Venue

Why Rush is my favorite band: Tom Coohill on idolizing Peart, Lee and Lifeson

Editor’s note: See our photos and review from Friday night’s show here.

By Tom Coohill
Chef/owner of Coohills

The year was 1981, and I was in junior high school in Bowling Green, Ky. My steady was a beautiful redhead who, at 6-foot-2, towered above the other kids, including me. One of our first dates was a double with my friend Jim and his girl, and we were going to see a band in Nashville we didn’t know much about named Rush.

I’d heard a few of their songs and wasn’t hugely interested but was excited to be going to a concert. Back in the day, most concerts were general admission, so there was a lot of pushing for positioning. My tall redhead was able to part the crowd with her good looks and height, and we managed to get prime seats near the stage.

The lights went down. The crowd went wild. The first song began. I was mesmerized. All I could say on the car ride way home: “Wow, I had no idea they were that good!”

 

Since that first concert on the “Moving Pictures” tour, I have been an avid Rush fan. I’ve seen every Rush tour with one exception: the “Power Windows” tour, which landed while I was busy opening my first restaurant, Ciboulette, in Atlanta. I made up for this and have seen every other tour, most two or three times — and I’ll be at the Pepsi Center on Friday to see the band yet again.

That’s about 70 shows. It’s crazy, but that’s how it’s been for all of these years.

Years later, I took my wife, Diane, to see the “Counterparts” tour. She was already a fan after hearing the song “Spirit of the Radio” in Belize while doing field work for grad school. It was Hanukkah, and Geddy Lee had a menorah on stage. It was lit throughout the show, and she gained a much deeper respect for the band.

In the beginning, I idolized drummer Neal Peart. Then I was blown away by frontman Lee, whose prowess on the bass was astounding; with his occasional spin on the keyboards and his otherworldly vocals, he is impossible not to watch. Last, but in no way least, is Alex Lifeson, who plays electric and acoustic guitars as well as other stringed instruments with a passion that is impossible not to get caught up in.

Ultimately, though, I fell in love with the band as a whole. They are tight, and their music has layers that transport you effortlessly and euphorically. And Peart’s lyrics have thought-provoking themes, usually about human nature and life; I think they have four love songs tops. This is not pop music.

From the start, Rush has been an anti-establishment rock band. They make music that inspires them, which is not always music that sells or makes record companies happy. They are not trying to appeal to the hip rock crowd. They aren’t plagued by scandal or bad behavior that makes news. These are three artists who strive to create new and different sounds and lyrical themes, making all 20 of their albums unique.

When friends come over, I treat them to a few videos from my (complete collection) of Rush DVDs. Whether they’ve seen them before or not, they repeat what I said after that first show in 1981, “Wow! I had no idea they were that good!” And, every time I play it, Diane says, “Why does it have to be so loud?” And I simply respond with the truth, “Because it does.”

Tom Coohill is the chef/owner of LoDo restaurant Coohills.