Remembering Neil Peart: Rush Performing Live In Toronto In 2003

Neil Peart sadly died on this date in 2020 after a years-long battle with brain cancer. The legendary Rush drummer and lyricist was 67 years old. Known as The Professor, Peart is widely considered one of the greatest drummers to ever sit on the throne. Neil had an immediate impact when he joined guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Geddy Lee in 1974 after Rush had released their self-titled debut and just weeks before their first U.S. tour which kicked off on August 14 in Pittsburgh with the band opening for Uriah Heep and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band to an audience of 11,000.

Nearly 30 years later, Rush would play for a larger crowd — estimated at around half a million — for the Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto benefit concert, which was the largest ticketed event in Canadian history. The concert which took place on July 30, 2003 at Downsview Park was conceived by The Rolling Stones as a boost for Toronto’s economy after the World Health Organization put the city under a SARS warning. Along with The Stones, the concert also boasted performances by AC/DC, Canada’s The Guess Who, The Flaming Lips, Justin Timberlake and more. But undoubtedly many of the estimated 450,000 to 500,000 people were there to see hometown heroes Rush.

The Holy Triumvirate energetically took the stage to raucous applause and treated Toronto to a set full of classics beginning with “Tom Sawyer.” Lifeson then reeled off the opening riff to “Limelight” accompanied by The Professor’s fills. The trio didn’t stick to just vintage material however and Lee led the band through “Dreamline” from their 1991 album Roll The Bones. Next, Peart presided over the epic “YYZ” followed by “Freewill” and “Closer To The Heart.” Rush then nodded to The Stones with an instrumental version of “Paint In Black” before closing out their set with “The Spirit Of Radio” with Neil tearing up the kit as per usual.

To remember Neil Peart, watch Rush’s complete set from Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto below for this edition of Full Show Friday:

Setlist

Rush at Downsview Park

  • Tom Sawyer
  • Limelight
  • Dreamline
  • YYZ
  • Freewill
  • Closer to the Heart
  • Paint It Black  
  • The Spirit of Radio