Could There Be Life for Rush Without Neil Peart?

We outline three ways in which the music of Rush could continue to exist on the concert circuit now that their legendary drummer is retired

Geddy Lee recently spoke to Rolling Stone’s Ryan Reed about the new reissue of Rush’s 1978 LP Hemispheres, and at the end he casually mentioned that the band may find a way to continue on after Neil Peart’s retirement. “I would say there’s no chance of seeing Rush on tour again as Alex, Geddy, Neil,” he said. “But would you see one of us or two of us or three of us? That’s possible.”

For full context, Rush have been completely inactive ever since their R40 Live Tour wrapped up three years ago. Peart says that playing concerts at his age causes too much painful wear and tear on his body and he’d rather be at home with his wife and young daughter. For all practical purposes, he is now retired. That puts Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson in a difficult situation. They are eager to continue playing music on the road, but they haven’t performed without Peart since he joined the band in 1974. They’d previously said that they wouldn’t do anything without Peart, but they are clearly softening on that position. Here are three ways they could move forward.

Carry On as Rush With a New Drummer
The idea of Rush without Neil Peart may seem sacrilegious to many fans, but it does have precedent. For first six years of the band’s existence, Alex and Geddy’s teenage buddy John Rutsey was behind the kit. He plays on their self-titled debut LP, which contains their breakthrough hit “Working Man.” By the time Peart joined, they already had somewhat of a national profile. That said, Peart was an infinitely better drummer than Rutsey and with his help they became the Rush everyone knows today. Fans would be bitterly disappointed to see a Peart-free Rush, but if the other option is no Rush at all and Peart gives the tour his blessing, they’d sell a ton of tickets. The value of that name is enormous. If Journey can play stadiums without Steve Perry, Rush can certainly carry on without Peart.

Change the Name
Lee and Lifeson are probably very reluctant to go out as “Rush” without Peart, but something like “Geddy Lee & Alex Lifeson Present The Music of Rush” might be amenable to them. They could bring in a new drummer and maybe even a percussionist and keyboardist so it doesn’t seem like some sad approximation of the old band. This might not be a strong enough package to headline arenas, but they’d make a killing playing large theaters, especially if they make clear they’d be playing nothing but Rush music. Finding the right drummer would be crucial under either of these first two scenarios. Dave Grohl recently said he wouldn’t take the gig, but Pearl Jam / former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron did a great job on Lee’s 2000 solo LP My Favourite Headache. He might be a good candidate. (Judging by his performance at Rush’s 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, the Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins also seems up to the job.) And if they also brought on a percussionist, the enormous weight of replacing Peart wouldn’t fall on the shoulders of a single person. Something like this seems like the most obvious solution.

Geddy Goes Solo
Lee left open many scenarios during his brief remarks about the band’s future, saying that fans might see “one or two or three of us.” First of all, there’s already a name for all three of them playing together. They call that Rush and that doesn’t seem to be on the table. If there’s two of them, it’s going to be Lee, Lifeson and at least one other musician. But Lifeson has been open about his struggles with arthritis and how it could impact his ability to play guitar going forward. Maybe Peart isn’t the only one that will be kept home by a medical ailment. Lee has never done any sort of a solo tour, but the same was true for Brian Wilson until the Beach Boys fell apart in the 1990s. And he learned that people were quite willing to see him in concert as long as he sang the songs they loved. The same could be true for Lee, who could easily headline theaters on his own. The Rush army would come flocking to see him. It could be a the beginning of a whole new chapter in the Rush saga. None of these scenarios are ideal, but the Rush story shouldn’t end just because Neil Peart doesn’t want to tour anymore. And from what Lee is saying these days, it seems like he’s finally come around to this idea. We’ll see where it goes from here.