My first concert was in 1984 and it was Rush at the Rosemont Horizon (now, Allstate Arena). I remember the day vividly. It was June 29th and cold. I stood outside my house waiting to be picked up and remember thinking, ‘this is too cold for June.’ My friend and bandmate, Paul picked me up in his beat up Pinto. We took a wrong turn and went way out of our way. Got to our seats for the last song of the opener, Marillion.
My obsession with Rush started years before in 1981 when my cousin popped in an 8-track of Moving Pictures. Again, it was a vivid moment. I remember staring at the radio, listening intently as I have never heard music like this before. As a classical piano student, which I started in 1976, there was a quality to the Rush songs that affected me on a deeper level like no other band.
So, from the summer of 1981 to somewhere in the mid-90’s, Rush became my most binged music. I was into a lot of other artists, but as far as listening time goes, it was Rush 10:1. I attended a Rush concert every year they toured Chicago during that same period. Then, there was all the time spent learning bass/keys for most songs on Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures, Signals, GUP and HYF. It’s safe to say I was a Rush junkie.
It’s been 3 days since I heard the news about Neil’s passing and I really think I’m going through the stages. Listening to their 2011 Time Machine album this morning and hearing how wicked Neil’s playing was at age 60 is mind blowing. What Neil had been able to accomplish as a writer and musician, puts him into a class of his own. The complexity, creativity and quantity of his drums parts over the course of 19 studio albums is a body of work that is almost impossible to compare. And, up until 2016, he was performing those songs at near perfection – again – in his 60s! I’m 50 and playing piano/guitar for almost 40 years has taken a toll on my hands. I can’t imagine the toll of that level of playing/touring had taken on Neil. It would be like Tom Brady playing into his 50s.
As a lyricist and drummer, Neil was a pure artist. Never watering down his craft to fit into a more “popular” genre. Yet, by all measurements, Rush is more popular than most pop acts. I can pretty much guarantee Justin Bieber will not be performing at 63 years old.
As a musician and human, I need to thank Neil and Rush for having such a positive influence in my life. They were truly my “companion unobtrusive” for so many years. It’s very tragic that Neil could not get the chance to enjoy his golden years and meet more of the people whose life he changed.