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Rush to Tour With String Ensemble Behind 'Clockwork Angels'

Rush Live MGM Grand - H 2012
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Rush's Alex Lifeson, left, and Geddy Lee

Orchestrations for the veteran trio's "Clockwork Angels" tour are "still in the planning stage." Guitarist Alex Lifeson says, "It's just something different for us."

With Clockwork Angels, its first new album in five years, just out, Rush is planning a tour that will surprise many of the Canadian trio's fans.

"Our intention is to take strings out on the road," guitarist Alex Lifeson tells Billboard.com. Orchestrations, arranged by David Campbell, feature on several of Clockwork Angels' tracks, and Lifeson says Rush will employ a small string ensemble, likely eight to 10 pieces, to re-create those pieces and to be added to some of Rush's older material.

"It's just something different for us, and I can't wait to hear what it sounds like," he says.

Lifeson says Campbell will be writing arrangements for the tour, which kicks off Sept. 7 in Manchester, N.H., and likely will appear at some of the shows as well. "Certainly in the beginning he'll be out for a bit," the guitarist says. "I think his intention is to use these musicians he's been working with for a long time, who he trusts, and once they're settled in, he doesn't have to be around all the time and he can come out whenever he feels like it." 

Lifeson says the production is "still in a planning stage" but promises that "it's a whole new show. It's new staging, new lighting -- everything is new and fresh about it. I would say that it's an evolutionary extension of what the [2010-11] Time Machine Tour was, but we are definitely freshening it up, and there'll be a lot of new video stuff going on."

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And, of course, Lifeson and bandmates Geddy Lee and Neil Peart expect to dedicate a considerable amount of stage time to Clockwork Angels, a concept album that will be followed by a novel co-written by drummer-lyricist Peart and Kevin J. Anderson.

"The set list is quite fluid these days," Lifeson says. "We're dropping and replacing songs constantly, and that's the way it always goes before we get into rehearsals. There's a great deal of pressure on us now to do the whole record, which we don't anticipate. I think our intention is probably to prepare the whole thing; whether we'll do it or not we're still not sure, especially on the first leg of the tour. There's still a lot of older stuff we want to do, and we've got some great songs lined up from the past. We'd be loath to drop them to add more of Clockwork Angels, at least on the first leg. It's always nice to switch up on the second leg and make it a little different." 

Lifeson hasn't read the Clockwork Angels novel yet but says Peart was recently in the studio to record an audio version of the book. "That is all coming together very quickly, and it will definitely be done in time for the tour, if not shortly before," he notes.

As for other Clockwork Angels adaptations, Lifeson cracks that "maybe if we can get Trey [Parker] and Matt [Stone, of South Park and The Book of Mormon fame] to do the musical, we'd have some success with it. But, you know, we're focused on the tour right now. The album just came out. The book is very important to Neil, and that's his little baby. But certainly for the three of us the album has been the most important thing, and what happens and comes of it, we'll see.

“We're preparing for the tour, and right now that's what our focus is,” he adds. “It's been very, very busy in the Rush camp for the past couple of months."