Behind Rush R40

r40 rush
Actually 41, but who’s counting!

There’s a wonderful look at the “behind the scenes” of Rush’s 40th anniversary tour last year by Derk Hagedorn.  The article is actually six months old, but I just found it now.

From Jack White and Bruce Hornsby to Van Halen, Shakira and Jane’s Addiction, Brad Madix has mixed for a huge number of top artists over his impressive career, winning a number of Parnelli Awards, a Grammy nomination, and other industry accolades along the way. Together with business partner Greg Price, Brad also founded Diablo Digital Inc., a company that specializes in providing turn-key live recording systems for tours, festivals and installations. Most recently Brad was behind a VENUE | Profile at FOH for Rush’s R40 Live Tour, which commemorated the band’s 40th anniversary and featured songs from every era of their extensive catalog. I spoke with Brad shortly after the tour about the unique challenges he faced mixing the R40 Live Tour as well as his initial impressions of the new VENUE | S6L system.

Go here to read the full article.


Album Review: Rush – R40 Live CD

Rush is never going to get a #1 album as long as they continue to release a much anticipated new album the same day someone else, who has a wider fan base, releases theirs. R40 Live has ZERO chance of going #1 against Adele’s new album and it is pretty rare for a live album […]

Album Review: Rush – R40 Live CD

Rush is never going to get a #1 album as long as they continue to release a much anticipated new album the same day someone else, who has a wider fan base, releases theirs. R40 Live has ZERO chance of going #1 against Adele’s new album and it is pretty rare for a live album […]

Traveling as the Ghost Rider: An Excerpt from NEIL PEART: CULTURAL REPERCUSSIONS

Available now in paperback and ebook at
Available now in paperback and ebook at

In his best-selling book, Ghost Rider, the Canadian drummer not only proves to be an excellent writer (imagine Willa Cather and Jack Kerouac as one person; a bizarre combination, I know, but an accurate one), but he also reveals himself, yet again, a serious and stoic social and cultural critic.  Here are two sample passages from Ghost Rider.

The first day in Mexico was Selena’s birthday, and I had made careful plans on how to ‘memorialize’ that day. Early in the morning, I walked to the big cathedral in the Zocalo, went inside and bought two princess-sized votive candles (the biggest they had, of course) and lit them in front of the chapel for ‘Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe’ . . . . I sat there awhile, and cried some (well, a lot), amid the pious old ladies, tourists, and construction workers.[1]

Later in the book, in a less autobiographical nature, he explains his own vision of what art is.

I once defined the basic nature of art as ‘the telling of stories,’ and never had I felt that to be more true. I played the anger, the frustration, the sorrow, and even the travelling parts of my story, the rhythms of the highway, the majesty of the scenery, the dynamic rising and falling of my moods, and the narrative suite that emerged was as cleansing and energizing as the sweat and exertion of telling it.[2]

Each of these passages shows Peart at his deepest.  The side the craves beauty and the side that craves telling the world about the beauty he has seen.

His travels also opened Peart to a number of personal revelations.  Overall, he believed that “the elemental ‘faith’ in life I used to possess is completely gone,” and that with such an erasing of the past and its securities, “every little element of my former life, behavior, interests, and habits, was up for re-examination.”[3]  Two specifics also emerged in this rebirth.  First, he had to accept the help of others, recognizing it as the gift it is and was intended to be by the giver.  Pride had to give way to charity.  Second, he came to see a more mystical side of life, well beyond his previously steady devotion to late eighteenth-century European rationalism.  In one incident—that would greatly influence the next three albums—Peart encountered a man who read his fortune through Tarot cards.  The reading proved so accurate that Peart ‘s “jaw dropped, and it’s still dropping.”[4]

Though most orthodox religions forbid the reading of Tarot, artists as diverse as T.S. Eliot and Russell Kirk have employed its meaning—however tragic and deep or superficial and meaningless—effectively as a form of story telling, especially when regarding character and morals.  Peart does the same through his lyrics over the next several albums.

[Taken from Bradley J. Birzer, Neil Peart: Cultural (Re)Percussions (WordFire Press, 2015), pages 96-96.  Available today in paperback for $11.99 at  the price includes shipping.]


[1] Peart, Ghost Rider, 310.

[2] Peart, Ghost Rider, 355

[3] Peart, Ghost Rider, 146-147.

[4] Peart, Ghost Rider, 338-339.

R40 Live to be Released: News from Prog-Sphere

Our good friends at Prog-Sphere have the following news regarding the November release of a R40 Live dvd.

Canadian rock legends Rush had both of their hometown Toronto performances — on June 17 and June 19 at the Air Canada Centre — professionally filmed and recorded for a future live DVD release. It is the first time the band had filmed a hometown concert in almost 20 years — since the recording of Rush‘s 1997 show at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre on the ”Test For Echo“ tour. Prior to that, they recorded the legendary ”Exit… Stage Left“ at Massey Hall in 1980.

The new Rush set will be released on CD/DVD on November 20 via Zoe / Rounder Records / Concord Music Group.

For all details, go to:

Neil Peart: Cultural Repercussions Now Available

As any Neil Peart fan well knows, the great man just celebrated his 63rd birthday and his sequel to his co-authored novel, CLOCKWORK LIVES, comes out tomorrow. We all eagerly await with intense and immense anticipation this new work by Peart and Hugo-nominated science-fiction author, Kevin J. Anderson.

Out September 15, 2015.
Out September 15, 2015.

I must also proudly note that my intellectual biography of the world’s greatest drummer comes out tomorrow as well. NEIL PEART: CULTURAL (RE)PERCUSSIONS (WordFire Press). It will be available in paperback ($14.99) and ebook ($5.99) but is now available for pre-order.

I have to thank a lot of folks for their encouragement with this book project, and I hope I give everyone due credit in the book. When I read the works of Steve Horwitz and Rob Freedman, I just knew that I had to write a book on Peart. I’ve loved Neil Peart’s words and musicianship since first encountering MOVING PICTURES in March 1981. I was in seventh grade, and I’ve never been the same. To me, Peart fits in the same category as J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula LeGuin, Ray Bradbury, and Milton Friedman as influences on my young life. As Peart has grown, so have I. And, so, I presume have most of us.

This book also turns out to be my fifth published biography. The other biographies, however, have been almost completely academic. When I first started to write this book, I’d wanted to write an autobiography with the emphasis on how Peart shaped my own life and thoughts on a variety of things. Even during the first draft, I started deviating from this plan. By the final product, I’d left in only a few personal experiences. There are two reasons for this.

First, almost everyone who reads the book wants to know about Peart, not me. Second, some of the experiences are still too painful to make public fully. I can only state that Peart’s art and example has meant as much to me and my life as any figure outside of my family.

In the book, I focus on Peart as a man of letters, one of our greatest in the English language. I was pretty thrilled when PROG’s Johnny Sharp wrote:

But author Bradley Birzer does go a little over the top in his gushing praise of his subject. When an intro mentions Peart in the same sentence as Socrates and Cicero. . .

He’s completely correct, of course. But, you should’ve seen earlier drafts! Ha. Anyway, if you like what we do at progarchy, you’ll like the bio.

Actually, I was just thrilled that my favorite magazine reviewed my book! Even if Sharp had hated it, I’d still be pretty honored that Jerry Ewing and Grant Moon took it seriously enough to review. Still, I’m so glad Sharp actually enjoyed it!

Here’s hoping you will as well!

Why Neil Peart, Part I

Why Neil Peart?

[Be forewarned, this is a serious essay that leads to an advertisement.  Proceed at your own risk!!!!]

R40 Tour. Rush in Lincoln.

A year ago, I had the great privilege of reading a fine history of Rush: Robert Freedman’s RUSH: LIFE LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE.  It was a very satisfying read, and, as I finished it, I sighed to myself. . . “I wish I’d written this.”  I don’t think my reaction was one of hubris, but rather one of joy.  I was glad to see Peart taken so seriously at an intellectual level.  All too often, even in a culture that can go utterly ga-ga over the most trivial things, Americans still tend to dismiss rock music as a fad or rock musicians as a low form of artist.

For those of us who love prog and art rock, we cringe at such slights, and yet, in our heart of hearts, we’re kind of glad that we are among the few who know—as almost a secret treasure we possess—that good rock as art most certainly does exist.  Sure, we’ll argue until we’re blue in the face about what makes art good.  But, in the end, we’re somewhat satisfied that we’ve chosen the past least taken.

I’m as guilty of this as anyone, and I know that much of my life, I’ve been a total music snob.  Sure, being from Kansas, I can do it with manner and a smile, but I’m still a snob.

When the four editors of progarchy and I started this website, we dedicated ourselves to promoting—as widely as possible—the beauty of music in all of its forms.  We’re each music snobs, of course, but we so want to make our snobbery general and widespread.  That is, we’d love to have Big Big Train playing on every rock station across North America.  Rock music is at a crossroads, and we think we can destroy the mediocrity and corporate vanilla the so prevails and gives rock a bad now.  Now, this truly is HUBRIS on our part!

One of the persons I find most intriguing over the last half century is Neil E. Peart.  Whether you agree with his political views or hate them, whether you think he’s a god among drummers or just a guy dealing with his ADHD, you have to give Peart credit for making his own way, no matter the cost and no matter the obstacles.

Just a few nights ago, Rush played their final show of R40.  The chances are pretty good that that show will be the last normal Rush show ever played.  After 41 years of constant success and considered artist endeavors, that’s huge!

Cultural RePercussions cover

[Remember, I warned you above!]

So, why Neil Peart?  Well, I try to answer this very question in NEIL PEART: CULTURAL (RE)PERCUSSIONS.  The biography comes out officially on September 15 from Kevin J. Anderson’s Word Fire Press.  For another 9 days, however, you can get an advanced review copy of the Peart bio for $15 from Humble Bundle.

I’m biased, but I’m really hoping you’ll purchase a copy.  I could explain to you that every time you buy a book, you put food on the table for my huge family.  But, this isn’t quite true.  Still, it would help for the college funds!

Mostly, though, I wrote this book to spread my love of all things Peart.

To be continued. . . .

Jeff Korbelik’s Lincoln JOURNAL STAR Review of Rush. Very nice.

In interviews preceding Rush’s 40th anniversary tour, vocalist and bass player Geddy Lee hinted the tour may be the band’s last.

Say it isn’t so, Geddy.

The Canadians — Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and percussionist Neil Peart — proved again Sunday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena why they are three of the greatest rock musicians to ever grace a stage.

Rush, performing the tour’s second show, played nearly three hours, offering up two sets, with a brief intermission between them, and a four-song encore.

“We have all kinds of little goofy things for you this evening,” Lee told the audience after Rush opened with three songs from its “Clockwork Angels” album: “The Anarchist,” “The Wreckers” and “Headlong Flight.”

To keep reading this very well written and enthusiastic review, click here.