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Why the Rush? 

Carsten Knox unpacks Rush’s long-lasting appeal.

click to enlarge Rush to relax this weekend.
  • Rush to relax this weekend.

A lot has happened since November 2, 1987. That was the last time Canadian rock legends Rush played Halifax. The show was at the Metro Centre, with Chalk Circle opening. Rush has released eight studio albums since then. It went from the band with the screechy singer who played "Tom Sawyer," the weird one your denim-wearing older brother liked, to a band that everyone says they secretly loved for years. Rush played on The Colbert Report, cameoed in a Paul Rudd comedy and in April was inaugurated into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by Dave Grohl. How did Rush–Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart–enter this pantheon of coolness? To figure it out, we looked back to 1987. Back before the nerds took over.

Nerd nation

Back then it was Anthony Michael Hall, star of The Breakfast Club, who flew the nerd culture flag proudly. No one would've ever have called him a sex symbol, not while Don Johnson and Mel Gibson were stars. Today's version, Michael Cera, has it much better. Cera is the cool dude at the corner of Nerd Street and Hipster Avenue. Just like Seth Rogen. And Ellen Page. What do these stars have in common with Rush? They're Canadian.

A universe of imagination

It was kind of embarrassing to admit you read comic books in 1987. Sure, people enjoyed fantasy movies like Star Wars and Back To The Future, but that stuff was mostly for kids. Not any more: The biggest movie of 2012 was The Avengers, a superhero team-up extravaganza. Game of Thrones, a sword and sorcery TV series, is the second most-popular show in the history of HBO–only The Sopranos drew larger audiences per episode. Vampires, zombies and hobbits are everywhere. Is it any surprise that a band who sang about evil wizards ("The Necromancer"), androids on the run ("The Body Electric") and a young man's adventures in a steampunk world (the concept behind the new Clockwork Angels) is now embraced as a conquering hero?

Rock of ages

Back in 1987, Rush was well-established in the headbanger pantheon with Van Halen, Aerosmith and KISS, as well as proggier acts like Yes and Genesis. But it's aged better than all those guys. First off, they've stayed together in their original lineup. Aside from maybe KISS, Rush has toured more regularly, and recorded more, than the others. Unlike Van Halen and Aerosmith, it was never a good-time party band. They didn't write songs about getting girls or play off sex appeal to sell records. Now that all these musicians are in their 60s, playing songs like "The Spirit of Radio" still work. Being hot for teacher? Less so.

A little humour goes a long way

Rush–once the most po-faced band around–is now endearingly goofy. It has front-loading washing machines as stage dressing. It makes silly videos. Their guitarist was kidnapped by Trailer Park Boys. Geddy, Alex and Neil are totally OK with making fun of themselves. It makes them having written songs about black holes ("Cygnus-X1") kind of adorable. But really, Rush hasn't changed much. It's still a power trio making really earnest music with peculiar time signatures and a killer live show every time. But we've changed. We've found our way to Rush. Carsten Knox

Friday, July 12, 7:30pm (sold out), Sunday, July 14, 7pm, $81.50-$136.50
Halifax Metro Centre, 1800 Argyle Street

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