GEDDY LEE Says Performing At TAYLOR HAWKINS Tribute Concerts Was An 'Incredible' Experience

November 19, 2023

During the question-and-answer portion of his November 15 "My Effin' Life In Conversation" appearance at The Met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, RUSH bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee spoke about reuniting with his longtime bandmate Alex Lifeson for last year's star-studded tribute concerts — one in London, one in Los Angeles — to pay tribute to late FOO FIGHTERS drummer Taylor Hawkins. They enlisted a few drummers — TOOL's Danny Carey, Omar Hakim, RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS' Chad Smith and FOO FIGHTERS' Dave Grohl — to join them at the gigs, the second of which took place at L.A.'s Forum, the same venue where RUSH played its final concert in August 2015.

"That was an incredible couple of days," Geddy said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET). "It was very emotional for obvious reasons. And so you're looking at, first of all, two events to celebrate the life, and sadly the passing, of a great person, Taylor Hawkins, who was an amazing human being. He was a great drummer, of course, a great rocker, but he was a lovely and expressive guy. And I had just gotten an e-mail from him. He was like that. Every once in a while, he would send a note and just check in. 'Hey, dude, what are you doing? How come you're not out there playing, man? Come on, get the fuck off your ass. Get out there.' That was the kind of guy he was. So, just being a part of that was important to us to do."

He continued: "Dave Grohl is the most incredible human being I've ever met in my life. He understood how difficult it would be for Alex and I to come back and play without [late RUSH drummer] Neil [Peart]. And yet he said, 'You were so important to Taylor. I can't imagine doing this without you there.' So I said, 'Yes, of course,' immediately. But he was very aware of how difficult it would be. And so he said, 'One thing you cannot do is play with one drummer. 'Cause then everyone's just gonna say, 'That's the new RUSH. So let's divide it up amongst all these drummers. I don't wanna play the really hard ones. You can get someone else to do it.' [Laughs] But anyway, so it was a great event. We paid tribute to him, and I got a chance to pay tribute to Neil. And because we were at the Forum, it was a cathartic moment for me. And in a way, we were able to reclaim those songs for ourselves again and feel good about playing the songs, whether Neil was with us or not. And that's important for us to move on."

Lee previously talked about his participation in the Hawkins tribute concerts in the latest issue of Classic Rock magazine. He said: "Those two shows were really unusual for very different reasons. The show in London was perhaps the most joyous celebration of loss that I could ever imagine. I've never seen so many musicians in one place, and the atmosphere backstage was profoundly positive… In some ways, it was maybe the greatest gig of my life. The whole atmosphere was like nothing I'd ever experienced. But when we got to L.A. for the second show, things were a little different because of what that venue symbolizes to me. Being back at the Forum, where my band had played for the last time, it felt like I was returning to the scene of the crime. So I tried to be as joyous as I was in London, but I couldn't find that same headspace. I was much more withdrawn backstage at that show, thinking about things. But I walked away from it feeling that at least we had done justice to Taylor, and, in a small way, justice to Neil."

Geddy recently told The Washington Post that taking part in the Hawkins tribute shows opened the door for future performances from him and Alex.

"It had been a taboo subject, and playing those songs again with a third person was the elephant in the room, and that kind of disappeared," Lee said. "It was nice to know that if we decide to go out, Alex and I, whether we went out as part of a new thing, or whether we just wanted to go out and play RUSH as RUSH, we could do that now."

Geddy also revealed that in October 2022, for the first time in years, Lee and Lifeson went down into Lee's home studio and jammed.

Although Lifeson was "excited as offers rolled in after the Hawkins shows," he ended up undergoing surgery in July for his long-standing stomach problems.

Asked if he plans on nudging his pal to get back onstage, Lee told The Washington Post: "He needs to feel good and feel healthy and strong. And then maybe we have a discussion."

At the London Hawkins tribute concert on September 27, 2022, Lee and Lifeson performed three classic RUSH tracks. After an introduction by Jack Black, the RUSH portion of the evening kicked off with "2112 Part I: Overture", the first movement of the 1976 prog-rock epic, with Grohl on drums and THE BIRD AND THE BEE's Greg Kurstin on keyboards. Grohl was then replaced by Smith behind the kit for a rendition of "Working Man". After that, Lee addressed the crowd, saying, "I'd just like to cast back to a moment in time, 2008, when we were contacted by the FOO FIGHTERS to see if we would go down to the Air Canada Centre in Toronto and play Taylor Hawkins favorite song with him onstage. That was the beginning of quite a beautiful friendship. So in honor of that and in honor of our own lost brother, we'd like to bring out Danny Carey to play 'YYZ'."

Lee and Lifeson previously played the same three tracks at the first Hawkins tribute concert on September 3, 2022 at London's Wembley Stadium. Grohl and Omar Hakim handled the drums for that performance.

AfterRUSH's final concert in Los Angeles, Peart indicated that he wanted to retire while he was still able to play well, along with a desire to spend more time at home with his young daughter.

Peart died in January 2020 after a three-year battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. He was 67 years old.

RUSH waited three days to announce Peart's passing, setting off shockwaves and an outpouring of grief from fans and musicians all over the world.

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