It’s always a bit of a negotiation. Most of the guys have favorites that they like to play but you know it’s a bit of a trade off. Obviously I am most resistant to playing the keyboard-heavy songs because that traps me behind them but for some reason on this tour we leaned quite heavily towards that period. There are a lot of songs on the tour from the Power Windows era. Songs like “Grand Design” for example, which I think is really kind of a highlight on this tour strictly because it’s a chance to play it again from a modern technology point of view. The last time we played some of those songs technology hadn’t evolved to the point it has now and it’s far easier to reproduce them accurately now as a result. Back then you had to keep switching instruments and you didn’t have synthesizers that would stay in tune for a whole song and it was a much hairier job so it’s kind of fun to revisit some of them now.
Rush is known for its different musical, from the hard rock of the early records through the progressive concept albums and then the radio hits of the 1980s. What’s your favorite Rush era?
Oh you know, it really changes. For me it’s all about the songwriting and what I could bring that was new and what I could get out of it that I feel was improved from the past. When we started we were a three piece band and it was all hard rock all the time and we could make our hard rock as complicated as we wanted to and that was all dependent on our proficiency as players. And then when the synthesizer came along it became a way of expanding our ability to write songs in a different way so that whole synth / experimental period was really challenging and quite interesting from a songwriters’ perspective. I gained a lot of musical knowledge during that that period as opposed to just being a bass player in a hard rock band. I learned how to be a composer and also the three of us learned how to produce music in a different way. It’s challenging to have rock and guitars and busy rhythm sections and all these keyboard sounds without stepping on each other’s toes and it’s not always successful but it’s always interesting. And I think what was really interesting about the post-synthesizer period was the fact that we had garnered a lot of musicality through that era and now we were trying to reapply it in a more basic three piece kind of setup. It’s interesting to come back to a place you were but you’re coming back to it with way more tools than you had when you first started. In many ways it’s harder to write a three or four minute song for me that still satisfies the thing you can satisfy in twenty minutes, if you know what I mean, because in a big long piece it’s all about being complex, right? But to try to make a song complex and have a lot of different shades, a lot of, you know, light and dark and different moves in a much shorter period of time, is difficult, and still make it feel like a song. We’ve been juggling with that idea for almost forty years now.How has your approach to stage shows evolved over the years?
When we first started touring we had twenty six minutes to play. Get on, do what you can, get off. We were fairly new to the whole world of touring so we tried to keep it as simple as possible and it was all about our chops really. But as we developed our ideas got a bit more kind of cinematic and when we got into the sort of more proggy-concept records it became clear that it would be good to enhance our songs with some sort of visuals. The idea of stage sets didn’t really appeal to us so we relied more on the idea of video projections. Right around 2112, in 1976, we started introducing bits of rear screen projections and that became the beginning of a few decades-long love affair with rear screen projection and experiments with animation and that seemed to be our thing. It was a way we could express these ideas visually and yet still be on stage doing our thing as a rock band. It’s only in the last ten years where we’ve taken it to its natural extreme and added props and stage sets and that was just a desire to breakaway from the same look every time we go out and I think it’s fun for fans when they walk into the arena on the night you’re about to play and even before you’ve hit the stage they know the show is different, the set is different and it’s certainly fun for us to play in a new environment every time.