Alex Lifeson doesn’t get enough credit for being one of the most talented guitarists of his generation, if not all time. Due to the fact that he’s in a band with two of the most celebrated and influential musicians in history, two musicians who have some killer technical prowess, Lifeson sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. That’s not entirely fair, especially since Lifeson is as talented and technically proficient on the guitar as his bandmates are on their respective instruments.
For proof, you just have to listen to Lifeson’s isolated guitar lines. There are tons of YouTube videos that explore Lifeson’s large array of legendary guitar lines, picking apart riffs and solos that we all know and love. But there’s one video in particular that just might be the best example of how great Lifeson truly is as a guitar player.
The video down below is taken from a concert in St. Louis during the summer of 1992 while the band were on the Roll the Bones tour. What’s unique about it is that the video is just Lifeson, isolated for the entire concert, with no effects, pedals, or amplifiers to assist him. How someone got a signal directly to Lifeson’s pickups is beyond me, but the results show just how much finesse Lifeson had in his fingers.
Featuring long string bends, lightning-fast picking, and gorgeous arpeggios, Lifeson has nowhere to hide on tremendously difficult tracks like ‘The Trees’ and ‘Xanadu’, and yet he still sounds fantastic when deprived of the distortion, chorus, and delay pedals that make up his signature tone.
For those aspiring guitarists looking to learn Rush songs, the video is invaluable as well. Tabs and guides can only get you so far, but hearing Lifeson play without any bells and whistles makes it much more clear what he’s doing on the neck.
The result is a masterclass in technique and note articulation. Lifeson is loose as well: you can hear the fluctuations in tempo and chord voicings. The occasional mistakes make the video even more endearing – Lifeson is human, after all, and hearing one of your heroes flub a line or two makes it all seem that much more real and live. When it comes down to it, there’s no better argument for why Lifeson deserves his place among the greats than to show how killer his playing is when stripped back.