Alex Lifeson says that it was “difficult to accept” that he would never play with RUSH again after the completion of the “R40” tour, which commemorated the 40th anniversary of drummer Neil Peart joining the band.
The 68-year-old Canadian guitarist touched upon the legendary band’s legacy while talking to “The Rockman Power Hour” about ENVY OF NONE, his new project in which Alex is joined by Andy Curran (CONEY HATCH), Alfio Annibalini and singer Maiah Wynne.
Speaking about the inspiration for his new music, Lifeson said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “It was difficult to accept that [RUSH] was over, even though it was 41 years. And there’s no shame in ending after that period of time. And Neil didn’t feel he could play a hundred percent — it was just getting too difficult to play this kind of music for three hours a night. So it is what it is. That was the end. And then within a year we found out he was sick. So it was quite a turbulent period. But I have all this music in me. I think I’m more a songwriter than a guitarist, and I always thought of myself as a guitarist first. But realizing that I have so many ideas, and they’re all over the place, and they’re more about melody and about harmony and about space and mood and color and tone rather than just playing.”
Peart died in January 2020 after a three-year battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. He was 67 years old.
Lifeson previously reflected on RUSH‘s final tour, which concluded on August 1, 2015 at the Forum in Los Angeles, during a June 2021 appearance on SiriuxXM‘s “Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk”. Peart indicated at the time that he wanted to retire while he was still able to play well, along with a desire to spend more time at home with his young daughter.
“We were in our early 60s when that tour ended,” Alex said. “After the number of dates that we did do, which was about half of what we would normally do, we were all starting to feel the fatigue, as you normally would. And had it been a normal tour, we have gone out for probably another month and then taken a month off, or maybe a couple of months off, and then picked it up for another three or four months.
“I think personally, and I think the same for Ged [RUSH bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee], we were really excited about the show, the presentation of the show, the whole concept of going back through our history,” he continued. “I thought we were all playing really, really well, and I probably could have continued to do another 30 shows, and I think Geddy felt the same way. But it was becoming really difficult for Neil to play at that level, and unless he could play a hundred percent at that level, he really didn’t wanna do any more shows, and he didn’t wanna be that person that should have taken it. And it was hard for him — a three-hour show playing the way he played. It’s a miracle that he was even able to play. And he had some issues through that tour — he had an infection on his feet and he could barely walk, never mind playing the bass drum the way he did. And he never complained or anything like that. So, it was time. And in retrospect, it couldn’t have been better, because we were playing great, and we finished on such a high note. The fans were so happy — I mean, with the performance. All things were right. That was the great way to ensure our legacy and be remembered for those guys, for being that band that played that way. I honestly would hate to be working now, for example, and not being able to play a song because my fingers are just killing me and not playing as well and making all these mistakes. I made enough mistakes — way too many. So, all in all, it really turned out to be the opportune time for us to end a long career. Not a lot of bands lasted 40 years of that regular touring and many, many, many albums and all of that stuff.”
RUSH waited three days to announce Peart‘s passing, setting off shockwaves and an outpouring of grief from fans and musicians all over the world.
Peart joined RUSH in 1974. He was considered one of the best rock drummers of all time, alongside John Bonham of LED ZEPPELIN; Keith Moon of THE WHO; and Ginger Baker of CREAM. Peart was also RUSH‘s primary lyricist, drawing inspiration from everything from sci-fi to Ayn Rand.
Photo credit: Richard Sibbald
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