“I walked away feeling we had done justice to Taylor and justice to Neil”: Geddy Lee on how playing the Taylor Hawkins tribute concerts helped bring Rush closure

Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson in 2013
(Image credit: Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)

The Taylor Hawkins tribute concerts in London and LA in 2022 were an opportunity for bands and fans alike to commemorate the late Foo Fighters drummer, but for Rush frontman Geddy Lee there was an added sense of poignancy. Lee’s long-time bandmate and drummer Neil Peart died in January 2020 after a long-term battle with brain cancer and Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson played four Rush songs with guest drummers Dave Grohl, Chad Smith, Danny Carey and Omar Hakim taking turns behind the kit.

In Lee’s forthcoming memoir My Effin’ Life, the singer and bassist writes that the shows brought a sense of closure for the pair where they could move on from grief to remembrance. Speaking to Classic Rock’s Paul Elliott as part of a career-spanning interview in the new issue, Lee looks back to the two gigs arranged to pay tribute to Hawkins. “Those two shows were really unusual for very different reasons,” he says. “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 LA for the second show, things were a little different because of what that venue symbolises 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 head-space. I was much more withdrawn backstage at that show, thinking about things.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.”

Lee also reveals that a planned tribute to Peart was derailed because of the pandemic, but doesn’t rule out revisiting the idea in the future. “We feel like we were robbed of the moment. But you never know. We still talk about it. If we can get our shit together we might be able to pull something off.”

To read the full interview, including Lee’s admission that he was unsure about writing a memoir because he feels like his life is “unfinished”, his memories of the final Rush tour, his relationships with bandmates, new music, the future and more, pick up a copy of the new issue of Classic Rock here.

The cover of Classic Rock 321

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Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.