The ever-evolving nature of Neil Peart and his drum solos during Rush concerts are the kind of thing that separates the Rush fans from the fanatics. This being Rush, it should be no surprise that quite a few music nerds lurk among their fandom, and those that can tell the difference between a drum solo from 1981 versus one from 2008 are truly the most devoted of all the band’s followers.
But there are notable differences for the layman to pick up on. For much of the 1970s, Peart’s only synthesised portion of his solo was a chorus effect, as can be heard on All the World’s a Stage. For a brief time in the early ’80s, Peart would completely forgo effects, like on the ‘YYZ’ solo on Exit… Stage Left, but in the following years, electronic drums and samples became a major part of the experience.
By 1997’s Test for Echo tour, The Professor had it down to a natural science. After his recent training with jazz drummer Freddie Gruber, Peart had a noticeable bent towards swing and fluidity that had somewhat replaced his jackhammer precision and Keith Moon influence. It’s still good ol’ Neil, though, and his performance of ‘The Rhythm Method’ bridges the 20 years of drum solos that he had been performing at that point into one monster thesis on percussion.
The Test for Echo tour would be the end of an era for Rush, mostly because of the tragic circumstances that befell Peart in the year following its end. On August 10th, 1997, just over a month after this particular concert and right after the tour’s end, Peart’s daughter Selena died in a car accident. Peart and his wife Jacqueline moved from Canada to California to escape the pain, but Jacqueline herself died less than a year later.
Peart took years to recover, often travelling around North America alone on a motorcycle. Lee and Lifeson considered Rush to be finished but were surprised when Peart declared his desire to rejoin the band. Newly married and settled in California, Peart was able to reclaim his love for music and performance. As the band’s manager, Ray Danniels, explains in Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage: “I sensed that he would do it again; that he would be OK. I don’t think you work that hard to be what most people consider as the best in the world at something and not go and do it again one day.”
Watch Peart’s drum solo down below.