Book Review: “Roadshow: Landscape with Drums: A Concert Tour By Motorcycle” by Neil Peart


Many of us dream about seeing the world via the roads less taken. Now imagine seeing the world while on tour with a rock band. It’s a combination that’s compelling, and those of us who cannot do so ourselves get to experience it vicariously through the book “Roadshow”.

Neil Peart is the drummer and lyricist for Rush, a three-man Canadian band that has been together since the 1970’s. Peart is regarded by many to be one of rock music’s greatest living drummers. During a concert, it is often difficult to even see him on the stage, so surrounded is he by the myriad of percussion instruments he plays. He continues to hone his craft even decades into his career.

In 2004, Rush embarked upon a world tour celebrating their 30th anniversary as a band. Life on the road for most performers can be a blur of look-alike cities along boring interstate highways as seen from a tour bus. Peart decided to try something different by traveling between tour cities on a motorcycle, taking scenic roads whenever possible. In this way, he got to see the real America and Europe, their treasures, out-of-the way eateries, rural houses of worship, and plenty of the unexpected. Somehow, he managed to log in hundreds of miles on the open road while still giving full throttle performances on stage. “Roadshow” documents the tour, the road trips and a sense of the man behind the elaborate drum kit.

If you approach this book hoping for tales of groupies, drugs and other excesses, you’ll be disappointed. Neil Peart is happily married with a permanent home in California. He is intensely private for a man with such a public career. He enjoys performing but has been uncomfortable granting interviews containing a lot of personal questions, especially after the deaths of a child and his previous wife during the 1990’s in separate tragedies. HIs book contains some cautionary tales of overzealous, unstable fans. He’d rather focus on the art of music, giving the best possible performance and then returning to a life of relative moderation.

Yet, riding a motorcycle on the back roads between concerts IS a form of living dangerously and not a risk many musicians would take. One accident and the entire tour might end up delayed or cancelled or even end a career. “Roadshow” documents such hazards as inconsiderate or inattentive drivers, adverse weather conditions, mechanical problems, even unexpected obstacles lying in the road. But there’s no denying the incredible sense of freedom and adventure one experiences on a motorcycle, and for Peart, the appeal far outweighs the risks.

Rock concerts are deceptively simple. The performers come out on stage, sing and play instruments, maybe tell you a bit about themselves, and a few hours later, it’s over and the fans head for home. Neil Peart lets the reader in on the massive amounts of planning, the dozens of unseen staff members, and the technology and effects that make it all look so easy. He introduces us to everyone from the truck drivers to the roadies to the security guards as well as many other unsung heroes of the music world. Successful bands who have been performing for a long time have very large extended families.

Peart is famous for his highly inventive song lyrics on a diverse array of subjects. Some Rush songs make you think, others make you smirk. Peart’s writing is the same way. His descriptions, particularly of the road trips, are so arresting you feel as though you were riding with him. He made a point of going to several American national parks, a great way to experience some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. Although he makes many cerebral observations, he never takes himself or the world too seriously. Upon being led astray by a GPS system, he names it “Doofus”. He takes note of all the slogans printed on church signs throughout the U.S., including some head scratchers such as “If God had a wallet, your picture would be in it”. He re-names the various stadiums sponsored by corporations with descriptive monikers like “Cellular Telephone Network Amphitheater” or “Local Newspaper Amphitheater”. I was very impressed with the quality of his writing.

Even though the chapters in “Roadshow” are lengthy, they fly with the speed of, well, a motorcycle. And after reading all about the 30th anniversary tour, I dug out my entire catalog of Rush music and listened to it with renewed appreciation. Whether as a travelogue, concert diary or cultural observation, “Roadshow” is as unique as its author.

Title: Roadshow: Landscape with Drums: A Concert Tour By Motorcycle

Author: Neil Peart

Publisher: Rounder Books

IBSN: 1579401422


Article written by staff writer, Karen Brauer

Karen Brauer is a happily married woman in her forties living in a little house on the prairie. Her passions include: photography; classic and some modern literature; classic, foreign and some modern film; and music of all kinds. Her blog is called “browser life”:

  • Linda

    Thanks! I saw them live in concert last year and have been a fan for over 15 years. It’s nice to read about Neil’s book from another spoonie with excellent musical taste. 🙂