aNewDomain — Neil Peart, of the legendary progressive metal band Rush, a man widely regarded as the greatest rock drummer and greatest (or absolute worst) lyricist ever, is at it again. That is, he’s once again causing Rush fans mental anguish because of his own anguish about the possibility of going on tour.
Peart, who over the course of more than 40 years has become a celebrated prose writer and a rock percussion god, has recently dampened grand anticipations that his band will embark on a special tour sometime this year. Rush have been together without any official breakups or any personnel changes since the Summer of 1974, and hoped to commemorate the landmark longevity, even though the band doesn’t have a new album and has not announced any plans to record one in the studio since releasing 2013’s Clockwork Angels.
The band’s other two members — guitar player Alex Lifeson and singer, bass player and keys-man Geddy Lee — have recently made statements to the music press about choosing the songs to include in the shows’ three-hour set.
But Neil has said to journalists even more recently:
It’s a true dilemma – there’s no right answer. People say to me, ‘Are you still excited when you go on tour?’ Should I be excited about leaving my family? No, and no one should. It’s as simple as that: if you put aside the fantasy of it, it is what it is and has to be done. And that’s fine and I pour my entire energy and enthusiasm into it, but of course, I’m of two minds about the whole idea.”
Although he turned 62 years old in September of 2014, Neil Peart is now the father of a five-year-old daughter named Olivia. Peart married Olivia’s mother, American photographer Carrie Nuttall, in the year 2000.
Regarding his very young daughter, Peart continues:
I’ve been doing this for 40 years – I know how to compartmentalize, and I can stand missing [Olivia], but I can’t stand her missing me and it’s painful and impossible to understand for her. How can a small child process that? And there’s the guilt that comes with that …”
Rush began doing three-hour “An Evening with Rush” shows in 1996. Since that time the band has not brought along any other bands to open for its shows. Neil further laments about this aspect of modern-day touring:
Someone sent me a picture of us with [riotous hard rock band] UFO the other day and we got very tight with them when they opened for us – musically and personally. It was a real treat. It was a good decision we needed to make to go on tour without an opening act but I miss that part of it – I miss the socializing.”
Closer to Heart of the Matter
Younger or newer Rush fans who are getting the blues over Peart’s pronouncements can take heart. Why? Because Neil Peart has made grouchy statements about going on tour ever since 1975!
After he toured with Rush in 1974, Neil came to the conclusion that life on the road mostly sucks. He has always loved playing live and pleasing Rush fans with awesome performances, but the other aspects of being on tour leave him cold — especially nowadays with no other rock musicians to get to know.
Typically, Neil prefers to do fewer shows and go to fewer cities than his band mates before a new album tour. Furthermore, this is not the first time that the drumming master has been the father of a very young daughter at home.
Peart infamously lost his first child, daughter Selena (who was 19 at the time of her unexpected death in a mysterious single car accident). Then, less than a year after that, he lost his first wife and teenage sweetheart Jackie — all in the late 1990s. While they were alive Neil spent much time on the road, far away from home — and in the early years Rush would play over 200 concerts a year (albeit playing for only 90 minutes at a time).
Neil is a multimillionaire who is able to give his wife and child, not to mention himself, a wonderful life through touring as a musician. He has always deferred to his two band mates when “outvoted” on touring decisions, but has never denied how much he loves actually performing live.
Through the decades, Neil figured out ways to keep sane while on the road. Up until the mid-1980s he read books obsessively in his hotel rooms. In the mid-1980s he decided to buy a bicycle and began touring the cities that Rush visited. After the tragic deaths of Jackie and Selena, when he finally went back to his “gainful employment” and Rush began touring again in 2002, Peart devised his present day practice of riding his motorcycle to Rush shows– averaging 500 miles a day during a Rush tour. (The other two guys at work travel by private airplane these days.)
While it’s incontrovertibly true that Rush won’t tour without Neil Peart, those who worry that the band has done its final tour or recorded its last album because of what Peart says in an interview can comfort themselves, for now, in the knowledge that he is merely being consistent. He’s been pretty consistent for more than 40 years now.