'We'll do most of it': Neal Peart discusses how Clockwork Angels fits into new concerts

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For a band like Rush, with both a well-received new album and 40-plus years of material in tow, making a set list can be a daunting task.

Lyricist and drummer Neil Peart admits that “it’s very difficult,” in a new talk with Rolling Stone.

Should they play their Clockwork Angels in its entirety? After all, they just presented Moving Pictures in 2010. Being as the new release is a concept album, would it still work if it were mixed and matched with older favorites? Is it time to bring forward some older, more obscure music from their lengthy time together as a band?

Rush has had some time to think about such things, but plans are still coming together.

The trio actually began work on Clockwork Angels way back in 2008, but then put the project aside for what would eventually become a two-year tour that included Moving Pictures. Rush got back together in the studio in October 2011, beginning with a series of loose jams. Three singles eventually were released before the new album arrived, concluding with the seven-minute “Headlong Flight” earlier this year.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: We gathered at the SER Towers watercooler recently to share our first-take thoughts on “Headlong Flight,” the 2012 single from Rush’s forthcoming album ‘Clockwork Angels.’]

Now that Angels has dropped, thoughts have turned to another tour. Peart says Rush would likely “do most of the record — not all of it, but we’ll do most of it.” As for older tunes, “There’s a lot of stuff in there that we haven’t played before, and we haven’t played in a long time so it’s got a freshness to it this time around. We’ll always have to play that handful of songs that we’ve had the most commercial success with, but mixing it up with some other material that we haven’t played in a long time is really great. It’s shaping up to be a pretty good set.”

Here’s a look back at our previous thoughts on Rush. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

RUSH – CLOCKWORK ANGELS (2012): Time after time, I find myself reaching to re-cue this album when the last notes fade. What is it that brings me back? Most simplistically, it’s hearing Rush sound so vital and vibrant. Rush has typically done what it wanted to do, but just like you can sense a smile on the face of someone on the other end of the telephone line, music listeners can sense that same smile, maybe in the form of enthusiasm, in the playing. A little extra finesse here and there from Neil Peart’s expert drumming, a little something extra wild in Alex Lifeson’s guitar solo, or the flair of a grace note or two in Geddy Lee’s bassline. The band always at the top of their game — that’s what Rush is known for — but sometimes they play at the very top of the top, as here.

RUSH – TIME MACHINE 2011: LIVE IN CLEVELAND (2011): Rush used this opportunity to, as they really have been doing each tour lately, rifle through catalog and pull out some dusty old gems (“Time Stand Still,” reggae “Working Man,” “Marathon,” “Subdivisions,” “Stick It Out” and “Leave That Thing Alone”) and even one bonafide “never been played before” fan favorite (“Presto”) but, most importantly, a run-through of their entire classic Moving Pictures album for its 30th anniversary. Some of those tunes have been played a lot (“Tom Sawyer,” “Limelight,” I’m looking at you) but others have disappeared for far, far too long. Welcome back to the stage “The Camera Eye” and “Witch Hunt.” Maybe you’ll stick around for a couple tours?

SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: RUSH: When most think of Rush, it’s their instrumental virtuosity (especially drummer Neil Peart) that comes to mind first. Or the love or hatred of Geddy Lee’s vocals. Other times it’s Peart’s second role as lyricist for the band that garners attention, and it’s another love or hate area of focus: Ayn Rand, sci-fi, songs about balding, fights between dogs and, well, whatever a Bytor is, these are all common targets for those who want to throw stones. We’re here to present an argument for the defense.

RUSH – ROLL THE BONES (1991; 2011 reissue): Listeners will hear immediately that the sound is indeed lighter and quieter, and the soundstage is thinner than either previous version. But it’s all to better show off the album’s immaculate recording, which does get a bit muffled in the Atlantic pressings. This is where you can revel in the tone of Geddy’s maturing voice, or the textures of Alex Lifeson’s guitar, or the layers of keyboard washes that are now magically so much more discernible from one another. With regard to those keyboard washes, what’s funny is that once you hear them here, you can’t help but notice them in the other versions, too. It just took this delicate audiophile edition to separate them out.

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