ONCE you’d have had to be a very dedicated fan to spot the Rush tribute band that now goes by the name Moving Pictures.
Guitarist and one of the singers, Steve Brown, who lives in Arisaig, laughed: “Before I joined the line-up, it was called The Tobes Of Hades from the Rush song By-Tor And The Snow Dog.
“I’m a Rush fan, but that is quite an obscure reference from one of their first songs.
“I’ve been a fan of the band for 20 or 30 years and even I had to think about that one!”
Now the three-piece – which plays Mad Hatters on Thursday – is named after Rush’s most commercially-successful album, Moving Pictures.
Their repertoire includes five out of the seven tracks from that album.
They also use authentic instruments, such as the 6-12 doubleneck guitar and an Alex Lifeson Signature Gibson ES 355 and signature Les Paul.
“We try to keep to the 70s and early 80s sound of classic Rush,” says Steve. “The only area we don’t emulate is the lead vocals – even Rush themselves are hard pushed to sing that high these days!
"Myself and the other members of Moving Pictures have our day jobs - session bands and wedding bands - so the Rush band is purely a work of passion for us and it makes a change from the Brown-eyed Girls, you know?"
Steve's day job playing with best Scottish wedding band Wonderland means a lot of travel from his home in Arisaig.
"My wife is born and bred Arisaig - and she came with the plot," he laughed. "But I absolutely love the place. I’ve been here for about 12 years now and I still don’t tire of that road. Thirty miles from Fort William - it is just stunning. The guys have been up here to rehearse a couple of times and they love it as well.
"OK, it’s a lot of driving, but I feel it’s worth it.
"The yin and the yang of it is that I can live here, but I’ve got to work elsewhere. I try and work it that most nights I get to sleep in my own bed, though."
Steve emphasises that the Rush band, for him, is a labour of love.
"We play two sets a night. Rush themselves play about two and half hours because they have such a vast repertoire. A lot of the tracks do last an average of between seven to 12 minutes. So an hour disppears quite quickly. We usually do 60 or 70 minutes a set and do two of them.
"I went to see Rush recently and most of the new set is their newer stuff. They are hardly touching any of the material that we are playing which is great.
"We are playing the original classics, the songs they don’t play any more. I’d love to see them do more of the early stuff, but in a way, I’m quite glad they don’t.
"Even people who will go and see them will be getting a different experience if they come to see us. Obviously, we are playing in much smaller venues!
"We have our own dedicated sound engineer - we never play anywhere without him.
"There are two or three solos in our set that are very challenging.
"By-Tor And The Snow Dog - the one with the line our band’s original name came from - is about nine minutes long.
"And the last third of that song breaks down into a rambling jam, so I have two or three miuntes of extraneous noise to make and that can go anywhere," laughed Steve.
"There are two or three moments of the night that are just freeform which Rush don’t do any more.
"They have their whole show locked to DAT, but we have the luxury of being able to jam and let loose. We try to stick to the script, but our guys like to go off it too!"
For people who don’t know classic Rush, Steve explained the fascination.
“They have been called the biggest cult band on the planet.
“When they come to the UK, they do two nights at the O2 – they’re a sellout arena band that has been on the go for 40 years. They brought out their 20th studio album earlier this year. And it’s the same three guys – apart from the first album when they had a different drummer. But they have had the same core since 1974, yet they still try to do somethng fresh with every new album.
“They’re now getting three or four generations of fans going to see them.”
Steve added: “I’ve built up a bunch of friends who are Rush fans – there are lots of forums and millions of fans from across the world out there.”
And Steve has got his own example of how wide the Rush fans’ net goes.
He went out to Canada in the autumn to catch two Rush dates on the latest tour in support of new album Clockwork Angels.
Steve laughed: “I was in this bar out there and someone suddenly said ‘That’s the guitarist from Moving Pictures!’.
“It’s one big community!”
For true Rush fan Steve, the night has many moments he looks forward to.
“There are loads of high points because it’s a work of passion for us.
“We’ve got the authentic instruments, such as the big white Gibson double-necked guitar.
“I always use that for one particular song Xanadu.
“When the crowd see that guitar going on, they know which song is coming and usually give the guitar a cheer.
“It’s quite funny for an instrument to get a cheer of its own!”
Moving Pictures – Rush Tribute are onstage at Mad Hatters, Inverness, on Thursday from 8.30pm.