Rush comes to SA with a first for the band: a string section

Clockwork Angels: Rush - COURTESY PHOTO
Courtesy photo
Clockwork Angels: Rush

"I never expected it to be like this," Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson said in a recent phone interview. "I had my 59th birthday [on Aug. 27], and [drummer Neil Peart] turned 60 a couple of weeks later. And yeah, in a lot of ways, it feels like it did in 1976."

That enthusiasm has to feel sweet considering that, for a time, it was uncertain whether Rush (which in June released its new CD, Clockwork Angels) would continue into the new century.

The band's future was thrown into question when in 1997, Peart's 19-year-old daughter, Selena, was killed in a one-car accident. About a year later, his wife, Jackie, succumbed to cancer.

The band, three members together since 1974, put everything on hold, and Peart (who remarried in 2000), didn't even pick up his drum sticks for nearly four years. But the band got back together and, after releasing Vapor Trails in 2002, has been gaining steam ever since.

For its fine 2007 CD, Snakes & Arrows, the band found a producer in Nick Raskulinecz, who brought considerable enthusiasm to recording — an energy that carried into Clockwork Angels.

"It was very different this time," Lifeson said. "Neil started doing his drum tracks on the very first day, so very, very spontaneous performances for him. He's a typical Virgo, so anal about his parts, and that's all [Raskulinecz] wanted Neil to do — just play like a maniac all the time."

The approach worked. Clockwork Angels has justifiably gotten rave reviews for a potent collection of songs (standouts include "Caravan," "BU2B," and "Carnie") that combine sharp melodies, tight and complex playing, and adventurous arrangements.

"I'm still kind of close to it, but I would definitely say it's one of our better efforts," Lifeson said.

On tour, Rush is continuing to push forward and take its show to new places. For starters, Lifeson said, there's a new light show and new video over a three-hour set that includes most of Clockwork Angels and a number of older songs that haven't been played live in years.

Then there's something completely new to a Rush tour — a string section.

"Clockwork Angels has five or six songs with strings on them, and we thought that, rather than triggering samples, why don't we think about taking strings out for a change?" Lifeson said. "We can pull out some of the older material from the past that we did string arrangements for and include that. And we sort of dove into it.

"Hopefully you don't wreck anything for them and they don't wreck anything for you. So it's a challenge, and we're always looking for something to move us forward."

Clockwork Angels Tour

7:30pm Fri, Nov 30
AT&T Center
One AT&T Center
(800) 745-3000

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