By Jessica Allen - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 0 Comments
Thanks to their legendary fans, the equally legendary Canadian band finally gets its due
The first time Maclean’s wrote about Rush was in our July 12, 1976, issue. Back then, Geddy Lee was 22 and the band’s music sent “teen-age fans into paroxysms of ecstasy.” But offstage, the three members were described as “recklessly normal.”
Not much has changed.
Rush’s fans are, well, unique. It was their ardour, after all, that persuaded the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to include Rush among its 2013 inductees. Tonight, Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters will present Rush at the Hall of Fame ceremony in Los Angeles 10:30 p.m.
In an interview earlier today in Los Angeles, the band reflected on the long-awaited honour and the company they will share in receiving it: “It’s a constellation and we’re one little spark of light up there,” said Neil Peart.
“You can’t help but think about your context and all that we’ve done together, and what it’s been like to be a band for all these years,” added Geddy Lee. “And to receive this nice pat on the back.”
By Emma Teitel - Friday, December 21, 2012 at 12:41 PM - 0 Comments
Tom Green, the man who brought you Freddy Got Fingered and the Bum Bum Song, has abandoned his traditional antics for a tour on stage. He’s got Canadian stand up shows lined up for the new year, as well as a role in the next Trailer Park Boys movie. Here he is, on all of that, below.
Emma Teitel: What are you wearing?
Tom Green: Blue jeans and a t-shirt. I’m just relaxing around the house. No need to dress up.
E.T. I’ve heard that you’re trying to get more “mainstream” and “sophisticated” with your comedy. What exactly does that mean? Less rodent tasting?
T.G. I wouldn’t use those words myself. I’m just talking [in my stand up] about issues and subjects that I think are relevant to people, and making jokes out of them: things like social media and technology. I’m making a point not to do a prop-driven, prank-driven show. It’s been a cathartic experience for me doing stand up because I like to interact with my audience.
E.T. Why social media?
T.G. I’m in a unique position because I’m 41 years old and I very clearly remember a different, Internet-free, cell-phone-free world. I’m so glad that I didn’t have that stuff at the time. I was always amazed by new technology, right back to when I was in high school–using computers to make music. All that stuff was brand new. When I was 15, I’d work a summer job to buy a new machine to make hip hop beats [with his rap group, Organized Rhyme.]
As soon as we started posting things online, getting the feedback from the public was interesting to me. But I was doing it because I was trying to get my comedy out there for people to see, and I could put up with all the positives and negatives [of public feedback.] Then all of a sudden Facebook comes along and people are posting a video because they can. Every single person is aware of every single person’s life. It creates a scary world. I like to make people laugh about things they’re actually worried about—make a funny situation out of something dark and scary.
E.T. How did you hook up with the Trailer Park Boys?
T.G. At the Montreal comedy festival a few years ago, we met up, had a few drinks, had some laughs. I’ve run into them several times since then. They asked me to be in their movie. That was really fun, I’m a big fan of theirs. We shot up in Northern Ontario. I’m playing myself in the movie; wasn’t much of a stretch. I knew the character pretty well.
E.T. Do you like Rush?
T.G. Yeah, of course. Every Canadian has to like Rush.
E.T. Favourite song?
T.G. Tom Sawyer, cause it’s got the name Tom in it.
E.T. If you could address the Canadian people en masse, what would you say?
T.G. Love and enjoy your Crispy Crunch bars and your Coffee Crunch bars and your Littlest Hobo reruns, and cherish those things. Embrace those things. It’s what makes you different.
E.T. Was the raccoon you sawed in half a real raccoon?
T.G. I don’t give away trade secrets.
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 11:17 PM - 0 Comments
When Maclean’s published a list of the best albums of the ’00s at the end of 2009, the most common complaint from readers was that we had left Rush out. Since the only two complete studio albums of original music the Toronto band produced in the decade in question were Vapor Trails and Snakes & Arrows, arguably not the finest products of the band’s oeuvre, I had to admire the fans’ loyalty, at least. But then loyalty is one quality Rush’s fans have always delivered, usually in excess. It was the fans’ ardour that persuaded the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to include Rush among its 2013 inductees.
There’s no accounting for taste in these matters, but I think the hall’s honour roll this year is pretty strong. If disco mattered at all, Donna Summer was its best ambassador. Randy Newman was one of the finest piano men and singer-songwriters of the ’70s. The band Heart, I admit, seems an odd fit, but Quincy Jones has earned a place among the hall’s non-performers with five decades as a leading record producer.
Tonight I’m going to write about Rush and Public Enemy, intending no disrespect to the other inductees. I’m tickled that the two bands were named in the same year, because it’s hard to imagine two less similar products of North American popular culture. If these two bands fit together in any hall, it must be a big hall. Continue…
By Mike Doherty - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 11:34 AM - 0 Comments
Centurions of evil, fountains delivering enlightenment and epic space journeys, for starters
Although their latest release, Clockwork Angels, is Rush’s first full-length concept album, it’s not as though the band hasn’t had a lot of practice. Here’s a look at the Toronto power trio’s most beloved (and occasionally bemusing) concept songs to date.
1975: By-Tor and the Snow Dog: Clocking in at a relatively svelte 8’39”, Rush’s very first multi-part suite is drawn from their second album, Fly by Night. Not only did the bookish Neil Peart take over from John Rutsey as the band’s drummer, but he also took up the lyric-writing reins. Led Zeppelin-influenced songs with lines such as “I just want to rock and roll you woman” were scrapped in favour of pieces like this: a suite about a battle between a “centurion of evil” and a beast with “ermine glowing in the damp.” As Lee’s bass snarls and Peart pummels his drums, the fight rages through a section called “7/4 War Furor” (making explicit the band’s fascination with odd-metre time signatures), and ends with the canine victorious. Thanks to him, “the land of the Overworld is saved again.” Granted, the lyrics are over the top, but there’s an element of Rush’s vaunted humour here: the antagonists were, in fact, inspired by their manager Ray Danniels’ real-life pooches.
1975: Fountain of Lamneth: Caress of Steel’s entire second side is taken up by this six-part suite. Though its title suggests a Dungeons & Dragons adventure module, its narrative is difficult to pin down. It tells the tale of a man from his birth, (he emerges from the womb singing “I am born / I am me/ I am new / I am free”), through his quest for the titular fountain, which he seems to hope will bring him enlightenment. At the end of the suite – SPOILER ALERT!!! – he finds the fountain, but it leaves him as confused as before. The suite’s melding of adventure with disappointment makes it a precursor to Clockwork Angels. Musically, it’s a little disjointed, with each section fading away before the next begins. The album, which also features a 12-and-a-half-minute song called The Necromancer, bombed, and the band nicknamed the resulting tour “Down the Tubes.”
1976: 2112: Ignoring record-label pleas to record something less complicated, Rush delivered an album that opens with a 20-minute science-fiction suite about a world where everything, including music, is controlled by a group of priests. Perhaps it was an allegory for their own battle to write the music they wanted to play, and though the hero finds himself shot down after picking up a guitar and penning his own songs, Rush themselves would be vindicated as 2112 became one of their most popular albums ever. In 2006, it was named a MasterWork by the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada. Peart drew lyrical inspiration from the writings of Ayn Rand and he found himself castigated by the music press for being a “Randroid.” To this day, he asserts that he was never an objectivist or a pure libertarian, but that he was arguing for the importance of individual belief against a sometimes stultifying collective. Whatever the album’s political philosophy, it rocks hard, and its songs remain live staples.
1977-78: Cygnus X-1 (Books 1 & 2): This two-part suite stretches across two albums: Book I closes out 1977’s A Farewell to Kings, and Book II opens 1978’s Hemispheres. Clocking in at nearly a half-hour, the “duology” was inspired by the black hole of the same name. Book I details the journey of a spaceship pilot into Cygnus X-1, and Part II depicts a battle between the gods Apollo and Dionysos, representing order and chaos; the explorer returns and is declared “Cygnus, Bringer of Balance” between the two. In a tour book from the era, Rush were declared, with this suite, to have “boldly go[ne] where no band has gone before.” Peart references Don Quixote, Nietzsche, and Jane Austen, and Geddy Lee weaves whooshy synthesizer textures amongst the salvos of odd-metre rock.
1980: Natural Science: On the album Permanent Waves, Rush returned to shorter songs, influenced by artists such as Elvis Costello and The Police; nevertheless, the last piece is this three-part, nine-minute suite. Originally Peart had wanted to condense the 2530-line medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight into a song; he scrapped the idea, but the band recast some of the material in this tale of how life inside a tide pool compares to hyperspace. The music veers from acoustic balladry to special effects-laden weirdness, and in the end, the lyrics echo the album opener, Spirit of Radio, with a call to artistic arms: “Art as expression / Not as market campaigns / Will still capture our imaginations.”
2012: Clockwork Angels: Rush’s first full-length concept album is a dense, churning work whose individual songs are relatively short but cohere into a 66-minute whole. The narrative, set in a steampunk alternate world, reflects Peart’s ongoing preoccupations with disillusionment, state control vs. individual freedom, and Don Quixote (the ballad Halo Effect brings to mind Quixote’s fascination with his ideal, Dulcinea). But overall, it’s more melodic than its predecessors, and it ends with the surprisingly reflective piece called The Garden. Here, the album’s hero hoes his own row, leaving others to fight their battles, and acknowledges, in a nod to David Foster Wallace’s epic novel, that “time is still the infinite jest.” According to Peart, “Only at my age can such wisdom be attained.”
By Mike Doherty - Monday, August 13, 2012 at 11:10 AM - 0 Comments
Rush’s drummer and lyricist talks to Mike Doherty
Rush’s 20th studio release, Clockwork Angels, hit No. 1 in Canada in June—not bad for a steampunk, progressive rock concept album. Its story, about a young man who flees a land designed to function in perfect mechanical order, reflects the philosophy of drummer and lyricist Neil Peart. Now living in Santa Monica with his wife and daughter, the native of St. Catharines, Ont., is preparing with his long-time bandmates, bassist-singer Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson for a concert tour that starts next month. At a Toronto rehearsal studio, he granted a rare interview about musical integrity, freedom and his fight to escape precision.
Q: Thirty-eight years ago you joined Rush, and the next day you went shopping for instruments for your first tour. What are your memories of that time?
A: I remember all of us riding in the truck down to Long & McQuade [a music store in Toronto]. What a young musician’s dream, to say, “Look at those chrome drums. Look at that 22-inch ride cymbal. I’ll have those.” It was one of those unparalleled exciting days of your life.
By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at 10:22 AM - 5 Comments
Neil Young was the designated patriarch at this year’s Juno love-in between elders and upstarts
It’s a sub-zero Sunday evening in Toronto. Under an unheated canopy, a gang of fledgling rock stars wait their turn on the red carpet, shivering in T-shirts and black leather. They’re Down With Webster, a Toronto rock-rap band of twentysomething sensations whose album, Time To Win, has scored a string of platinum hits. The occasion is the 40th anniversary of the Juno Awards at the Air Canada Centre. The band will get to kick off the show, which is a big deal for them. Earlier in their dressing room, these amiable pop idols had been finessing last-minute details, planning a run from the stage into the crowd and voting down a plea from the drummer to shoot video during the performance for the band’s Facebook page. Then, after correcting their hair, rummaging about for their sunglasses, and freshening their breath with gum from a bowl on the buffet table, they head outside, so they can re-enter via the red carpet.
Huddled in the cold beside the Barenaked Ladies, the boys wait for their cue, as Drake, the show’s emcee, is whisked through with his entourage. “Twenty-two years for this s–t!” yells Ed Robertson of the Ladies. “My Junos are getting cold!” He’s joking. But there is something so forlornly Canadian about frozen rock stars queuing up for their turn on a red carpet. When Down With Webster finally gets the nod, pandemonium erupts. Throngs of young teenage girls, pressed against the barricades with outstretched arms, scream their names at an ear-splitting pitch: the sound of Beatlemania, or Biebermania, on a smaller scale.
Later, a grizzled old dude in a long black coat, black hat and red scarf enters to a decidedly less hysterical response. Many of the kids don’t even recognize Neil Young.
By Jacob Richler - Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
At Rush in Calgary, thanks to $145-a-barrel oil, chef Justin Leboe got everything he wanted
Even for the restaurant business, notoriously susceptible to daft trends, the period of the open kitchen struck me as exceptionally ridiculous. I mean, do customers really not know what cooking looks like? Don’t they have kitchens of their own at home—and didn’t they go out to get away from them? But while I am happy that this trend is dead, I can still make a case for one exception—or at least say that it is a shame that the finest design feature of a restaurant called Rush, in Calgary, is one that you are unlikely to ever see: la cuisine.
This one is a showpiece. Two thousand shiny square feet, all told, centred by a bespoke $100,000 cooking suite from Montague, of California, an island at the centre of the action—one side designated for cooking fish and the other for meat. There is a refrigerator with four ice-filled shelves conceived to keep fish usably fresh for an extra week. The set-up includes four separate immersion circulator baths for sous-vide cuisine—and two fiercely hot planchas (one chrome, one cast iron) for applying the ideal finishing sear to the meat and fish slow-cooked in those plastic bags. There are state-of-the-art proofers and steamers, extractor hoods equipped with five successive sets of filters and UV lights—and to cap things off, a granite counter at the pass is precisely 42 inches high so that the chefs posted there do not have to bend over while saucing and garnishing their plates.
“For me this kitchen represents the best of [the kitchens at] the French Laundry, Daniel and the Inn at Little Washington,” Rush executive chef Justin Leboe tells me on the tour, speaking of three great American restaurants at which he has put in time.
Leboe is a Vancouverite and his kitchen career started there, rather predictably in the employ of Umberto Menghi, for whom he washed dishes. The CV has been on an upward trend since, and has included stints at Accolade, in Toronto, as well as at Escabèche in Niagara-on-the-Lake, at Patrick O’Connell’s aforementioned Inn, as well as a handful of well-considered stages at Daniel, Jean-Georges and the French Laundry. He was executive chef at Waterloo House in Bermuda when the call came from Calgary. “There I was on the beach, age 34, a faxed legal document in my hands,” Leboe recalls.
The most compelling part was the plans for the restaurant: the blueprints were incomplete—the kitchen was a blank page. And so, apparently, was the cheque waiting to pay for it. Leboe arrived in Calgary in September 2007 to find the city overrun with construction cranes. In the summer of 2008, a couple of months before Rush opened, oil hit US$145. “You couldn’t wipe the smile off people’s faces here,” Leboe recalls.
Rush opened in September; by November, oil was under US$50 a barrel, and while customers were not all staying home, they were definitely in the mood for more modest dining. But good restaurants have weathered far worse (for example I never did make it to the opening party for Yannick Bigourdan and David Lee’s Splendido, on Sept. 11, 2001). And a recent visit to Rush found them doing respectably—half full on a Tuesday night.
My meal began with an amusing take on a breakfast of corn flakes, with tiny potato crisps standing in for the cereal and a small pitcher of vichyssoise doubling for the milk. Highlights of what followed included a salad of barely cooked lobster with grapefruit and some impressively tender pork, cooked en confit, shredded, and pressed back against its crispy skin. An agreeable meal that did beg the question: precisely how much did the kitchen have to do with it? Did it really help the chef cook better or faster?
“A bit of both,” Leboe had asserted earlier in his fastidiously organized kitchen.
One might also assert that it will have to be a lot of both to earn back the three-quarter-of-a-million-dollar investment in the kitchen. And I can add that I have enjoyed many superior meals assembled in kitchens equipped at a small fraction of that cost. But then, if someone cold-called me to offer a two-hundred-grand upgrade for my home kitchen including an immersion circulator, a steam oven, Rorgue range, counter-flush deep fryer, and a wood-burning brick oven for the parking spot outside, I would answer a resounding yes, too. So hats off to Leboe’s good fortune—and take note that if you drop by Rush, ask for a tour. jacob richler
SPECIAL EVENT: Jacob Richler and Scott Feschuk will host a chef’s tasting menu at Rush on June 7.
To attend, go to www.macleans.ca/taste
By Colby Cosh - Friday, April 30, 2010 at 5:18 PM - 14 Comments
It’s disorienting for a Rush fan—someone who was patronizing and defending them when it wasn’t just not cool, but the opposite of cool—to watch the bien-pensants struggle to cram them into the canon in the year 2010. Especially since it’s been twenty years since their finest work, and arguably more like thirty. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 1:03 PM - 9 Comments
Before reality was a TV show, it was a documentary. Documentary! Such a quaint, unsexy word. Yet somehow it has held up, long after the documentary form has morphed into myriad sub-genres—cross-dressing as drama, flirting with fiction, masquerading as mockumentary, and mimicking everything from the suspense thriller to the screwball comedy. Today is the opening day of Toronto’s Hot Docs (April 29-May 9), the largest documentary festival on the continent. I’ve been steadily previewing films on the program, and now feel officially pregnant with Too Much Information. So far, I haven’t seen anything as sensational as last year’s Oscar-winning investigative doc, The Cove, or as magical as the previous year’s Man on Wire. Still, I’ve seen some terrific films. With 170 films from 41 countries, I’ve got a lot more ground to cover. But here’s my list so far of must-see titles, which I hope to expand as the festival progresses. It begins with three outstanding political documentaries:
• Bhutto is a riveting portrait of Pakistan’s assassinated ex-prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. After screening it, I got sucked into the Shakespearean vortex of the Bhutto dynasty and devoured three Bhutto books, including the incendiary new memoir by her estranged niece. Only then did this casual observer realize that Benazir may have been a less heroic martyr than this documentary suggests. But the film remains a gripping account, and a model of how to make history come graphically alive onscreen. To read my story on the documentary, and the dynasty, click here: Blood and Bhutto.
• The Oath is the another tale of a Muslim who played a controversial role in the heartland of Islamic terrorism, though he inhabits a world radically different world from Bhutto’s quasi-royal family. The Oath is a revealing and oddly tender portrait of Abu Jandal, a former bodyguard to Osama bin Laden who now scrapes together a meagre living as a taxicab driver in Yemen and, as a single father, struggles to raise his boy as a virtuous Muslim. The film goes a long way to debunking media stereotypes of jihad, by showing there’s room for nuance and humanity, even in the realm of extremist politics. Jandal, who was seduced by al-Qaeda’s politics, never agreed with its strategy of murdering civilians, and had no hand in the 9/11 bombings. In fact, he became the first and most productive witness in naming the culprits behind the attack. Complicating the story is his deep sense of guilt. Salim Hamdan, a former driver for bin Laden whom Jandal recruited, spent years languishing in a Guantanamo cell, although he was eventually proven innocent.
By Tom Henheffer - Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 10:57 PM - 0 Comments
“Suck” director Rob Stefaniuk and Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson on their rock n roll vampire movie
Suck is a raunchy rock ‘n roll comedy about a bunch of quickly aging losers terrified of being forced into a life of sweater vests and day jobs. They’re in a laughably unsuccessful band, but things begin to change after their bass player returns from a one-night stand pale, afraid of light and thirsty for blood. One by one they each sell their souls for a one-way ticket to stardom. The cast includes a host of rock legends—Alice Cooper, Henry Rollins, Iggy Pop, Moby—and renowned actor Maclcolm McDowell. Rob Stefaniuk writes, directs and stars as Joey, the band’s dopey leader, who lets the world fall apart around him in order to keep living his rock dream. At this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Maclean’s talked to Stefaniuk and Rush’s Alex Lifeson, who has a comedic turn as an irritable border guard. Continue…