The Sound of One Hand Rocking

The number three is full of cosmic power: like Heaven, Earth and Hell; or the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; or the number of members in the Canadian rock band Rush. Because the music of Rush is just as metaphysically bombastic as anything else you could base a cosmology upon—possibly more so, since Jesus isn't in the middle of a triumphant 30th-anniversary tour, though His movie career is certainly pretty respectable right now. And so in celebration of this 43-date affirmation that all the world really is a stage, here are the very best 21 minutes and 12 seconds of Rush's legendary-by-every-definition career—and if you don't get why we picked 21:12, you should start backing away slowly now.

00:00-00:16: the opening riff to “Spirit of the Radio,” a robotic unicorn galloping across your frontal lobe, hooves massaging your fatty brain into symmetrical perfection. Begin air guitar solo now! 00:16-04:53: Neil Peart's four-minute, 37-second (!) drum solo, “The Rhythm Method,” from their 1989 live album, A Show of Hands. If he played this solo on your skull, you'd sink into a vegetable coma before he even hit the three-minute mark. 04:53-04:59: 6.66 seconds of reflection for the days when Rush supposedly meant “Ruled Under Satan's Hand.” Never mind that Rush wasn't exactly a “metal” band; this was just a triviality for Christians who pointed to Rush's logo—the naked guy in front of the pentagram—on the back of the 2112 album and the burning cross on Moving Pictures, which is supposed to be a rendition of a Joan of Arc-like figure, as proof of their Satanism. 04:59-06:59: two minutes for a recording of the 1991 radio phone-in when a dorky fanboy revealed to millions on the Rockline radio show that he named his own son Geddy after singer Geddy Lee, despite the fact that Geddy's real name is Gary Weinrib. See, Gary renamed himself “Geddy” because when his Eastern European grandmother would call his name in her thick accent, Gary sounded like “Geddy.” So what kind of weirdo names their son after a nickname? 06:59-07:27: the best Alex Lifeson guitar solo is on “Closer to the Heart,” beginning at 1:27, after a three-second “Whoooooa!” build-up by Geddy. No matter how much Thai Stick you've smoked or how many times you sold Ibanez guitars to 14-year-olds at Guitar Center, you cannot and will not ever approach such perfect Zen shredding. Truly the sound of one hand rocking. 07:27-10:09: the song “Take Off,” written for SCTV's hockey hosers Bob and Doug Mackenzie, is a fine slice of early-'80s Rush, with Geddy doin' it like a banshee/travel agent: “Take off to the great white North! Take off; it's a beauty way to go!” Bob then remarks through a haze of Elsinore beer, “Decent singin', eh?” 10:09-10:51: the guitar solo in “Limelight,” in which Lifeson delicately squeezes the breath out of every tiny note. My guitar teacher looked at me through his Vidal-Sassooned, Christian-heavy-metal-rocker bangs when I finally nailed this one after months of lessons and gave me a hushed welcome to the Knights in Lifeson's Service. 10:51-11:07: 16 seconds of open-mouthed gaping for the stage show; on the Presto and Roll the Bones tours, two giant inflatable rabbits in equally giant top hats flanked the stage during “Show Don't Tell.” The abracadabra happens when Geddy cues the roadies by shouting, “Now THAT'S entertainment!” 11:07-11:49: the ascending riff in “Jacob's Ladder” (two instances, for a total of 32 seconds) takes you up to the spirit world like an escalator in a Toronto mall. 11:49-16:58: in the 1987 video for “Time Stands Still,” multiple Geddys run on to infinity, Picture yourself in a room with Geddys from here to the omega point—Rush heaven, or Sartre and Neil Peart's hell? 16:58-20:58: New Year's Eve 2003, Lifeson was stun-gunned by cops after boozy fisticuffs at a Ritz-Carlton in Florida. He spat his own blood in a deputy's face and pushed her down a hotel stairwell just after midnight, all for pulling his son offstage while the house band sang “Auld Lang Syne.” Four minutes for a TKO. 20:58-21:12: the title track to 2112 is sci-fi-rock Valhalla. While the whole song is a riff-y pilgrimage to the wondrous Temple of Syrinx, the wailingest moment is from 3:35 to 4:31, as a rocking, acoustic build-up erupts into an apocalypse and the immortal refrain: “The meek shall inherit the Earth!” Jesus God—this is what the Bible must feel like to the rest of you. With contributions from Rob Acosta, Steve Cronk, Steve Folta, Marc Hauser and Bill Magdziarz. Rush performs at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, 8808 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine, (949) 855-8095 or (714) 740-2000. Wed., 7:30 p.m. $32.50-$95. All ages.

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