The rock 'n' roll weekend gets off to a helluva start with none other than Canadian prog-rock legends Rush at Rogers Arena on Friday.
The group is currently on its R40 Live 40th Anniversary Tour, which started May 8 in Tulsa, Oklahoma and ends August 1 at the L.A. Forum. The tour celebrates four decades since drummer Neil Peart hooked up with singer-bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson for the 1975 album Fly By Night.
The year before that the band released its self-titled debut album, with original drummer John Rutsey providing the classic cowbell on "In the Mood".
Feeling young yet?
Three months ago Lifeson officially announced that this would be the final large-scale Rush tour, so if you haven't seen them yet, now might be a good time. As far as hard-rock musicianship goes, there aren't many bands that touch Rush. They've built a loyal fan base by sticking to their guns from the get-go.
“We’ve always had that no-compromise attitude,” Lifeson told me back in 1992, “and our audience picks up on it. And Rush is a fairly unique band in the way we write our music, the way we work, the way we sound. I think our audience also likes the fact that they’ve grown up with the band, and they’re quite…I dunno…maybe they’re kinda proud of that.”
And if you think Rush has paid its dues, how about that Alice Cooper dude? The shock-rock legend—who plays the Pemberton Music Festival on Saturday at 5:45 p.m.—released five amazing albums (Love It To Death, Killer, School's Out, Billion Dollar Babies, and Muscle of Love) before Rush even got their first LP in stores.
And at 67, the Coop still has it—as he proved last year when he blew "headliners" Motley Crue off the stage in Vancouver. During his 13-song warmup set, Cooper pulled out all the tricks of his trade. He wrapped himself in a huge snake for "Welcome to My Nightmare", he shook phony bills from the tip of his rapier on "Billion Dollar Babies", he lost his head in the guillotine during a snippet of "Killer".
Over the years, Cooper’s horror-related songs and onstage shenanigans have had a huge effect on people weaned on albums like Killer and School’s Out. For example, Vancouver horror author Jay Clarke (aka Michael Slade) was so enamored of Cooper’s work that he based a major character from Slade’s second novel, Ghoul, on him. Cooper returned the favour by writing a blurb for the cover of Ghoul‘s paperback edition.
“I turned a lot of people on to that book,” Cooper told me back in 1990. “I just loved it. The last three chapters are really scary. I mean, that book would make such a good movie.”
Local horror freaks can also get their campy jollies at UBC's Norm Theatre on Saturday, when Vince D'Amato's Shivers Film Society presents Tromafest, a retrospective of indie maverick Lloyd Kaufman's work that includes the no-budget classics The Toxic Avenger, Tromeo & Juliet, Citizen Toxie, and the musical Poultrygeist.
And speaking of classics, legendary stoner-rockers Fu Manchu will close out the rock 'n' roll weekend with a Sunday gig at the Rickshaw Theatre that's part of their 25th anniversary tour. The show includes a complete performance of the 1999 album King of the Road, was was recently reissued on sweet lime-green vinyl.
Like Rush, Fu Manchu has not strayed much from its original plan, musicwise.
“We’ve kinda kept it pretty close,” founding member and singer-guitarist Scott Hill told me a couple weeks ago. “I know ‘artists’—whatever—like changing from record to record, but I don’t like changing. We’ll mess around with an arrangement and get mellow here and there, but for the most part I just like big, loud, heavy stuff.”
As well as the entire King of the Road album, Hill told me that the band is still playing "Mongoose", the tune so good they recorded it twice (on 1999's Eatin' Dust and then again two years later on California Crossing.)
There's that beautiful cowbell again. You're welcome.