The Spirit of Rush

The rest of the world loves them. When will the Rock Hall get a clue?

Rush 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 15, at Quicken Loans Arena 1 Center Ct. 888-894-9424 Tickets: $46.50-$93.50

Have you been waiting to exhale and publicly pledge your allegiance to "The Holy Triumvirate," as Jason Segel refers to the legendary band Rush in his movie I Love You, Man?

You're not alone. In fact, live in fear no more. It's officially cool to like Rush — unless you're the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, that is. From the looks and sound of things, the Rock Hall folks are in the minority these days.

Since they first broke back in 1974, Rush has held court over a faithful, hardy breed of fans; once they were sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, dweebies, and dickheads; now they're nothing short of pop-culture tastemakers. They think Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart are righteous dudes. And a great band. And they're right.

Eligible for Rock Hall induction since 1998, Rush have spent four decades as one of rock music's most dependable musical forces and its most unrelenting punch line. All three virtuoso players and their fashion-unconscious expressions of honesty and individualism have been marginalized by the media's decidedly cool-kid mentality toward them. Their cloud of fantasy-escapism, technology, complex musicianship, cultural theory, sociology, and philosophy never fit neatly into a genre or nametag. Lee's voice was too weird and shrill, the songs too long and strange, Peart's lyrics too literate and highbrow.

That was until uncool kids like Segel, Paul Rudd, Stephen Colbert, Seth MacFarlane, Trey Parker, and Matt Stone became the cool kids and began professing their love for the band — revealing the middle class as a force to be reckoned with in rock & roll culture.

Rush are everywhere now. Their visit to The Colbert Report in 2008 — the band's first U.S. TV appearance in more than 30 years — was but a drop in a deluge. Cameos in I Love You, Man, fanboy raves in Adventureland, and references on Family Guy, South Park, and in an AT&T commercial quickly followed.

This says nothing of the positively normal press Rush received recently in Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly. Or the recent documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, which makes the trio seem like the coolest band in the world. (As Matt Stone says in the movie, "If you didn't give it up for them before, you gotta give it up for them now, or you're just being a dickhead.")

This says nothing of their induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, or their newly minted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — presented by former WMMS music director Donna Halper, who first broke Rush to U.S. radio in 1974.

Though critics trip on the prog-rock label, the J.R.R. Tolkien and Ayn Rand references, and the trio's shared nerdy sense of humor, fans have largely sided with Rush. Sales stats place the band behind only the Beatles and the Rolling Stones for the most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band. They have 24 gold records and 14 platinum records, and have sold more than 40 million albums worldwide.

All of this builds a damaging case against the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's credibility. If induction is supposed to be about longevity, influence, and creativity, Rush have certainly fulfilled the criteria. The band has influenced generations of artists — from Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, and Smashing Pumpkins to Tool, Radiohead, the Mars Volta, and Mastodon.

Halper has said that Rush's exclusion from the Rock Hall is far beyond a sin of omission. She said that "very good evidence" suggests many rock critics and a high-level Rock Hall exec dislikes Rush, adding "they will never get in as long as he is in charge."

Maybe the Rock Hall will get it right. They did eventually give Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, and Genesis their due. For now, fans can hope Rush will get in someday, and not in a Velvet Underground- or Ramones-like post-mortem fiasco, but in a triumphant Public Hall concert-acceptance in 2012.

Until that day comes, all of us former zit-faced, geeky, CD-buying, concert-going, merchandise-buying freaks that put money in musicians' coffers will think of induction day as this Friday, when Rush's Time Machine Tour arrives at Quicken Loans Arena, where they'll play 1981's classic Moving Pictures in its entirety. The show will be filmed for a DVD release in honor of Cleveland being the first U.S. city to give the band radio airplay.

Now that is an induction ceremony, proving that Rush will always be the People's Band. It's just as well. Public Hall won't hold all of us anyway.

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