Why I Hope Rush Doesn’t Make the Rock Hall of Fame

July 23, 2007

I like Rush, but I am not a Huge Rush Fan. I liked them back in high school, respect them as musicians, and still like some of their old albums, but basically stopped listening to them after 1987’s too-mellow Hold Your Fire. The lyrics to some of their songs are embarrassingly earnest. (But I will choose freewill.) Their newer material has some amazing heavy riffs, but always seems to include a cheesy synth-laden chorus that ruins it.

I have to state that because HRFs love every Rush album, see them on every tour, and think the band has never taken a wrong step in its 33-year existence, with the possible exception of 1997’s Test for Echo which nobody seems to love. If you’re in a room with an HRF and the discussion turns to music, eventually the big injustice comes up: despite 33 consecutive years as a working band (no overpriced reunion tours), encompassing 18 studio albums and a handful of live records and a major North American tour with every single album; despite 23 gold records, 14 platinum albums, and more than 24 million records sold; despite their influence on hundreds of thousands of young musicians (especially drummers), they’ve never been inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

I saw Rush on Saturday night for the first time in 13 years. As said, I haven’t really listened to them in a long time, but my brother’s a bona fide HRF, we’d never seen them together, and he was visiting from out of town, so I figured why not.

They ruled. Three hours of music, not including the 20-minute intermission. They had drawn some criticism on their last R30 tour (I get all this info from my brother) for their lack of setlist creativity–always the same song or two from each of their old albums–so this time they dug deep and played songs they’ve rarely or never played live.

[For the Rush-knowledgable: “Entre Nous” (?!?) and “Natural Science” (heavy, bizarre, with one of the best prog-metal riffs of all time) from Permanent Waves, “Circumstances” (another amazing riff, that one between the verse and chorus) from Hemispheres, “Between the Wheels” (my personal favorite Rush song and much better than the usual ones they dig up from Grace Under Pressure), “Digital Man” and “Subdivisions” from Signals (the first Rush album I ever heard), Witch Hunt (the most obscure song from their most famous album, Moving Pictures), and “Passage to Bangkok,” their homage to herb from 2112. Complete with video. Dude!]

They also dug out enough classic hits to leave the semi-fans reasonably happy, although this reviewer obviously missed the last tour and didn’t recognize any of the old songs they did play. As they always do, they showed off a lot (7 9, actually) of songs from their new album, some of which were pretty awesome…or at least had great parts. But even if I didn’t love those songs, I respect them for putting out albums they actually believe in, rather than acting like the Stones and putting out an album simply to justify a tour. And as great as Roger Waters is in concert, he hasn’t put out a new record in 15 years, which basically means he’s a nostalgia act.

At the age of 55, Neil Peart’s drum solo is still a clinic, while being unusually musical and listenable for a drum solo. (I usually hate drum solos–bathroom breaks.) And they’re funny: bassist Geddy Lee, who goes direct into the PA at every show and therefore doesn’t need big amps on stage, had a bank of Kenny Rogers roasters behind him (a chef came out a couple times to turn them), and before playing their most famous song, “Tom Sawyer” (the one you’ve heard if you ever listen to classic rock radio), they played a South Park skit making fun of their most famous song. (Peart is apparently friendly with one of the South Park creators.)

During the show, it occurred to me that these guys are way too iconoclastic, clever, creative, and interesting to be alongside vapid pop twinks like Billy Joel or TV jingle writers like Bob Seger. John Lydon had it right.