Canada Day Weekend, 1997. Rush were closing up their final bunch of dates on Leg 2 of the Test For Echo tour (June 30 and July 2). Tom, myself, Trev, and several other record store guys had the whole weekend off and went to see Rush on the Monday show, which was the first of the two shows. Outdoor show, at Molson. We did not know that a few months later, Neil Peart would experience unbelievable personal tragedy. For years, it appeared that we had seen some of the final Rush shows, ever….
One of the guys,Troy, brought his younger brother Tyler. Tyler worshipped Zeppelin. Still does. He named his (black) dog “Zep”. Back then, he was 17 and had never heard Rush. He thought Bonham was absolutely the greatest drummer who ever lived. We told him, “Tyler, Bonham was god-like. But you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen Neil Peart.” He scoffed.
We brought some beer in the trunk of the car, and snuck into the bushes and had some drinks. We stumbled into several groups of people in the bushes, drinking, smoking (cigarettes I’m sure) and partying. It was great. We were all there, every one of us, to bask in the glory that is Rush. It was a giant communal party. Some people were already out of it, and slurring, “Duuuude…they’re gonna play 2112 dude! We are the priests of the temples of the sphinx! (sic)”
Indeed, I had heard from one of my customers at the store, that Rush were playing all of side 1 of 2112 on this tour. What would that sound like? Could Geddy even sing it anymore?
There was no opening act. There was instead a brief intro before Rush hit the stage to “Dreamline”.
At the halfway point, Rush did indeed play side 1 of 2112 (as chronicled on their Different Stages LP). They took a brief break before coming back to finish the show. These being the last Toronto shows of the tour, the roadies were out there clowning around, playing with puppets, all to the delight of the patriotic crowd.
Of course, the Professor did his unbelievable drum solo. This was around the time that Freddie Gruber had been teaching Neil, and Peart was beginning to feel jazzier in his style.
Tyler was blown away. “You were right…that guy was almost as good as Bonham!”
Tom and the rest of the guys were so blown away, they actually bought some more tickets from scalpers and came back to see the second show on July 2.
By far, the best and most patriotic Canada Day Weekend I ever had was seeing Rush. What could be more patriotic than rocking to Canada’s official ambassadors of music?