Saturday, September 12, 2015

Stick Figure, Batterie Powered

I've just received word of another death in the family and I am fairly well bummed right at this moment, but I wanted to make sure I got this up as today is the 63rd birthday of one of the most revered musicians on Earth, of any kind.
The smiling chap is widely considered for the lion's share of our lifetimes to be one of (if not the most) greatest drummers on this planet. He is one of the driving forces of one of the world's most beloved bands of the last 40 years, and he shows no signs of his skills diminishing. I try my best to steer clear of posting about too many rock stars on here, but this is a player whose reach and impact extend well far beyond just Rock, and whose intricate, often seemingly-impossible style will be scrutinized by percussionists and musos of all stripes, players and listeners alike, for thousands of years after we all leave here.
There are really no adequate words with which to describe Neil Peart, other than to say that even if he was just the lyricist for Rush, he'd have made ten lifetimes of sincere impact on the music of the last four decades. That he is additionally the percussive engine of that band, and has supplied the world of drums with food for thought that simply cannot be quantified, catapults him into the realm of the truly treasured musical figures of our times. Wholly none of what I just said is at all an exaggeration... in fact, it's an understatement.
I mean, think about it. This guy isn't just the world's best drummer in a lot of ways, or merely the most influential, emulated bloke on the block. He's the most widely imitated air-drummer too. If you had a dollar right now for everybody that has ever air-drummed to the opening of The Spirit of Radio, you could buy the Internet right now. Just roll up to Zuckerberg and pay cash for Facebook.
He's all, "Moi?!?" in the picture but do not be fooled by the shy, reserved, all-business modesty. This is one of the most devastating beasts on any instrument you will ever hear in your life. The Rolling Stone idiots don't usually ever put Prog bands in the Hall of Fame -- the only other one in there is Genesis, and they are there just as much (more, really) for their AOR-friendly 1980s run of hits than they are for the beginning of their tenure with Peter Gabriel prancing about out front with a flower on his head or pretending to be a lawnmower -- but even Jann Wenner and his puerile posturing had to kick down to these cats. Neil Peart here is one of the big reasons why that is.
How many people have seen Rush live since 1974 when they hit? This total surely rests somewhere in the million upon millions. Heck, chicks even come now. That's right, chicks dig Rush now. Say those words slowly. Chicks. Dig. Rush. When you are in a Progressive Rock band and the ladies are coming along to the gig, you know it wasn't always this way for the Proggers among us and that you are making music with soul as well as the requisite unassailable artistic integrity and Shiva-armed technical facility the boys often value. I first saw them in 1983 and twice, 20 years apart, since. The years have not curtailed their astonishing skills as players and songwriters in the slightest.
Did I mention he writes all the words? All those Rush tunes everyone adores like The Trees and Red Barchetta and Tom Sawyer and 2112 and on and on to the break of the Newfoundland dawn? He penned them all, presumably in his down time when he wasn't establishing the entire basis of modern Rock drumming technique. Some people are so talented you almost want them to have to donate some of it to charity, so those of us with none can get a taste. I remember when I was learning to play I would try to play to Subdivisions and just give up, so far out of my (admittedly serf-level) pay grade was this man's unprecedented approach.
So what to share to commemorate the day and a drummer that often sounds like ten men on ten different kits, all in perfect precision synch? I settled on one of the best-sounding Rush boots, remastered meticulously by two of the true heavyweights of such activities, and which has been released a few times over the years as an unauthorized CD. In the interest of putting the bootsellers outta business and also because it's a complete monster of a performance -- containing an absolutely wicked version of the convoluted-yet-crunchy La Villa Strangiato as the finale, preceded as it is by a five-minute solo from Neil that borders on the consciousness-altering -- with the lads approaching their most fertile and powerhouse period at the onset of the Eighties.
Kiel Auditorium
St. Louis, MO
01 2112 Overture
02 The Temples of Syrinx
03 Discovery
04 Presentation
05 Soliloquy
06 Grand Finale
07 Bytor and the Snow Dog
08 Xanadu
09 The Spirit of Radio
10 Natural Science
11 Beneath, Between, Behind
12 Working Man
13 Finding My Way intro
14 Anthem
15 Bastille Day
16 In the Mood
17 Drum Solo
18 La Villa Strangiato

Total time: 1:13:18

Geddy Lee - bass, keyboards, vocals
Alex Lifeson - guitars
Neil Peart - drums

pre-FM LPs, remastered by thir13en and Tom Phillips
This is a monumental show and the recording is 101% indistinguishable from an official live set like All the World's a Stage or Exit...Stage Left, so yack it down and blast it up to accentuate your Saturday sonic seasonings. And of course we'd be in danger of Canada cutting diplomatic ties with us if we failed to wish Neil Peart -- born this day in 1952 and turning the worlds of music in general and percussion in particular on their collectively astonished ear since 1974 -- the very most awesome of 63rd birthdays. Long may he drum!--J.