It's seven minutes 'til sound check at
Salt Lake City's Delta Center Arena and Neil Peart is on the phone
with Ride West BMW in Seattle scheduling a service appointment for
his R1150GS. Liam Birt, the rock band Rush's long-suffering tour manager,
had poked his head through the tour bus door a few moments ago to make
sure the band's drummer was "coming along," but the service
manager just transferred Peart to the parts department, and now he's
on hold pending word on whether the taller windscreen and driving lights
he desires are in stock. Meanwhile, across the aisle, the band's security
manager, Michael Mosbach, is seated at a computer calculating mileage
for the following day's ride from Salt Lake City to Denver.
life on the road with rock music's most acclaimed percussionist.
I'm here because I had contacted Jack David of ECW Press about getting
a review copy of Peart's new book, Ghost Rider. An act wherein I disclosed
the fact that I'm a lifelong Rush fan, having first seen the band
perform live in 1978. this led to a phone call from Rush's publicist,
Shelley Nott, who informed me that Peart is a devout CW reader, and
had asked her to invite me to accompany him as he rode from once concert
to another on the (Vapor Trails) tour.
"How does next week look?" I replied,
doing my best to contain my enthusiasm. Noting that the band had a
night off between Albuquerque and Salt Lake City shows, I suggested
we meet there.
Agreeing, Shelley gave me Michael's cell phone number
and we arranged to meet in Gallup, New Mexico, one week later.
book, Peart admits that he's always perceived concert touring as a "combination
of crushing tedium, constant exhaustion and circus-like insanity." While
he enjoys the planning and rehearsing in preparation for a tour, and
the early shows as the band and crew strive for the perfect performance,
once they've achieved that, the thrill is gone.
Motorcycling has made
touring palatable again. "The good parts
are lots of riding and I can eat anything I want because I drum for
three hours every night," Peart says.
After which, most nights,
it's a mad dash to the tour bus, where Neil and Michael snooze as
bus driver Dave Burnett navigates through the darkness. In the morning
they pull over, unload the bikes from the enclosed trailer in tow,
and Neil and Michael ride to the next show, arriving early before
the throngs; like we did this afternoon.
A late bloomer in motorcycling
terms, Peart didn't take up the sport until the age of 41, when his
wife Jackie bought him a BMW R1100RS for Christmas 1993. An avid
bicyclist, he always suspected he'd enjoy motorcycling, but once
the bug bit, Peart was infected, and quickly made up for lost time.
He and his best friend Brutus rode all over Canada, and shipped their
bikes to Mexico and Europe for Extended moto-vacations. And then,
during the 1997 Test for Echo tour, the pair rode from concert to
concert, clocking tens of thousands of miles as they visited 47 of
the 47 contiguous United States.
Life was good: In addition to the
new album, which Peart considered his masterwork as a drummer, he'd
just completed his second Buddy Rich tribute album and an instructional
video. Though always something of a cult band, Rush had by this point
sold upwards of 35 million records, won a score of Canadian Juno
Awards and been nominated for a Grammy three times. Perhaps most
impressively, the three band members had been awarded the Order of
Canada, the commonwealth equivalent of being knighted by the Queen.