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Thanks to epic songs, fantastical lyrics and extravagant drum solos, the great nerd band of the Seventies rocks on through the 21st century

Chris Norris Aug 09, 2008
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On a chilly April night, Rush convene for one last crucial task before the tour: dinner. The site is the Starfish Oyster Bed and Grill, a Toronto restaurant with gold lighting, dark wood, lavishly framed food-porn of fleshy oysters. “Galways, Clarenbridges,” Lifeson tells the waiter. “Whatever you have of the Kumos, whatever you have of the Olympias. What else sits great?”

“The Beausoleils are really nice,” says the waiter.

“OK, so let’s get five dozen of those.”

I notice that a wineglass has mysteriously appeared before me, filled an oenophilic quarter full. “It’s a white burgundy,” says wine collector Lee, sailing over my palate with a single phrase. “It’s a 2000 Dauvissat Chablis. The 2000s are doing quite well. This one is not oaked.”

“Don’t miss a word,” says Peart, leaning into my recorder, “of this fascinating commentary.”

Self-effacing poise may be rare to arena rockers, but like Green Party candidates and Nascar heroes, the members of Rush have adjusted to both idolatry and disregard. Just prior to tonight’s dinner, they were once again snubbed by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which instead inducted no greater rock luminaries than the Dave Clark Five. But Rush seem convincingly unfazed.

“I just keep saying we’re too young to be in there,” says Lee.

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“Yeah,” says Peart. “Unlike all those other people, we’re still working.”

“I think it really upsets our fans,” allows Lifeson. “It’s a big issue for them.”

It’s true that Rush doesn’t mean today what it did in ’76 or even ’96. It may mean more. Back when Peart was lost in America, Lee remembers knowing that his friend’s path back would be through music. “Because that’s who he was,” Lee says. “The quickest way to health is to be who you are and do that thing that you love to do.” And if today’s Rush stands for anything besides dazzling chops and heady abstractions, it may be that simple, oddly courageous conviction: doing what you love ”“ whether it gets you called a nerd, spurned by your label or turned into an icon.

After an oyster course, Lee opens a third bottle: a nice Chateauneuf du Pape. He uncorks it, pours four glasses, and we raise them together.

“Happy times,” says Lee.

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