More than 500 fans of musician Geddy Lee, lead vocalist with Rush, squeezed into Bolen Books at Hillside Centre for a chance to meet the acclaimed singer and bassist during a book signing Wednesday, his first official event in the city since Rush’s 1980 concert at the former Memorial Arena.
Lee’s appearance to promote his 408-page coffee-table book, Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Book of Bass, was a colourful affair, with an assortment of men, women and children — many clad in Rush tour T-shirts — clamouring to meet the 65-year-old Toronto rocker.
Loran Werrun, who arrived at 2:30 p.m. for the 7 p.m. start, was one of the first to meet Lee, and the drummer for local rock band Punish was visibly shaken by the experience.
“I’ve been a fan since I was five,” Werrun, 46, said. “I’m shaking right now. Overwhelmed. Rush changed my life.”
Also in the crowd was Victoria fan Tom Sawyer, who shares a name with the titular character of what is arguably Rush’s biggest radio hit.
He didn’t purchase a $100 ticket (which comes with a copy of Lee’s book), but he was hoping to meet the bassist and show him his driver’s licence for a laugh.
“Even though it says Thomas on my ID, everybody knows me as Tom Sawyer,” he said.
Lee’s appearance will go down as one of the biggest in the store’s history, said Vaughn Naylor, promotions co-ordinator for Bolen Books.
“We knew that it was going to be a big deal for Victoria. Even within the first few weeks [of tickets going on sale] it was bigger than we expected.”
A similar event for Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield drew a much bigger Bolen Books crowd in 2013, but Lee’s signing was capped by his publisher Harper Collins at 500 people, so that the musician could speak with every fan in attendance and sign their book.
Rush ceased operation in 2018 after more than 40 years. Lee and bandmates Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
During their time together, Rush sold more than 40 million records, thanks to hit singles such as Tom Sawyer, Limelight and New World Man.