'It's nice to do something unusual': Alex Lifeson talks about the new wrinkles in Rush's on-going tour

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Formed in 1968, Rush began working with its current lineup in 1974 when drummer and lyricist Neil Peart joined — sparking a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-worthy run of successes through this year’s Clockwork Angels.

Yet despite that long history, the band has worked hard to avoid falling into a rut on the road.

Peart, guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist/keyboardist and lead vocalist Geddy Lee worked on their newest release, an ambitious story-cycle, for years — finally releasing something that, in many ways, recalls the legendary concept albums of the 1970s. They’ve worked just as hard at updating the concert setting, despite an aggressive touring schedule throughout the recording process.

Rush actually started sessions for what would become Clockwork Angels some four years ago, but then put everything on hold for what would become a lengthy series of shows that included complete renditions of their classic album Moving Pictures. Rush then returned to the studio in 2011, starting over with a loose, jam-based atmosphere.

In all, a trio of singles would be released before this new recording eventually arrived, the last of which was a seven-minute track called “Headlong Flight” from earlier this year.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: When “Headlong Flight,” the lead single from Rush’s 2012 release ‘Clockwork Angels,’ arrived at SER Towers, we gave it a quick spin — and our initial thoughts created a furious debate.]

Of note, when discussing a new tour, was the fact that Clockwork Angels, the trio’s initial new studio effort since 2007’s Snakes and Arrows, included strings on a handful of songs. In additional to constructing new light and video productions for their on-going shows in support of the project, the band decided to bring along some classically trained musicians to fill out the on-stage sound.

In a new talk with Alan Sculley of The Newburyport (Mass.) News, Lifeson says Rush briefly considered using computerized accompaniment during the three-hour set, before discarding the idea.

Clockwork Angels has five or six songs with strings on them,” Lifeson told Sculley, “and we thought that rather than triggering samples, why don’t we think about taking strings out for a change? 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.”

Lifeson says that’s another example of the way that Rush keeps things fresh — not just for the fans, but for themselves.

“It’s so nice to go out and do something that’s unusual and different and keeps on your toes,” he said. “And 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.”

Complete upcoming dates and venues for Rush, through 2013, are below.

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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.

Upcoming 2012-2013 dates and venues for Rush …

Tue, Sep 18, 2012: The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, MI
Thu, Sep 20: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH
Sat, Sep 22: Scottrade Center, St. Louis, MO
Mon, Sep 24: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
Wed, Sep 26: MTS Centre, Winnipeg, MB
Fri, Sep 28: Credit Union Centre, Saskatoon, SK
Sun, Sep 30: Rexall Place, Edmonton, AB
Wed, Oct 10: Webster Bank Arena, Bridgeport, CT
Fri, Oct 12: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Sun, Oct 14: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON
Tue, Oct 16: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON
Thu, Oct 18: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC
Sat, Oct 20: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
Mon, Oct 22: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Wed, Oct 24: TD Garden, Boston, MA
Fri, Oct 26: First Niagara Center, Buffalo, NY
Sun, Oct 28: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Tue, Oct 30: Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC
Thu, Nov 1: Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Alpharetta, GA
Sat, Nov 3: 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre, Tampa, FL
Tue, Nov 13: KeyArena, Seattle, WA
Thu, Nov 15: HP Pavilion, San Jose, CA
Sat, Nov 17: Honda Center, Anaheim, CA
Mon, Nov 19: Gibson Amphitheatre, Universal City, CA
Wed, Nov 21: Vally View Casino, San Diego, CA
Fri, Nov 23: MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas, NV
Sun, Nov 25: US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
Wed, Nov 28: American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX
Fri, Nov 30: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
Sun, Dec 2: Toyota Center, Houston, TX
Wed, May 22, 2013: Manchester MEN Arena, Manchester, England
Fri, May 24: The O2, London, England
Sun, May 26: Birmingham LG Arena, Birmingham, England
Tue, May 28: Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield, England
Thu, May 30: SECC, Glasgow, Scotland
Sun, Jun 2: Ziggo Dome, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Tue, Jun 4: Lanxess Arena, Cologne, Germany
Thu, Jun 6: O2 World, Berlin, Germany
Sat, Jun 8: Sweden Rock Festival, Solvesborg, Sweden
Mon, Jun 10: Hartwell Arena, Helsinki, Finland

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The Something Else! webzine, an accredited Google News affiliate, has been featured in The New York Times and NPR.com's A Blog Supreme, while our writers have also been published by USA Today, Jazz.com and UltimateClassicRock.com, among others. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
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