ roll world, so it’s always a treat for us.”
The tour supports Clockwork Angels, the band’s 19th studio record and a nod to Rush’s concept-album days. Released in June, it got a strong thumbs-up from fans and a round of attention from mainline media outlets — part of the belated respect that has graced the group in recent years.
Lifeson spoke with the Detroit Free Press:
Q: You’ve got a string ensemble touring with you this year. That’s certainly a first for Rush.
A: I don’t think we ever had anyone up on stage with us. This is different — eight-piece, really great people. They’ve become part of the whole team, so to speak, right from the start, so we’re quite thrilled. They’re great players, and they really warmed up to the material and are playing with passion.
I’m surprised by the influence it’s had on some of these other (nonClockwork Angels) songs. David Campbell, who did the arrangements — there was a bit of confusion in the beginning, and he ended up scoring arrangements for all the songs. We threw a couple of curves at him. It’s so very different from what we’ve normally done. There are 14 songs altogether (rehearsed with strings), and we’re playing 11 or 12 each night.
I think there may have been a concern by some people that it would soften the material by adding strings,
Lifeson (right) with bandmates Geddy Lee (left) and Neil Peart bring their Clockwork Angels tour to the MTS Centre tonight.