Rush Shares Teary Farewell with String Musicians
Neil in his latest blog post says the vibe after the band’s last Clockwork Angels show, in Kansas City August 4, was quite a bit different than on previous tours because for the band members and crew, the last show never feels like a farewell; there’s always the expectation they’ll get together again when the next tour starts. But for the seven string musicians who’ve been Rush’s touring companions for the last 18 months it really was goodbye.
“The ten musicians on that stage knew that, no matter what, there would never be another performance like that,” Neil says in his post, called “It’s Not Over When It’s Over.” “Some of them [the string musicians] told us this tour had been the greatest musical experience of their lives, and the three of us could only agree. For all of us, after long careers, that was saying something.”
To commemorate the adventure of playing together, the string musicians recorded their own version of “Closer to the Heart” and presented Alex, Geddy, and Neil each with their own CD of it. Neil describes the recording as “an intricate string arrangement of our song by cellist Jacob [Szekely, who has just put out a CD]. The disc was packaged with style and detail, accompanied by a signed copy of the score, and, of course, an eight-by-ten glossy. They had also collaborated on a framed ‘award’ for each of us, to commemorate the selling of ‘three copies’—a humorous echo of the Canadian gold records for Clockwork Angels we had given to the stringers at an earlier show. Jonny [Jonathan Dinklage] gave a little speech that was heartfelt and funny.”
The CD and festivities capped off a long tour, one that included a lot of difficult moments, including during the Red Deer benefit concert, which the band played just a few weeks earlier, on July 24.
Rush held the Red Deer concert as a way to raise relief funds for flood ravaged parts of Canada and it turned out to be a smashing success, with more than $500,000 raised, much of that going to Calgary, where Rush had to cancel its show because of water damage to the arena. But the Red Deer show brought its own near-disaster, because the band had to play the first half without its crucial stage monitors.
“Just before showtime we were informed that the monitor board was down,” Neil says. “Talk about a juggling act! . . . each of our pairs of in-ear monitors receives a unique mix of ‘information.’ For myself, I have an ever-changing blend that always includes drums and vocals, and usually bass and guitar, but sometimes eliminates those so I can concentrate on a sequence of keyboard patterns or vocal effects that I need to play in sync with—and set up the tempo for in advance, perhaps the biggest challenge of all.”
As it happens, audio technicians were able to get the monitors fixed by the intermission, so the band had them working for the second half of the show. “As I said to the Guys at Work during intermission, ‘My poor brain! I think we got through it okay—but I wouldn’t want to hear a recording of it!’”
Actually, if you want to hear a recording of it, Rush in the video below is playing “Territories” during the first half of their show that night.
In much of the rest of his post, Neil talks about his adventures motorcycling from show to show for this last part of the tour, much of it in the Mountain West part of the United States—Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. It’s great motorcycling country, with wide open expanses and scenic mountain ranges, but unfortunately a big swath of Washington was marred by what came to be called the Colockum Tarps fire.
“Amid the devastation, a couple of houses had been saved—oases of green lawns around them. One detachment was guarding a roadblock to stop all traffic from entering the area—the very region through which we had just blithely ridden.”
Neil and his road companions put in several big-mileage days, racing from one national park to another, at one point riding 1,000 miles in just two days. And for the second time this tour, he had to ride part of the way with a nail-damaged tire. The problem got so bad that he had to switch motorcycles with Chris Stankee, his riding companion from Sabian, the cymbal company, so he could go on ahead and get to that day’s show.
“Chris, ‘a good man in a storm,’ understood what had to happen,” Neil says. “While I shifted my belongings to Geezer VI [his back-up motorcycle], he was on the phone to Michael [Mosbach, his other riding companion and security chief], who was already waiting for us at the BMW dealer in Salt Lake City. They would send out a truck and trailer to pick up Geezer VII—and Chris. I gave him a hug and said, ‘I’m sorry.’ He said, ‘Hey—we know about “nails in the road.”’”
It sounds like there were plenty of nails in the road during Rush’s Clockwork Angels tour, but like the protagonist of Clockwork Angels, Owen Hardy, the nails were dealt with as needed and the tour, in the end, was a success.—Rob Freedman, Rush Vault