Written by Alex Stojanovic
@ Meridian Centre
St. Catherine's ON, Canada
October 22, 2022
I still remember like it was yesterday that we were already one week into 2020 when the news broke about the sudden passing of none other than the Professor, aka: Neil Peart. Given how much of an influence Neil had on me on my drumming and lyric writing, and how much of a Rush fan I am, it goes without saying that his passing hit me like a freight train, and I speak for all my fellow Rush fans across the globe. To me, it was like losing a friend I never had. Now, celebrity deaths don't affect us as much as losing a loved one or someone close to us, but Neil's death was the only celebrity death that affected me. When he left us, we knew that the rock and drumming worlds would never be the same again.
There was also no doubt that his passing would spark the idea of a memorial/tribute show. Whenever a monumental figure leaves us, it only seems fitting to put on a tribute/memorial show for them. That being said, the first-ever and probably only-ever tribute show for Neil was announced shortly after his death, and it was only fitting that the event be held in his hometown of St. Catherine's, Ontario. Originally scheduled for May 2020, the event had to be postponed for a total of "FIVE" times due to a pesky little pandemic before finally taking place on October 22, 2022 at the Meridian Centre in St. Catherine's. The event drew fans from southern Ontario, other parts of Canada, and even the States and abroad.
Some of the tribute acts included the Devah Quartet, who performed their classical and instrumental rendition of "2112" in its entirety, and it also had some guitar accompaniment from David Barrett, as well as acoustic solo performers like Jacob Moon and Brandon Dyke. Another tribute act came all the way from three South American countries. That band was Fleesh, which consisted of members from Brazil, Argentina and Chile, and performed beautiful renditions of "The Pass" and "The Garden". The whole arena held light-up candles, lighters and phone lights during their performance of "The Garden" for a makeshift candlelight vigil. This was one of the moments, along with the "Time Stand Still" and Growth Rings videos that there wasn't a dry eye in the entire arena. All these tribute acts played during the memorial segment of the show. Following the memorial segment, it was then time to raise the energy up, and on came the electric tribute acts: Permanent Waves, whose five song set include "Mission", "Middletown Dreams", "The Big Money", "Freewill", "Mission" and "Spirit Of Radio". Closing off the night was female fronted Solar Federation, who had the longest set of the night. What made their set stand out was that it was all deep cuts. Their deep cuts set included "Chemistry", "Marathon", "Analog Kid", "Witch Hunt", "The Necromancer", and they closed the night off with "Natural Science".
Now, given how much of an impact Neil made, there was a lot of debate amongst fans about the scale of the event, with many feeling strongly that the event should've been much bigger, and were even drawing comparisons to the Taylor Hawkins tribute shows that just happened. Now, I want to give my two cents on this subject though. As amazing as it would've been to have a much bigger event for Neil, Taylor was much more prominent in the public eye, was very outgoing, and was friends with a bunch of the biggest names in show business as a whole, and the Foo Fighters were all about having a good time and creating a party vibe. All those reasons combined made sense as to why the Taylor shows were as big as they were. Now, Neil on the other hand was a much more reserved and private individual, and while he was very appreciative of all the love and respect people had for him, he had his limits on that as any Rush fan would know. If you put him in a room with a big group of people and all the attention was meant to be directed towards him, whether it'd be a birthday party or any type of celebration of him, he would not be comfortable with that. We then later learned that before he died, he did not want a tribute show to be done for him. Simply put, he just wasn't a big attention seeker. On top of that, while the Taylor shows were also charitable events, they cost millions of dollars to put on, whereas A Night For Neil was more of a low-key fan-organized event that was on a bit more of a budget. We also learned that Taylor was one of the first contacts for the Neil show, and was all on board with making it happen, as any fan would've been.
In conclusion, after 2.5 years of Covid restrictions, A Night For Neil finally happened, and it was a huge success. It was a night where all us Rush fans got together to honour and celebrate the genius known as Neil Peart. Even though it would've been amazing if Geddy and Alex were present or sent a video message, there couldn't have been a more fitting tribute to a musician who will continue to inspire for generations to come.