I was watching the Rush Clockwork Angels Tour on DVD earlier today, and the video reminded me of a story that illustrates why I have always liked Rush, and why they have always been an atypical band.
Back in the early 1980s I saw Rush in concert several times; with each new Rush album would come a new Rush tour, and I caught every Rush show that I could. On one occasion, (I believe it was the Power Windows tour), I was at the front of the crowd directly in front of Alex Lifeson and hugging the barricade that separated audience from entertainers. In something that must be a performance rarity within the music business, the girl beside me and I actually carried on a conversation with Alex throughout the show.
Here's one such example - after Alex played a guitar solo, the girl next to me held up one hand with the international "you're number one" symbol and yelled, "You're the greatest!" Alex looked surprised, stepped back, shook his head, pointed to himself between chords, and mouthed the words, "Me? No - I don't think so..."
The next song was Limelight, which contains one of my favorite guitar solos. As Alex nailed the final notes of the solo, he looked to me and shrugged his shoulders as if to ask, "How was that?" I held up a hand with the international "OK" symbol, and I yelled, "That was pretty good!" Alex smiled and nodded, and then he replied, "Okay, I can accept that."
And that was how the rest of the show went - the anonymous girl and I commented on every song or solo, and Alex kept us entertained by his reactions. But the over-arching thing that I realized during that concert was: Alex was just a normal guy.
Despite being one of the central figures in one of the most-talented rock groups in history; Alex wasn't putting on airs, and he wasn't acting like a big rock star. Instead, he was down-playing our compliments, and playfully joking with audience members. I think that's one of the things that has endeared the members of Rush to their fans over the years: despite having earned a host of accolades, they seem indifferent and almost embarrassed by praise.
Humility in greatness - that's such a rare thing in today's self-absorbed entertainment industry, and one more reason why Rush is one of the greatest rock bands in history.