I bought this beast on the second anniversary of the death of Neil ‘Mad Dog 20-20’ Peart. It seemed fitting somehow. I’ve coveted this book ever since it was published. This year I pulled the trigger and with some Christmas money I bought it. It pairs nicely with the new book about rush gig posters which I reviewed here last month.
WANDERING THE FACE OF THE EARTH is a monster hard-cover running over 470 pages long. The clever title is from the tune ‘Dreamline’ from ROLL THE BONES. It has a nice dust jacket and embossed cover. It is essentially the encyclopedia of Rush concerts.
I can’t begin to describe how detailed this is. For a Rush fan it is everything you could ever want to know about the bands live concert history. Everything. There is a funny and warm Foreword by Les Claypool of Primus. The introduction goes to Howard Ungerleider, Rush’s Tour Manager for…ever. We start with a mercifully short intro chapter, giving us a brief overview of the band. I say mercifully because that story has been told 100 times and we don’t need to waste space. Only Rush fans will buy this. Or the wives of Rush fans. So everyone is already on board no need for lengthy histories of the band!
What follows next is a chronological accounting of every tour. Every gig. Every show. Every festival. Each chapter covers a tour cycle with a brief historical overview. Each setlist is provided. Then the bulk of the book is a synopsis of every show. Where, when, attendance, the address of the venue, how much tickets cost, who opened the show, notable trivia and quotes from local media. It is insane. The authors Daly and Hansen are master historians and researchers.
While the raw information is presented clearly and in a nice readable format, the true beauty of this masterwork are the gorgeous visuals. Hundreds and hundreds of images are presented for our enjoyment. It has it all; live shots, candid shots, flyers, posters, stage set-lists, tickets, formal, informal, ads, tour itineraries, venues, and all these images give us a sense, a tiny little glimpse into life on the road with Rush. Watch for a photo of comedian John Candy and Geddy Lee watching a baseball game in Florida! The book is packed with cool stuff like that.
This is not the sort of book you just start at the beginning and read cover to cover. It’s too dense. After getting a few chapters in I went and looked up the entries for the Rush shows I had seen. From there one can dip into various dates, tours, pages and browse. This is the ultimate reference guide/touring history. So much trivia. So many anecdotes. It’s actually overwhelming in a wonderful sort of way like too much candy on Halloween. Is there such a thing? I’m not convinced.
I’m not completely convinced of the long-term readability or long-term value of this book I’ve made this same comment about other hyper-detailed books. Do I really, really need to know that on December 7th, 1985 in New Haven Connecticut, Rush played in front of 7099 people in the New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum located at 275 Orange Street and that the venue opened on September 27th, 1972? I’m not sure. Will that come up in casual conversation? Is that the kind of witty anecdote I can share at cocktail parties? Let’s be real. No. This is the ultimate rush nerd deep-dive reference guide. No one cares except maybe the 7099 people who were there that night. Even Rush probably doesn’t remember or care about that specific concert. But that is not the point. It is the totality of the achievements.
Another thing that struck me was how little Rush toured in comparison to some bands of the same age. Depending on your source, Rush played about 2790 or 2800 concerts. By way of comparison other 70’s acts like Ted Nugent, Kiss, Cheap Trick, Blue Oyster Cult, Status Quo all played more concerts. Of course, it is not a contest but it counters the common perception that Rush was a really hard-working band. Let’s change that, not ‘hard-working’ but ‘hard-touring’. I was shocked to learn that the Moving Pictures Tour, arguably the height of their power was a 79-date tour! As time went on the band toured less and less but to bigger and bigger crowds. I was also surprised how little they played outside of North America. I would have liked maybe a bit more statistical summary; how many shows in Canada, America, etc, longest tour, longest show, what band opened for them the most, what city they played most often (probably Toronto) list of festivals etc. That would save me having to go count.
If you are looking for some deep insightful analysis from this review, you might not find it. The content and delivery is beyond criticism. For Rush fans, you need this. You want this. You probably already own this since it came out in 2019. Every band should be so lucky to have a tour documentation of this depth and passion.