Dream Theater’s James LaBrie Recalls Rush Drummer Neil Peart’s Mistakes During Live Shows: “You Can’t Be 100% Every Single Night”

Dream Theater's James LaBrie Recalls Rush Drummer Neil Peart's Mistakes During Live Shows: "You Can't Be 100% Every Single Night"

In a new interview with Breaking Absolutes, Dream Theater singer James LaBrie recalled the time Rush drummer Neil Peart was making mistakes during his live shows and said that no one plays %100 on stage every time.

Neil Peart was a Canadian drummer who reached international success as a member of the rock band Rush. He performed in the band from 1974 to his retirement in 2015 due to health issues.

Inspiring numerous drummers and being one of the best drummers in the rock and roll community, Peart performed in every Rush album except for the self-titled debut.

However, recently, LaBrie talked about Neil Peart and his mistakes during live shows. He also mentioned the late drummer’s remarkable words about the subject and said that no one can play %100 on stage every time.

“The fact is – you can’t be 100% on the ball every single night that you go out there,” he says. “Even Neil Peart himself!

“I keep coming back to him but he even said, ‘What other job can you say to me that you are expected to be 100% on each and every time you are doing that? That’s not possible, that’s not feasible!’

“This is coming from one of the greatest drummers. And that’s true. We’ll be on there and even though it might be a subtle mistake, for us, we’re like, ‘Nobody’s gonna know that you did that, don’t worry about it.’

“But yourself, you’re sitting there and you go, ‘Yeah, but it’s there…'”

LaBrie Mentions Fans’ Possible Reactions

The singer continued by touching on fans’ possible reactions to the late Rush drummer Neil Peart‘s mistakes during live shows.

“Especially ourselves because we are under the microscope, and whenever we’re playing, because of the kind of band we are, our fans just tend to be a little more critical.

“They want to say, ‘Well, if you have the audacity to put that into your music when you’re in the studio, I want to see it live!’

“Everyone is going to be sensible when they’re in the studio going, ‘I don’t want to do something here that I’m going to have one hell of a time reproducing live each and every night.’

“And if that is the case where you know that you’re up against something due to your health or whatever, then it’s up to you to be the professional and say, ‘Well, I’m not going to do that which they’ve come to expect tonight. I’m going to alter that and I’m going to do a variant of that.’

“And that’s cool too because some of my greatest freaking singing heroes I’ve seen them do it countless times, where they change the melody, they bring it down, whatever it is that they might be doing. I respect that.

“And I’m guilty of that where I’m not even feeling right and I’ll still go, ‘I’m gonna freaking go for it!’

“And then when I go for it, I’m like, ‘Why did I do that?’ OK, the fans are going, ‘Whoa, what the hell was he trying to do there?’ It’s letting myself down, going, ‘You could have been more professional, you could have altered that melody, you could have hit something else that was still musical and still got the point across…’

“But we’re all guilty of that because it’s just human nature to say, ‘Well, no, I’m not gonna give up, and I’m gonna go for whatever it is I have to do, whether I’m feeling it or not.’

“That’s part of being a musician as well, there’s that little red devil on one side of your shoulders saying, ‘Come on! We can do it! We can do it. I know you’re not feeling up to it but let’s do it!'”

Back in this past October, former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy had discussed the idea of joining Rush as a successor of Neil Peart.

“Hypothetically, of course, it would be a dream come true,” Portnoy said. “Neil was my hero, and always will be, and Geddy and Alex are as well. I don’t think in a million years they’ll play without him, I really don’t.

“In a hypothetical dream scenario, I mean, come on, of course. I don’t think in a zillion years it will happen, but it’s a nice dream to hypothetically wonder about.

“I honestly don’t think it would ever happen, but who knows, you never know. As much as hypothetically it would be fun, it would be amazing, it would also be an impossible role to fill.

“It’s a no-win situation, really, it would be impossible because his fans are as obsessive as they get – and count me amongst them – so yeah, that would be a tough one.”

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  1. First of all, who gives a shit about Neil Pearts mistakes!! This gentleman showed us a level of excellence that is RESPECTED worldwide! To even talk about his “MISTAKES is nothing but BULLSHIT to me!! Play eight bars of what he played on any Rush performance as well as him and then talk to me about, mistakes..utter rubish this interview and the subject..

  2. What a stupid story. I know from being a drummer and one of the biggest Rush fans, and knowing almost every drum beat in their catalog, I’d play along to songs when seeing them live. Yes, there were times live when he maybe changed the hit or changed up the roll a bit, especially in later years, but that guy didn’t miss much at all. Why is this even a story? Its like its made to just denigrate Neil. Why even print this??

  3. Well these guys above me said it all….it’s just not even worth commenting further on but I will…….Neil Peart was the ultimate in details, and hard work, and the constant striving for perfection that put him in a class that made so many people strive to emulate…..this story, the whole thing just reeks of pointless , silly , and basically blasphemous blah blah blah…..blah blah, blah blah blah blah
    Blah blah blah …..these last few words were a direct quote from Alex Lifesons R and RHOF speech btw…..

  4. I dunno. Saw Rush numerous times, from 75 (or 76?) onward through the 80s/90s before self “aging out” of attending most live shows (except the Whiskey or the like, clubs) and Neil was always amazing.
    I know Rush material fairly well, Peart was a Toure de Force.

  5. I saw Rush in early 90s at Worcester MA centrum and l stared at Neil thru binocs the whole set. He made 3 slight slips that had no effect on groove and l wouldn’t have been sure if he hadn’t smiled slightly. I love him

  6. Who gives a shit what this fucking douche bag says! Neil Peart had more talent in his little toe than his whole shitty band does!

  7. To all the previous comments, I don’t believe that the article is to meant to trash Neil Peart, I understood it to be more about how even someone as great as Peart made the occasional mistake, even if that mistake was a “planned mistake”.

  8. James Labrie is not qualified to critique Neil Peart in the first place. And his comments are pretty stupid, as is this subject. James should just keep practicing his vocals instead of just blowing hot air

  9. James WHO ? A nobody who is a garage band skill lev compared to Neil and Rush . Sell a a few million before opening your piehole . Barely a novice rating a legend .

  10. One of the most asinine stories I ever read. First off, why would you have a story that focuses on Neil’s mistakes, especially when he can’t defend himself. The drummer sounds pretentious, and people suck cause they do anything to take down others that have achieved greater success. Also, Portnoy should just leave it alone. I saw his comments in other articles. He is a great drummer, but just like Bonham, Neil Peart can never be replaced. I try to emulate Neil’s playing myself, but even if I was famous I would never dream about trying to sit in. It’s stupid talk.

  11. Neil was precision and complexity personified. But he is human, albeit an extraordinary one and he is mortal evidenced by his lack of presence. It is unseemly to speak of inevitable errors even from our heroes. But they exist nonetheless. Such talented people smooth out the inflections with professionalism and elegance such that almost nobody knows and those that know don’t mind. Thank you Neil and RIP.

  12. Have you heard this guy sang he couldn’t hit the correct note ever in his life how dare him pick on Neil

  13. I haven’t whatched the interview yet, but I was shocked at the comments.

    It’s clear that he took the best drummer he could think of to say “no one’s perfect, but that’s ok”. It’s the human condition.

    He talked about Neil because of his respect for him, and said that what he said was wise. An advice from an idol, not from someone he’s making fun of.

  14. As far as I’m concerned, any article about Neil Peart is a tribute to his genius. His “mistakes” are better than what many can do on purpose. Plus, he was a song writer, and an exceptional one at that. But I wish Rush would change their mindset and find another drummer to play with. Because the immense talent of the other 2 geniuses should stop.

  15. Why are you even publishing this worthless story? Who is James Labrie anyway? Don’t get me wrong… I love Dream Theater! That is until Labrie starts wailing like a hyena. Neil Peart was a consummate professional. Labrie will never reach that level.

  16. I’m like are they really talking about the late great Neil peart even if he did hit a rim or miss a symbol out front your not gonna notice it’s not like hes playing the guitar and playing the wrong chords next dumb thing to discuss that jimi Hendrix dudes amp keeps feeding back

  17. Well James, an airline pilot is expected 100% accuracy while carrying passengers so what are you saying again about no one is 100% everytime??? I’ll wait…..


  19. The headline alone made me so angry that the skipped the article.
    Everything I was ready to say has been posted already. Every word.
    I liked Dream Theater.
    How ………
    dare you!!!

  20. Holy shit what a stupid “article”. Peart at 90% was still better than 99% of everybody else. No idea why James would even go near this as his opinion on the subject of drumming is useless.

  21. Wow…..the self righteous chest thumping is amazing. Dude wasnt calling Neil out. What he was pointing out he ambitious he was to record these other worldly drum parts and then had the balls to re-create them live….and on most nights nailed them. On other nights he didnt…no biggie. Even Brady throws the occasional pick. Did the Walenda’s make it across the rope every time? Lighten up

  22. What is the point of this drivel? Neil never claimed to be infallible. In fact, he even acknowledged that he never played Tom Sawyer the same way each time. He took more than 2 years of to study with one of the greatest improvisational jazz drummers of all time so he could be spontaneous in his performances. No wonder Portnoy left your asses.

  23. Who cares who made a mistake or did alter a drum part, a bass line or a guitar riff while playing his songs? That should be of no interest if you still recognise the song and just enjoy the show. That’s live baby. This counts in my opinion for every musician.

  24. LOL I really don’t need to leave a comment because all these guys said it perfectly. BUT,… I’ve seen Rush multiple times live and worked a drum clinic that featured Neil. And in saying that,. Neil didn’t make “mistakes”. The very worse thing I might have caught was a slowing of tempo here or there cuz maybe he didn’t feel it or wanted to tighten up the pocket. But by like a quarter second,.. maybe! As far as his fills, rolls, attack, precision, timing, and all around structure. Nope! James Lebrie must have had lucky charms for breakfast, saw a triple rainbow, and rode to the concert on a unicorn to have caught not just one or two, but a multitude of so called “mistakes” that night. He should’ve played powerball that night as well! Point being,. No James.. I don’t believe you did catch all these “mistakes”. And there is only a few reasons why you would even offer up such a BS story like this. “Click bait” anyone?! I mean REALLY dude.. ask YOURSELF what good actually comes from giving your opinion ( and YOU being a SINGER BTW! ) that is in no way showing a legend,.. and I’ll repeat that- a “LEGEND” in even the slightest “bad light”? I mean.. who do you REALLY think you are bro? You wanna know why you’ve never heard Mike Portnoy or Mike Mangini or ANY other drummers say anything even remotely like that? Because they all know,.. First and foremost- you don’t ever speak ill of the dead! ( No matter HOW your trying to spin it) And second- Neil Peart doesn’t make “mistakes”! And let’s say for argument sake, even if by chance he did,.. he would totally adapt it into some badass fill that is probably better than the original. And if he ever by chance did REALLY make any REAL “mistakes”? He’s Fkn Neil Peart and has BEYOND earned the right to!! and has also earned the right to NOT be called out (after he’s dead and gone no less) by a Fkn singer!! Have some class Lebrie. And learn some fkn manners. Maybe you’ve heard the saying ” If you don’t have anything nice to say,.. then just keep your BS opinion to yourself and shut your damn mouth till it’s time to sing!” Lol And just maybe keep the drum critiquing to,.. I don’t know,.. um.. the Fkn drummers!! (Singers just ALWAYS gotta put themselves in the spotlight somehow though right?! This was not the way to do it dude. Bad call on this one bro. Real bad call.)

  25. I can’t drum! I air drummd everything Rush did for almost 30 years and when I did get the chance to see them live Neil was great. I sat in their hotel lobby for 2 hours talking to them…3 true gentlemen. Neil is the best ever.

  26. All the shit for fuck brains people who authorized the publishing of the article ,when your all dead i think ill trounce on your graves as you all did,no wait isn’t I have honour and ingretity

  27. If neil has made a mistake ever ive never heard or seen one. His mistakes sound awesome then. How the guy has the nerve to talk about a deceased legend baffles me. Neil was number one. We all make mistakes. It is a stupid article, just a waste of space.

  28. I don’t even know why I was recommended this bullshit article to read, but I know I am not alone in saying this. I get this was probably intended to state that no musician is perfect, but seriously what the hell does James Labrie have on Neil Peart? Don’t get me wrong I love Dream Theater and have every album, but James isn’t anywhere near a top contender as far as vocalists go. His voice cracks at every live venue there is. I think the band would have been better off with Charlie Dominici! Anyway, I think I am deviating from my point. James Labrie is trash and has no reason to be talking about a deceased fellow Canadian musician which “he looks up to”. I’ll think twice before I buy your next album, Labrie. Quit publicizing these shit articles. You’re embarrassing yourselves.

  29. I’m a Dream Theater fan but James is literally the reason they aren’t a more established band. He can’t make it through one song live without several cringy moments.

  30. U know there always has to be 1 dip shit…who has to rip a guy that he will never get the chance even to be in the same room. And that is how much neil is a bad ass u can’t tell.Get a grip, dude how many records dream theatre..put out….RUSH….WHO IS THE HEADLINE…AND THE OPENER…

  31. Crying shame this twit could even criticize anyone. Who the fuck is he. Only the musicians in that band are worth a dam.Neil was a machine. And yes he could of played for dream theater if asked and accepted.

  32. I’ve not met any of you folks that have commented, but would to buy each of you a beer. No, none of us are perfect, but why are we printing this bullshit regarding a man that has contributed more as a musician and a lyricist than James Labrie could ever aspire to. Put a bandaid on that exposed nerve, James.

  33. In a more recent interview, Neil said he never tires of playing Tom Sawyer, because he rarely gets it “right”. As a musician, I’d love to be able to write something that challenges me every time I play it. The fact that even though it may not be note-on to the original, it still is amazing. That is what shows just how Fantastic he was.

  34. What the hell do we care about a vocalist for a band that no one gives a shit about his part of the band’s music’s views on an all time legends music performance. Suck it dude

  35. Translation: I’m getting older and obviously struggling live. I played it safe with my vocal range on the new album. The fans are getting on my nerves about my abilities live. Well, hey, you know: Neil Peart, Dream Theater fans’ golden drummer idol… he struggled, too! So why can’t I? Huh? Leave me alone!

    James, please leave Dream Theater gracefully. If you blow it on the next tour, that’s God’s way of telling you that you’re not 25 anymore and can’t reproduce a lot of the back catalog and it’s time to hang it up. Please don’t be Geoff Tate.

  36. Are you kidding me?!!! James Labrie, I only have three words for you. “YOU’RE SMOKING CRACK!!!”
    Of course he waits until Neil Peart passes away to start talkng shit. Now how chicken shit is that? I bet he would have never said that while Neil was still alive. You have the I.Q. of a brick dude. You wouldn’t know professional musicianship if it bit you in the ass. Who did you bribe to get a job in the music industry? You should be playing a first of the month welfare bar, where the beer is stale and the women are staler. You suck James!!!

  37. James LaBrie…and who are you? Oh that’s right…you’re nobody! Neil Peart’s looking down from the stars…laughing
    at your dumb ass.

  38. I am Fuckin upaulled at these comments by people that cant even spell …hahaha…pert was not only a god of drumming to metal.progressive.country.hip hop samples to say the least…he was a true drummer in the least…he marked the way for pros and kids alike…he will always be known as a Bach or Beethoven of drumming….being from Dallas fuckin Texas…i personally know he was Vinnie Paul’s hero…but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at today’s media …and comments of people that dont know shit….how dare mofos talk shit on a man that cant defend himself…well I will for him

    ..FUCk YOU

  39. I love Neil Peart and, besides BONZO, was probably one of the greatest Rock drummers ever, the Professor. Anyway, I think the point was that it’s OK to make mistakes in a live performance and that there’s nobody, even Peart, that is immune to a few mistakes.

  40. I totally agree w LaBrie and it’s 100% humble of him. I do not like Dream Theaters music AT ALL FYI. As a musician who puts my all into my instrument, I actually learned something from this article which I thought I already knew. Be professional, even if that goes against your ego AND it’s a balance between studio and live. You can’t expect a singer to blow their voice out after singing an hour, to hit a note and not perform the rest of the set. Instead lower that part an octave live. EVERY band does this, it’s about how, being realistic and not letting your ego lead you. Seems a lot of commenters have never reached abilities enough to see Peart is just human, which is WHY he was so great, NOT because he was a perfect robot

  41. It isn’t likely that Labrea(o that’s right, that is a tar pit so how could King James know what’s good and isn’t. Nah, he can’t. Lame ass comments from someone without talent or class

  42. James LaBrie hasn’t sang well since 2001, earlier than that in live performances. He has reached a point when even a big DT fan like me can’t stand hearing him “sing”. He’s all shitty performances and excuses; he shouldn’t even be allowed to utter Peart’s name.

  43. As a fan of both, I’m pretty sure it was a media slice meant to make you click on the post.
    That being said, someone of James’ caliber has no right to talk about Neil’s quality as a drummer, nothing but respect should be given.
    I have seen some dreadful performances from James, but I’m still a fan, and would never criticize under any circumstance

  44. What a sad and senseless article. As a huge Rush fan for 40 years, I find the title of this article and the article itself disrespectful. Neil was and still is in a class above all others. I have been to over 50 live Rush shows and I never heard a mistake. Know why? Because if Neil made a mistake, it was so minor only he would know it. Let the Professor rest in peace.

  45. This definitely isn’t an article trying to throw a hit at Peart, or even take the wind out of anyone’s sails that thinks he was great.

    Peart was great, and he will always be considered great. That is not in dispute. However we have to be real, here, and recognize Peart was also human. We glorify our musical figures as if they are superhuman- indeed, they deserve much praise for their impressive technical talents. But they are still human. In fact, much of the best drummers, singers, and musicians in general all very boldly send forth a depiction of their humanity. Hearing isolated drum performances of Peart, live, you can hear his tempo vary a bit. But nobody is bent up about that- because he sounded good with the band. It sounded right. He’s an incredible drummer. We can debate the intentionality behind the tempo variance, but at the end of the day, we’re all humans making music. There’s a million and a half ways to be good, and at least 2 million ways to be loved for a unique take.

    It’s something I learned early in music- it doesn’t have to BE right, it just has to SOUND right. That is to say, we do our best, but we are still human. Humanity is imperfect by nature. Performance contains some kind of flaw, every time.

    And to most people, they couldn’t give two hoots whether you’re 5 cents sharp or 5 cents flat all the time as a singer, and why? Because if you can be THAT good with your singing, no one can barely tell the difference, anyway.

    Or whether you speed up 5% over the course of the song or intentionally change tempo 5 times in the course of a track, slowing to end.

    It doesn’t have to be right. It just has to sound like it’s right.

    And that’s an encouragement to me… Because it reminds me that most of my mistakes are not noticeable to the rest of the room. They are just impressed with my abilities as-is.

    I think sometimes we get so wrapped up in the digital age, trying to strip out our humanity in favor of a sound that sounds like human robots. We want everything to be perfect and we sometimes get to the place where we expect everyone to sound perfect. But even the very greatest of greats was not perfect. They were just amazingly good in a nearly unattainable way.

    We get so obsessed with how good one person was that we won’t let ourselves be ourselves in music, we won’t even let ourselves feel good about our abilities. We idolize someone like Peart to the point of all other music being deemed pointless, as if music’s worth is only technical skill and nothing else. We put Peart on a pedestal that’s 1000 feet high, and say there’s no way to ever reach that height. When really he’s 900 feet high, and the 18,000 step staircase is standing right before him. Some may not have the physical prowess of genetics to walk the final steps- and that’s okay.

    It’s never been about cutting someone down a peg who’s skills outweigh our own or deserve respect. It’s always been about understanding that music IS human. Once we get to the point that we, for lack of a better term, consider someone a “god” in drumming, we have gone TOO far. And as a note, even basic solid drumming can seem remarkable and unattainable when we first begin drumming. The point being that Peart didn’t sit behind the kit the first time and play like Peart, yet. He had to get there like everyone else. To someone who doesn’t drum, his skill level seems unfathomable. To someone who does drum, his difficulty comes center stage, but his attainability reveals itself with great practice.

    Peart is/was great. You can say he was better than great, and I wouldn’t disagree with that. But I might say the same about my favorite band’s drummer. And my favorite band is NOT Rush- music is art, and art is opinion or taste. Technical skill is not all there is to music. And Rush was not drum software in human form- he was only about as close as most of us could hope to get to such a thing 🙂

  46. James should worry about his shitty singing voice as he’s the weakest link in Dream Theater. I would expect him to go after ex-bandmate Mike Portnoy but leave Neil alone …

  47. Stupid article, but jeez no one in this comment section can read, James Labrie is saying it in relation to how even his idol, and the best drummer, can make mistakes, not “Neil isn’t all he’s cracked up to be” or anything like that. 🙄

  48. Did Neil play everything perfectly, night after night? Even though he got close, he is, after all, human. And we all make mistakes. We live in such a politically charged, hate filled world now, that if one person says something that we view as derogatory, everyone starts screaming like an entitled leftist. I find James’ remarks refreshing, as even Neil admits to not playing perfect every bar very of music every night. Lighten up and just enjoy the body of amazing work that he left us with. On the subject of mistakes, listen to Van Halens early albums- they have mistakes on them, and I am glad they left them on there! No one plays perfectly all the time. After all, again, we are human! Just saying.

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