“Rich Castle Presents… Don Tomlinson”, says our trusty editor on the phone with Don Tomlinson, of Distant Signals, who plays keyboards for this most awesome RUSH tribute band. What is the most striking thing about this Pittsburgh-based band is how top-caliber their musicianship is; the keyboardist is the brainchild of this long-running project. The band formed before the documentary, Beyond The Lighted Stage — and RUSH’s meteoric rise to mass popularity, because of their love for the music of the iconic Canadian trio. When queried… no, actually grilled(!) — Don, on my often quite difficult Rush Trivia Quiz, scored better than average. My questions are in the Alex Trebek-hosted Password game show, difficulty bracket
Distant Signals just came off a wildly successful year, and have to be seen to be believed, as women get up front and dance, a la the hippie way one may see in a Uriah Heep video around the time of their “Lady In Black” daze , during “Tom Sawyer” of all songs!
The singer doesn’t play bass guitar but rather lead guitar on certain older numbers, songs like “Xanadu” and “Working Man”, He is a theatrically-inclined dead ringer for Geddy Lee. He doesn’t have hysterically high vocals, though, and really doesn’t need them. Visually and sonically the guy is an uncanny Geddy. (Except for the beer belly!). The band clearly gets off on playing the songs. With band leader, Don Tomlinson, anything is possible to do by RUSH, and then translated into Distant Signals. He has stacks totalling 7 keyboards, and is a Communications master, working at American Airlines. He has the tones of the notes down absolutely perfect. One would think he is playing samples that Hugh Syme created! Yet there is just enough of a unique difference to know it is genuine.
Tomlinson spoke of doing “Signals”‘ “Countdown”. “Hold Your Fire” LP numbers, “Roll The Bones” material and even “The Garden” from “Clockwork Angels”, as the bands have a huge RUSH song base.
I find “Jacob’s Ladder”, “Red Barchetta”, and “The Camera Eye” most appealing by Distant Signals.
Don Tomlinson claims to have seen RUSH in-concert 15 times, and quipped that he has listened to the band for 30 years.
Both Don Tomlinson and I believe, as Clockwork Angels author Kevin J. Anderson would surely agree with — and all the super fans, basically, that RUSH are the #1 Rock act.
Isn’t it time we all stop quibbling about Prog Rock vs. Hard Rock vs. Heavy Metal. There is no need to pigeonhole RUSH. When the music is on what ya supposed to do is airdrum or sing passionately. Or just lean your head back and dream & smile!
Gene Simmons of Kiss said “Rush is Rush”, and that is correct.
Distant Signals are on YouTube. Future plans include a big gig up in Buffalo New York. Also Don says that his band have a video offering on DVD that has been in the works for something on the order of 5 years.
The band’s name is derived from the song “Distant Early Warning” off the 1984 RUSH album, “Grace Under Pressure” — combined with “Signals” — of course, the 9th RUSH studio LP from 1982.
The band have lots of cool videos with good sound, and another date has been added in Niagara Falls, NY (4/21/15). Can some of you remember the RUSH “Archives” LP -promoting gig up there?!? Also the Hard Rock Cafe in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 2/21/15.
– Rich Casale