The original line-up formed in the neighbourhood of Willowdale in Toronto, Ontario, by guitarist Alex Lifeson, bassist and front man Jeff Jones, and drummer John Rutsey. Within a couple of weeks of forming, and before their second performance, bassist and lead vocalist Jones left the band and was replaced by Geddy Lee, a schoolmate of Lifeson's. After several line-up reformations, Rush's official incarnation formed in May 1971 consisting of Lee, Lifeson, and Rutsey. The name "Rush" was suggested by John Rutsey's brother, Bill. The band was managed by local Toronto resident Ray Danniels, a frequent attendee of Rush's early shows.
After gaining stability in the line-up and honing their skills on the local bar and high school dance circuit, the band members released their first single "Not Fade Away", a cover of the Buddy Holly song, in 1973. Side B contained an original composition, "You Can't Fight It", credited to Lee and Rutsey. The single generated little reaction (#99 on the RPM charts) and, because of record company indifference, the band formed their own independent record label, Moon Records.
With the aid of Danniels and the newly enlisted engineer Terry Brown, the band released its self-titled debut album in 1974, which was considered highly derivative of Led Zeppelin. Rush had limited local popularity until the album was picked up by WMMS, a radio station in Cleveland, Ohio. Donna Halper, a music director and DJ working at the station, selected "Working Man" for her regular playlist. The song's blue-collar theme resonated with hard rock fans, and this newfound popularity led to the album being re-released by Mercury Records in the U.S.
Immediately after the release of the debut album, Rutsey left the band due to health difficulties stemming from diabetes, and his distaste for touring. His last performance with the band was on July 25, 1974, at Centennial Hall in London, Ontario. Rush held auditions for a new drummer and selected Neil Peart as Rutsey's replacement. Peart officially joined the band on July 29, 1974, two weeks before the group's first US tour. They performed their first concert together, opening for Uriah Heep and Manfred Mann with an attendance of over 11,000 people at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 14. In addition to becoming the band's drummer, Peart assumed the role of principal lyricist from Lee, who had very little interest in writing, despite having penned the lyrics of the band's first album. Lee and Lifeson focused primarily on the instrumental aspects of Rush. Fly by Night (1975), Rush's first album after recruiting Peart, saw the inclusion of the band's first epic mini-tale "By-Tor and the Snow Dog", replete with complex arrangements and a multi-section format. Lyrical themes also underwent dramatic changes because of Peart's love for fantasy and science-fiction literature. Despite these many differences, some of the music and songs still closely mirrored the blues style found on Rush's debut.
The band followed Fly by Night quickly with Caress of Steel (1975), a five-track album featuring two extended multi-chapter songs, "The Necromancer" and "The Fountain of Lamneth". Some critics said Caress of Steel was unfocused and an audacious move for the band because of the placement of two back-to-back protracted songs, as well as a heavier reliance on atmospherics and story-telling, a large deviation from Fly by Night. Intended to be the band's break-through album, Caress of Steel sold below expectations and the promotional tour consisted of smaller venues, which led to the moniker the "Down the Tubes Tour".
In light of these events, Rush's record label tried to pressure the members into moulding their next album in a more commercially friendly and accessible fashion; the band ignored the requests and developed their next album 2112 with a 20-minute title track divided into seven sections. Despite this, the album was the band's first taste of commercial success and their first platinum album in Canada. The supporting tour culminated in a three-night stand at Massey Hall in Toronto, which the band recorded for the release of their first live album, All the World's a Stage. AllMusic critic Greg Prato notes the album demarcates the boundary between the band's early years and the next era of their music.
After 2112, Rush went to the United Kingdom to record A Farewell to Kings (1977) and Hemispheres (1978) at Rockfield Studios in Wales. These albums saw the band members expanding the progressive elements in their music. "As our tastes got more obscure", Lee said in an interview, "we discovered more progressive rock-based bands like Yes, Van der Graaf Generator and King Crimson, and we were very inspired by those bands. They made us want to make our music more interesting and more complex and we tried to blend that with our own personalities to see what we could come up with that was indisputably us." Increased synthesizer use, lengthy songs, and highly dynamic playing featuring complex time signature changes became a staple of Rush's compositions. To achieve a broader, more progressive sound, Lifeson began to experiment with classical and twelve-string guitars, and Lee added bass-pedal synthesizers and Minimoog. Likewise, Peart's percussion became diversified in the form of triangles, glockenspiel, wood blocks, cowbells, timpani, gong, and chimes. Beyond instrument additions, the band kept in stride with the progressive rock trends by continuing to compose long, conceptual songs with science fiction and fantasy overtones. As the new decade approached, Rush gradually began to dispose of its older styles of music in favour of shorter and sometimes softer arrangements. The lyrics up to this point were heavily influenced by classical poetry, fantasy literature, science fiction, and the writings of novelist Ayn Rand, as exhibited most prominently by their 1975 song "Anthem" from Fly By Night and a specifically acknowledged derivation in 2112 (1976).
Permanent Waves (1980) shifted Rush's style of music with the introduction of reggae and new wave elements. Although a hard rock style was still evident, more synthesizers were introduced. Moreover, because of the limited airplay Rush's previous extended-length songs received, Permanent Waves included shorter, more radio-friendly songs such as "The Spirit of Radio" and "Freewill", two songs that helped Permanent Waves become Rush's first US Top 5 album. Meanwhile, Peart's lyrics shifted toward an expository tone with subject matter that dwelled less on fantastical or allegorical story-telling and more heavily on topics that explored humanistic, social, and emotional elements. Rush joined with fellow Toronto-based rock band Max Webster on July 28, 1980, to record "Battle Scar" for their 1980 release, Universal Juveniles. Max Webster lyricist Pye Dubois offered the band lyrics to a song he had written. The band accepted; the song went on, after reworking by Peart, to become "Tom Sawyer".
Rush's popularity reached its pinnacle with the release of Moving Pictures in 1981. Moving Pictures essentially continued where Permanent Waves left off, extending the trend of accessible and commercially friendly progressive rock that helped thrust them into the spotlight. The lead track, "Tom Sawyer", is probably the band's best-known song with "Limelight" also receiving satisfactory responses from listeners and radio stations. Moving Pictures was Rush's last album to feature an extended song, the eleven-minute "The Camera Eye". The song also contained the band's heaviest usage of synthesizers yet, hinting Rush's music was shifting direction once more. Moving Pictures reached No. 3 on the Billboard 200 album chart and has been certified quadruple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Following the success of Moving Pictures and having completed another four studio albums, Rush released a second live recording, Exit...Stage Left, in 1981.
The band underwent another stylistic change with the recording of Signals in 1982. While Lee's synthesizers had been featured instruments ever since the late 1970s, keyboards were suddenly shifted from the contrapuntal background to the melodic front-lines in songs like "Countdown" and the lead-off track "Subdivisions". Both feature prominent lead synthesizer lines with minimalistic guitar chords and solos. Other previously unused instrument additions were seen in the song "Losing It", featuring collaborator Ben Mink on electric violin.
Signals also represented a drastic stylistic transformation apart from instrumental changes. The album contained Rush's only US top-40 pop hit, "New World Man", while other more experimental songs such as "Digital Man", "The Weapon", and "Chemistry" expanded the band's use of ska, reggae, and funk. Although the band members consciously decided to move in this overall direction, creative differences between the band and long-time producer Terry Brown began to emerge. The band felt dissatisfied with Brown's studio treatment of Signals, while Brown was becoming more uncomfortable with the increased use of synthesizers in the music. Ultimately, Rush and Brown parted ways in 1983, and the experimentation with new electronic instruments and varying musical styles would come into further play on their next studio album.
The style and production of Signals were augmented and taken to new heights on Grace Under Pressure (1984). It was Peart who named the album, as he borrowed the words of Ernest Hemingway to describe what the band had to go through after making the decision to leave Terry Brown. Producer Steve Lillywhite, who gained fame with successful productions of Simple Minds and U2, was enlisted to produce Grace Under Pressure. He backed out at the last moment, however, much to the ire of Lee, Lifeson and Peart. Lee said "Steve Lillywhite is really not a man of his word ... after agreeing to do our record, he got an offer from Simple Minds, changed his mind, blew us off ... so it put us in a horrible position." Rush eventually hired Peter Henderson to co-produce and engineer the album instead.
Musically, although Lee's use of sequencers and synthesizers remained the band's cornerstone, his focus on new technology was complemented by Peart's adaptation of Simmons electronic drums and percussion. Lifeson's contributions on the album were decidedly enhanced, in response to the minimalistic role he played on Signals. Still, many of his trademark guitar textures remained intact in the form of open reggae chords and funk and new-wave rhythms.
With new producer Peter Collins, the band released Power Windows (1985) and Hold Your Fire (1987). The music on these two albums gives far more emphasis and prominence to Lee's multi-layered synthesizer work. While fans and critics took notice of Lifeson's diminished guitar work, his presence was still palpable. Lifeson, like many guitarists in the mid-to-late 1980s, experimented with processors that reduced his instrument to echoey chord bursts and razor-thin leads. Hold Your Fire represents both a modest extension of the guitar stylings found on Power Windows, and, according to Allmusic critic Eduardo Rivadavia, the culmination of this era of Rush. Whereas the previous five Rush albums sold platinum or better, Hold Your Fire only went gold in November 1987, although it managed to peak at number 13 on the Billboard 200.
A third live album and video, A Show of Hands (1989), was also released by Anthem and Mercury following the Power Windows and Hold Your Fire tours, demonstrating the aspects of Rush in the '80s. A Show of Hands met with strong fan approval, but Rolling Stone critic Michael Azerrad dismissed it as "musical muscle" with 1.5 stars, claiming Rush fans viewed their favourite power trio as "the holy trinity". Nevertheless, A Show of Hands managed to surpass the gold album mark, reaching number 21 on the Billboard 200. At this point, the group decided to change international record labels from Mercury to Atlantic. After Rush's departure in 1989, Mercury released a double platinum two-volume compilation of their Rush catalogue, Chronicles (1990).
Rush started to deviate from its 1980s style with the albums Presto and Roll the Bones. Produced by record engineer and musician Rupert Hine, these two albums saw Rush shedding much of its keyboard-saturated sound. Beginning with Presto (1989), the band opted for arrangements notably more guitar-centric than the previous two studio albums. Although synthesizers were still used in many songs, the instrument was no longer featured as the centrepiece of Rush's compositions. Continuing this trend, Roll the Bones (1991) extended the use of the standard three-instrument approach with even less focus on synthesizers than its predecessor. While musically these albums do not deviate significantly from a general pop-rock sound, Rush incorporated traces of other musical styles. "Roll the Bones", for example exhibits funk and hip hop elements, and the instrumental track "Where's My Thing?" features several jazz components. This return to three-piece instrumentation helped pave the way for future albums, which would adopt a more streamlined rock formula.
The transition from synthesizers to more guitar-oriented and organic instrumentation continued with Counterparts (1993) and its follow-up, Test for Echo (1996), again both produced in collaboration with Peter Collins. Musically, Counterparts and Test For Echo are two of Rush's most guitar-driven albums. The latter album also includes elements of jazz and swing drumming by Peart, which he had learned from Freddie Gruber during the interim between Counterparts and Test For Echo. In October 1996, in support of Test For Echo, the band embarked on a North American tour, the band's first without an opening act and dubbed "An Evening with Rush". The tour was broken up into two segments spanning October through December 1996 and May through July 1997.
After the conclusion of the Test for Echo tour in 1997, the band entered a five-year hiatus primarily due to personal tragedies in Peart's life. Peart's daughter Selena died in a car accident in August 1997, followed by the death of his wife Jacqueline from cancer in June 1998. Peart took a hiatus to mourn and reflect, during which he travelled extensively throughout North America on his BMW motorcycle, covering 88,000 km (55,000 mi). At some point in his journey, Peart decided to return to the band. Peart's book Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road is a chronicle of his journey. In the book, he writes of how he had told his bandmates at Selena's funeral, "consider me retired". On November 10, 1998, a three-disc live album entitled Different Stages was released, dedicated to the memory of Selena and Jacqueline. Mixed by producer Paul Northfield and engineered by Terry Brown, it features recorded performances from the band's Counterparts, Test For Echo, and A Farewell to Kings tours, marking the band's fourth live album.
After a time of grief and recovery, and while visiting long-time Rush photographer Andrew MacNaughtan in Los Angeles, Peart was introduced to his future wife, photographer Carrie Nuttall. Peart married Nuttall on September 9, 2000. In early 2001 he announced to his bandmates he was ready to once again enter the studio and get back into the business of making music.
With the help of producer Paul Northfield the band returned in May 2002 with Vapor Trails, written and recorded in Toronto. To herald the band's comeback, the single and lead track from the album, "One Little Victory", was designed to grab the attention of listeners with its rapid guitar and drum tempos. Vapor Trails marked the first Rush studio recording to not include any keyboards or synthesizers since Caress of Steel, released 27 years earlier. While the album is almost completely guitar-driven, it is mostly devoid of any traditional guitar solos, a conscious decision by Lifeson. According to the band, the entire developmental process for Vapor Trails was extremely taxing and took approximately 14 months to finish, by far the longest the band had ever spent writing and recording a studio album. The album was supported by the band's first tour in six years, including first-ever concerts in Mexico City and Brazil, where they played to some of the largest crowds of their career.
A live album and DVD, Rush in Rio, was released in late October 2003 featuring an entire concert performance recorded on November 23, 2002, at Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The show was the last of the Vapor Trails Tour. To celebrate the band's 30th anniversary, June 2004 saw the release of Feedback, a studio EP recorded in suburban Toronto featuring eight covers of such artists as Cream, The Who and The Yardbirds, bands the members of Rush cite as inspiration around the time of their inception. To help support Feedback and continue celebrating their 30-year anniversary as a band, Rush hit the road again for their 30th Anniversary Tour in the summer of 2004 playing dates in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands. On September 24, 2004, the concert at The Festhalle in Frankfurt, Germany was filmed for a DVD titled R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour, which was released on November 22, 2005. This release omitted eight songs also included on Rush in Rio; the complete concert was released on Blu-ray on December 8, 2009.
During promotional interviews for the R30 DVD, the band members revealed their intention to begin writing new material in early 2006. While in Toronto, Lifeson and Lee began the songwriting process in January 2006. During this time, Peart simultaneously assumed his role of lyric writing while residing in Southern California. The following September, Rush chose to hire American producer Nick Raskulinecz to co-produce the album. The band officially entered Allaire Studios in Shokan, New York in November 2006 to record the bulk of the material. Taking the band five weeks, the sessions ended in December. On February 14, 2007, an announcement was made on the official Rush web site that the title of the new album would be Snakes & Arrows. The first single, entitled "Far Cry", was released to North American radio stations on March 12, 2007 and reached No.2 on the Mediabase Mainstream and Radio and Records Charts.
The Rush website, newly redesigned on March 12, 2007 to support the new album, also announced the band would embark on a tour to begin in the summer. Snakes & Arrows was released May 1, 2007 in North America, where it debuted at No.3 on the Billboard 200 with approximately 93,000 units sold in its first week. It would go on to sell an estimated 611,000 copies worldwide. To coincide with the beginning of Atlantic Ocean hurricane season, "Spindrift" was released as the official second radio single on June 1, 2007, while "The Larger Bowl (A Pantoum)" saw single status on June 25, 2007. "The Larger Bowl" peaked within the top 20 of both the Billboard Mainstream Rock and Media Base Mainstream charts, but "Spindrift" failed to appear on any commercial chart. The planned intercontinental tour in support of Snakes & Arrows began on June 13, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia, coming to a close on October 29, 2007 at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland.
The 2008 portion of the Snakes & Arrows tour began on April 11, 2008 in San Juan, Puerto Rico at José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum, and concluded on July 24, 2008 in Noblesville, Indiana at the Verizon Wireless Music Center. On April 15, 2008, the band released Snakes & Arrows Live, a double live album documenting the first leg of the tour, recorded at the Ahoy arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands on October 16 and 17, 2007. A DVD and Blu-ray recording of the same concerts was released on November 24, 2008. The video also includes four songs added to the 2008 portion of the tour, recorded at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Atlanta, Georgia.
As Rush neared the conclusion of the Snakes & Arrows tour, they announced their first appearance on American television in over 30 years. They appeared on The Colbert Report on July 16, 2008, where they were interviewed by Stephen Colbert and performed "Tom Sawyer". Continuing to ride what one film critic called a "pop cultural wave", the band appeared as themselves in the 2009 comedy film I Love You, Man, starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segel.
On February 16, 2009, Lifeson remarked the band may begin working on a new album in the Fall of 2009 with American producer Nick Raskulinecz once again producing. In November 2009, Lee, Lifeson and Peart were awarded the International Achievement Award at the annual SOCAN Awards in Toronto. On March 19, 2010, the CBC posted a video interview with Lee and Lifeson where they discussed Rush's induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on March 28, 2010, at the Toronto Centre for the Arts' George Weston Recital Hall. The band was recognized for the songs "Limelight", "Closer to the Heart", "The Spirit of Radio", "Tom Sawyer" and "Subdivisions". In addition to discussing their induction, Lee and Lifeson touched on future material. During the interview, Lee was quoted as saying, "Just about a month and a half ago we had no songs. And now we've been writing and now we've got about 6 songs that we just love ..." On March 26, 2010, in an interview with The Globe and Mail, Lifeson reconfirmed the band had already written a half-dozen songs and there was the potential for two supporting tours, one planned for Summer 2010 and a more extensive tour planned for Summer 2011. While still uncertain of exactly how and when the new material would be released, at the time he projected a tentative Spring 2011 release date. Soon after, Peart confirmed Nick Raskulinecz had returned as co-producer.
In April 2010, Rush entered Blackbird Studios in Nashville, Tennessee with Raskulinecz to record "Caravan" and "BU2B", two new songs to be featured on the band's studio album Clockwork Angels. Mixing was done by record engineer Richard Chycki at the Sound Kitchen in Franklin, Tennessee. "Caravan" was released June 1 to radio stations and made available for digital download at this time along with "BU2B". On April 8, both the official Rush website and PR Newswire announced the band would embark on the Rush Time Machine Tour, confirming Lifeson's earlier predictions from March. The first leg of the tour began on June 29 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and finished October 17 in Santiago, Chile, at the National Stadium. It featured the album Moving Pictures played in its entirety, as well as "Caravan" and "BU2B". It was suggested Rush would return to the studio after the completion of the Time Machine Tour with plans to release Clockwork Angels in 2011. Nonetheless, Rush announced on November 19, 2010, they would extend the Time Machine Tour. The second leg began on March 30, 2011, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and came to an end on July 2, 2011, in George, Washington. On November 8, 2011, the band released Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland, a concert DVD, Blu-ray and double CD documenting the April 15, 2011, concert at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Confirming an announcement from Richard Chycki via Twitter on December 20, Rush entered Revolution Recording studios in Toronto, Ontario, following completion of the tour's second leg, to finalize the recording of Clockwork Angels. The second single, "Headlong Flight", was released April 19, 2012, to radio stations and made available for listening via online streaming. Peart and author Kevin J. Anderson collaborated on a novelization of Clockwork Angels that was released in September 2012.
Clockwork Angels was released in the United States and Canada on June 12, 2012, and its supporting Clockwork Angels Tour began on September 7, 2012. As of August 31, 2011, Rush switched their American distribution from Atlantic Records over to the Warner Brothers majority-owned metal label, Roadrunner Records. Roadrunner is handling American distribution of Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland and Clockwork Angels. Anthem/Universal Music will continue to release their music in Canada. On April 18, 2013, Rush was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
During Rush's European leg of the Clockwork Angels Tour, the June 8, 2013 show at the Sweden Rock Festival was the group's first festival appearance in 30 years. The band's performances on November 25, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona and November 28, 2012 in Dallas, Texas were recorded to make a live CD/DVD/Blu-ray that was released on November 19, 2013.
On November 18, 2013 guitarist Alex Lifeson said the band has committed to taking a year off, following the completion of the world tour in support of Clockwork Angels. "We've committed to taking about a year off", Lifeson says. "We all agreed when we finished this ('Clockwork Angels') tour (in early August) we were going to take this time off and we weren't going to talk about band stuff or make any plans. We committed to a year, so that's going to take us through to the end of next summer, for sure. That's the minimum. We haven't stopped or quit. Right now we're just relaxing. We're taking it easy and just enjoying our current employment."
In September 2014, the R40 box set was announced to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the release of the band's self-titled debut album. It included five previously released live video albums, as well as various previously unreleased footage from across the band's career. On January 22, 2015, the band officially announced the Rush R40 Tour, celebrating the fortieth anniversary of drummer Neil Peart's membership in the band. The tour started on May 8 at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and wrapped up on August 1 at The Forum in Los Angeles.
On April 29, 2015, Alex Lifeson stated in an interview R40 might be the final large-scale Rush tour due to his psoriatic arthritis and Peart's chronic tendinitis. However, he did not rule out future projects with the band, including smaller tours and limited performances, and even stated he would like to work on soundtracks with Geddy Lee. On December 7, 2015, Peart stated in an interview he was retiring. Lee clarified the following day that Peart had only retired from touring and was not ruling out continuing work with Rush in other capacities. Lifeson confirmed in 2016 the R40 tour was the band's last large-scale tour.
The band's latest documentary, Time Stand Still, was announced in November 2016.
Rush's musical style has changed substantially over the years. Its debut album was strongly influenced by British blues-based hard rock: an amalgam of sounds and styles from such rock bands as Black Sabbath, the Who, Cream and Led Zeppelin. Rush became increasingly influenced by bands of the British progressive rock movement, especially Genesis and Jethro Tull. In the tradition of progressive rock, Rush wrote extended songs with irregular and shifting time signatures, combined with fantasy and science fiction-themed lyrics. In the 1980s, Rush merged their sound with the trends of this period, experimenting with new wave, reggae and pop rock. This period included the band's most extensive use of instruments such as synthesizers, sequencers, and electronic percussion. In the early 1990s, the band transformed their style once again to harmonize with the alternative rock movement.Current members
Geddy Lee – lead vocals, bass guitar, keyboards, synthesizers (1968–present)
Alex Lifeson – guitar, backing vocals (1968–present)
Neil Peart – drums, percussion (1974–present)
More than 40 years of activity has provided Rush with the opportunity for musical diversity across their discography. As with many bands known for experimentation, changes have inevitably resulted in dissent among critics and fans. The bulk of the band's music has always included synthetic instruments, and this has been a source of contention among fans and critics, especially the band's heavy reliance on synthesizers and keyboards during the 1980s, particularly on albums Grace Under Pressure, Power Windows, and Hold Your Fire.
The members of Rush have noted people "either love Rush or hate Rush", resulting in strong detractors and an intensely loyal fan base. In 1979 the Rolling Stone Record Guide called it "the power boogie band for the 16 magazine graduating class." A July 2008 Rolling Stone article stated "Rush fans are the Trekkies/trekkers of rock". They have been cited as an influence by various musical artists, including Alice in Chains, Anthrax, Fishbone, Foo Fighters, Jane's Addiction, Manic Street Preachers, Metallica, No Doubt, Pixies, Porcupine Tree, Primus, Queensrÿche, Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Smashing Pumpkins, Elliott Smith and Soundgarden as well as progressive metal bands such as Meshuggah, Prototype, Dream Theater, Puya, Tool, Cynic, and Symphony X. Trent Reznor considers Rush to be one of his favourite bands in the 2010 documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage and has particularly cited the album Signals as a major influence on how to incorporate keyboards and synthesizers into hard rock.
Rush was eligible for nomination into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame beginning in 1998; the band was nominated for entry in 2012 and their induction was announced on December 11, 2012. A reason for their previous exclusion may have been their genre. USA Today writer Edna Gunderson criticized the Hall of Fame for excluding some genres, including progressive rock. Supporters cited the band's accomplishments including longevity, proficiency, and influence, as well as commercial sales figures and RIAA certifications. In the years before induction, Lifeson expressed his indifference toward the perceived slight saying "I couldn't care less, look who's up for induction, it's a joke".
On April 24, 2010, the documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, directed by Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. It went on to receive the Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award. The film explores the band's influence on popular music and the reasons why that influence has been under-represented over the years. This is done via interviews with popular musicians, music industry professionals, and the band members themselves.
On June 25, 2010, Rush received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6752 Hollywood Boulevard. Critical acclaim continued to mount for Rush in 2010 when, on September 28, Classic Rock Magazine announced Rush would be that year's Living Legends awarded at the Marshall Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards in the UK. The award was presented November 10, 2010. On September 29, Billboard.com announced Rush would also receive the 2010 Legends of Live award for significant and lasting contributions to live music and the art of performing live and reaching fans through the concert experience. The award was presented at the Billboard Touring Awards on November 4, 2010.
The band members were made Officers of the Order of Canada in 1996. In May 2012, the band received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement at a ceremony at Rideau Hall followed by a gala at the National Arts Centre celebrating the award recipients the following day.
Geddy Lee's high-register vocal style has always been a signature of the band – and sometimes a focal point for criticism, especially during the early years of Rush's career when Lee's vocals were high-pitched, with a strong likeness to other singers like Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. A review in the New York Times opined Lee's voice "suggests a munchkin giving a sermon". Although his voice has softened, it is often described as a "wail". His instrumental abilities, on the other hand, are rarely criticized. He has cited Jeff Berlin, Jack Casady, John Entwistle, Jack Bruce and Chris Squire as the bassists who had the biggest impact on his playing style. An award-winning musician, Lee's style, technique, and ability on the bass guitar have proven influential in the rock and heavy metal genres, inspiring such players as Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, John Myung of Dream Theater, Les Claypool of Primus, and Cliff Burton of Metallica among others. Lee is notable for his ability to operate various pieces of instrumentation simultaneously. This is most evident during live shows when Lee must play bass, sing, manipulate keyboards, and trigger foot pedals as in the song "Tom Sawyer". Because of this, he remains in one place during songs with complex instrumentation. Lifeson and Peart are, to a lesser extent, responsible for similar actions during live shows.
Lifeson as a guitarist is best known for his signature riffing, electronic effects and processing, unorthodox chord structures, and a copious arsenal of equipment used over the years.
During his adolescent years, he was influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. For versatility, Lifeson was known to incorporate touches of Spanish and classical music into Rush's guitar-driven sound during the 1970s. Taking a backseat to Lee's keyboards in the 1980s, Lifeson's guitar returned to the forefront in the 1990s, and especially on Vapor Trails (2002). During live performances, he is still responsible for cuing various guitar effects, the use of bass-pedal synthesizers and backing vocals.
Peart has been voted the greatest rock drummer by music fans, critics and fellow musicians, according to Drummerworld. He is also regarded as one of the finest practitioners of the in-concert drum solo. Initially inspired by Keith Moon, Peart absorbed the influence of other rock drummers from the 1960s and 1970s such as Ginger Baker, Carmine Appice, and John Bonham. Incorporation of unusual instruments (for rock drummers of the time) such as the glockenspiel and tubular bells, along with several standard kit elements, helped create a highly varied setup. Continually modified to this day, Peart's drumkit offers an enormous array of percussion instruments for sonic diversity. For two decades Peart honed his technique; each new Rush album introduced an expanded percussive vocabulary. In the 1990s, he reinvented his style with the help of drum coach Freddie Gruber.
Peart also serves as Rush's primary lyricist, attracting much attention over the years for his eclectic style. Known for penning concept suites and songs inspired by literature, music fan opinions of his writing have varied greatly, running the gamut from cerebral and insightful to pretentious and preachy. During the band's early years, Peart's lyrics were largely fantasy/science fiction-focused, though since 1980 he has focused more on social, emotional, and humanitarian issues. In 2007, he was placed second on Blender magazine's list of the "40 Worst Lyricists In Rock". Allmusic, however has called Peart "one of rock's most accomplished lyricists", Gibson.com describes Rush's lyrics as "great", and others believe the lyrics are "brilliant".
Rush has released 24 gold records and 14 platinum records (including 3 multi-platinum), placing them third behind The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for the most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band. As of 2005, Rush had sold about 25 million albums in the U.S. (ranking them 79th among recording acts) and 40 million worldwide. As of 2012, Moving Pictures was the band's highest-selling album (4.4 million units).
Despite dropping out of the public eye for five years after the gold-selling Test for Echo (which peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart) and the band being relegated almost solely to classic rock stations in the U.S., Vapor Trails reached No. 6 on the Billboard 200 in its first week of release in 2002 with 108,000 albums sold. It has sold about 343,000 units to date. The subsequent Vapor Trails tour grossed over $24 million and included the largest audience ever to see a headlining Rush show: 60,000 fans in São Paulo, Brazil. Nevertheless, Vapor Trails remains their first album not to achieve at least gold status in the U.S.
Rush's triple CD live album, Rush in Rio (2003), was certified gold, marking the fourth decade in which a Rush album had been released and certified at least gold. In 2004, Feedback cracked the top 20 on the Billboard 200 and received radio airplay. The band's 2007 album, Snakes & Arrows, debuted at number 3 (just one position shy of Rush's highest peaking albums, Counterparts (1993) and Clockwork Angels (2012), which both debuted at number 2) on the Billboard 200, selling about 93,000 its first week of release. This marks the 13th studio album to appear in the Top 20 and the band's 27th album to appear on the chart. The album also debuted at number 1 on the Billboard's Top Rock Albums chart, and, when the album was released on the MVI format a month later, peaked at number 1 on the Top Internet Albums chart.
The tours in support of Snakes & Arrows in 2007 and 2008 accrued $21 million and $18.3 million, respectively, earning Rush the number 6 and 8 spots among the summers' rock concerts.
The members of Rush share a strong work ethic, desiring to accurately recreate songs from their albums when playing live performances. To achieve this goal, beginning in the late 1980s, Rush has included a capacious rack of digital samplers in their concert equipment to recreate the sounds of non-traditional instruments, accompaniments, vocal harmonies, and other sound "events" in real-time to match the sounds on the studio versions of the songs. In live performances, the band members share duties throughout most songs. Each member has one or more MIDI controllers, which are loaded with different sounds for each song, and use available limbs to trigger the sounds while simultaneously playing their primary instrument(s). It is with this technology the group is able to present their arrangements in a live setting with the level of complexity and fidelity fans have come to expect, and without the need to resort to the use of backing tracks or employing an additional band member. The band members' coordinated use of pedal keyboards and other electronic triggers to "play" sampled instruments and audio events is subtly visible in their live performances, especially so on R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour, their 2005 concert DVD.
A staple of Rush's concerts is a Neil Peart drum solo. Peart's drum solos include a basic framework of routines connected by sections of improvization, making each performance unique. Each successive tour sees the solo more advanced, with some routines dropped in favour of newer, more complex ones. Since the mid-1980s, Peart has used MIDI trigger pads to trigger sounds sampled from various pieces of acoustic percussion that would otherwise consume far too much stage area, such as a marimba, harp, temple blocks, triangles, glockenspiel, orchestra bells, tubular bells, and vibraslap as well as other, more esoteric percussion.
One prominent feature of Rush's concerts are props on stage, at one point called diversions. These props may include washing machines or animations and inflatable rabbits emerging from giant hats behind the band.
Rush actively participates in philanthropic causes. The band was one of several hometown favourites to play Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto, also dubbed SARStock, at Downsview Park in Toronto on July 30, 2003, with an attendance of over half a million people. The concert was intended to benefit the Toronto economy after the SARS outbreaks earlier in the year. The band has also sustained an interest in promoting human rights. They donated $100,000 to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights after a concert they held in Winnipeg on May 24, 2008. Rush continues to sell T-shirts and donate the proceeds to the museum.
On July 24, 2013, Rush performed a benefit concert in Red Deer, Alberta, at the ENMAX Centrium with all proceeds going to the Canadian Red Cross to help victims of the 2013 flooding that devastated many regions of southern Alberta. The original venue for the show, the Scotiabank Saddledome, was heavily damaged from the flooding and was unavailable for the concert date as originally planned.
The individual members of Rush have also been a part of philanthropic causes. Hughes & Kettner zenTera and TriAmp electronics have been endorsed and used by Lifeson for many years. A custom signature amplifier was engineered by Lifeson and released in April 2005 with the stipulation UNICEF will receive a donation in the amount of $50 for every Alex Lifeson Signature TriAmp sold. Lee, a longtime fan of baseball, donated 200 baseballs signed by famous Negro League players, including Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Josh Gibson, to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in June 2008. In late 2009, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson launched an auction for their initiative "Grapes Under Pressure", in support of the cause "Grapes for Humanity". The auction consisted of items from the band such as signed guitars, cymbals and basses, as well as autographs on all items by the band members. There were also autographs by band members from Depeche Mode, Tool, the Fray, Judas Priest, Pearl Jam and more, as well as signatures from Ricky, Julian and Bubbles from "Trailer Park Boys: The Movie" on a rare Epiphone guitar.
The band is featured on the album Songs for Tibet, appearing with other celebrities as an initiative to support Tibet and the current Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso. The album was made downloadable on August 5, 2008 via iTunes and was released commercially August 12, 2008.
Rush has also been a big supporter of Little Kids Rock, a national nonprofit that works to restore and revitalize music education programs in disadvantaged US public schools. They teamed up with Musician's Friend and Sabian to help Little Kids Rock provide percussion to public schools nationwide. They donated $500 of proceeds for every Neil Peart Paragon Cymbal Pack they sold, each of which came with a free splash cymbal personalized, autographed and dated by the Rush drummer himself. The cause-based marketing initiative raised over $50,000 for Little Kids Rock.