When Rush wrapped their R40 tour last summer, the group issued a press release stating that the trek would "most likely be their last major tour of this magnitude." Drummer Neil Peart had been ambivalent about hitting the road for a long trek as early as January 2015, saying he felt upset about leaving his then-5-year-old daughter at home. "Should I be excited about leaving my family?" he posited at the time. "No, and no one should."
Now, guitarist Alex Lifeson confirms to Rolling Stone that Peart won't be entertaining the idea of another lengthy run in the future, even though R40 went well.
"We had such a great time on the tour," Lifeson tells Rolling Stone. "And it was really nice to go through all the material in reverse chronology, and I think our fans really enjoyed it. I think that no matter how long it would have been, it would have been too short. Neil was prepared to commit to 30 dates and he told us that right from the very beginning. He didn't even want to do the tour, to be honest with you. It's been increasingly difficult for him, but he committed to the tour and we got through it. As far as he was concerned, that was the end of touring."
In addition to wanting to stay home with his family more, Peart struggled with the physicality of touring on R40. "His shoulders were hurting, his arms were hurting, his elbows, his feet, everything," Lifeson says. "He didn't want to play anything less than 100 percent. He was finding it increasingly difficult to hit that mark on this last tour. So, all those things combined, I get it. I'm disappointed and I think Geddy [Lee] is very disappointed and we'd love to continue this tour a little bit longer, but we're off now."
The trio has not discussed the state of the band beyond that tour. They could still play one-off shows or short runs in the future and could still record music. It's a prospect Lifeson has yet to discuss with his bandmates.
At present, Lee has been traveling a lot and is in the "Falkland Islands or something, penguin watching," the guitarist says with a laugh. "I know he's open to sitting down and doing some writing," he continues. "I've been writing since the summer anyway because that's just what I like to do. I have a small studio in town and I have my own setup at my place. So I like to keep my fingers in it and keep busy, playing guitar. I know I can give Ged a push and we do love working together. We only live five minutes from each other. And I've gone over and had a coffee in the past, and we end up going downstairs into his room and start making some noise."
The guitarist has also been speaking with Peart occasionally since the final tour date, and he reports that the drummer is "having a wonderful time" and "very happy."
Lifeson is optimistic about the future. "You never know," he says. "Maybe next fall or something like that, we'll plan something. We took a year off before the last tour and we didn't discuss anything about the band or work, and everybody had a great time, and we came back from that." He laughs. "We're getting older and it's getting tougher, but I don't know. We'll see."
Is there a scenario where Lifeson and Lee would tour together without Peart? Lifeson's reply is perfectly sarcastic: "Well, we have been saying that every 40 years, we fire our drummer and get a new one," he says with a big laugh.