Man, I learned to play guitar from learning Rush songs.
First saw them on "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert", Fly By Night tour. I was hooked. Growing up in Detroit, I saw them in all kinds of tiny theaters & hockey rinks.
Kind of grew out of them after "Signals" - "Moving Pictures" seemed kind of the end of an era for them, with "Signals" still having some of that-something from their earlier days. I got to where I wanted more funk & soul in what I was listening to... and Rush kinda isn't funky.
But, I sit there jaw-dropped when they play "Rio" on VH1, and I'm thrilled that they seem like a bunch of humble, nice guys and have become so huge (when i was a kid, nobody heard of 'em). Neil's personal story is so freakishly tragic and moving - my daughter's a college frosh and the thought of losing a child? Doesn't seem survivable.
It kind of hurts to hear Geddy reaching for the old high notes - my favorite vocal performances from him are "Anthem", "Farewell to Kings" - but even in their prime, he was always a tad weaker live than in those iconic early studio tracks. But god damn, his bass tone on their later live stuff is simply stellar.
I don't agree with the "Lifeson - ehhh" comments; I think as a creative soloist, he's just a step below with jeff beck and holdsworth - who generally don't have to "fit" short solos into songs. the solo on "farewell" is such a cool, glorious, emotive wall of noise, and "limelight" is just a classic melodic piece of guitar. I'm still trying to UN-learn his complex rhythm playing and leave a little more room for vocals, too. Lifeson's big weakness if often tone - on the live DVDs I'm surprised there's not more complexity in his tone - lots of gain, kind of thin, where there should be some shocking bit of weirdness.
I'm curious though - hit the MP3's on my bandmix profile - are you hearing any Alex in there? I really feel he was my first real guitar teacher.