Before Neil Peart joined Rush, the band were yet to unlock their full potential and were incomparable to their future selves. Rush released one album before his arrival, their self-titled debut in 1974, which was a commercial and critical failure. However, there is one song from the record that bassist Geddy Lee once named his favourite Rush track to perform live.
The song in question is the seven-minute extravaganza ‘Working Man’, the closing track from the Canadian band’s debut. Although the album doesn’t compete with their later work, such as 2112, Moving Pictures, and Hemispheres, ‘Working Man’ holds up with anything the band ever produced, despite not featuring Peart on the original recording.
While it was never a hit single for the band, it was picked up by American radio and helped establish them in the United States after becoming an underground hit. Although it was left out of Rush’s set lists for almost two decades throughout the 1980s and ’90s, the trio re-introduced it to their concerts in 2002, remaining until their final show in 2015. In total, Rush played ‘Working Man’ over 900 times during their career.
Speaking to The Guardian in 2018, Lee revealed: “It was my favourite song to play every night, and that’s why I wanted to include the live version.” The track was also Rush’s closer during their final concert, which wasn’t completely pre-determined.
Lee revealed: “Not 100%. Neil was pretty adamant it was, and he played it like it was going to be the final show. And that’s why he actually left the drum throne and came out and gave us a hug on stage, which he swore he would never do. I guess I was a bit of an optimist. But nope. I think Alex accepted it more as the end. I thought we really killed it that night, but it was hard to tell because it got really emotional in the last 20 minutes. That’s the first time I ever got choked up at a microphone. So I guess a part of me knew.”
He added: “I miss playing with Rush. I don’t miss travelling with Rush. I miss being on stage with those guys because it was a singular honour to me. I’m sure I will play live again one day, but it will never replace that intensity of what a three-hour Rush show was like to perform: it challenged me to my max and that’s rare in this life.”
Sadly, the opportunity to play live with Rush again was robbed from Lee following the heartbreaking loss of Peart in 2020 following a battle with brain cancer. While he’s performed again with guitarist Alex Lifeson since Peart’s death, it’s not Rush unless all three are on stage together.
Watch the footage below of Rush performing ‘Working Man’ at their final concert in 2015.