Artistry and Technical Skill
One might have to be a percussionist to truly appreciate the talent of Neil Peart. Neil is one of (if not the) best drummers in Rock. There are of course other great soloists such as: Carter Beauford, Mike Portnoy, Ginger Baker, Dave Weckl ... All are creative, practical musicians as well as superb technicians but Neil seems to be in a class of his own in terms of drum solo artistry and technical skill. Technical skill refers to the ability to executive complex moves such as independence (e.g. Neil's 3/4 rhythm using his bass and hi-hat to create a constant, steady boom-chick-chick while he superimposes various incompatible time signatures with his hands). Artistry of course refers to making the drum solo interesting by offering various forms of drumming that flow together as one complete work. In result, an entertaining performance that includes but far exceeds pure technical prowess.
Below Neil performs one of his best solos (in my opinion) - that of the Rush R30 tour. Not only does he demonstrate masterful independence, but he pretty much runs the gamut of classical complexity including the double cross-over (playing two instruments simultaneously requiring both hands to cross over each other).† No need to point out the artistry in the performance.
Neil Peart - best Rock drum solo (thus far)
In 2011 Neil was the final drummer to appear on Letterman's Drum Week special. Showing off with some new variations.
Neil Peart solo on the Letterman Show in 2011.
Buddy Rich greatly influenced Neil. After Rich died in 1987 Neil promoted several tributes to him. Here is one tribute in 1991 where Neil is playing with Buddy Rich's old band. This hints at the breadth of Neil's talent (here is Buddy Rich playing the same song with the same band). The big band / jazz of Rich is very different from Rock yet Neil plays it like a master.
Neil Peart & The Buddy Rich Big Band: Drum Solo - Cotton Tail - 1991
There are quite a few amazing percussionists in Rock who have executed great solos. It is quite the challenge, however, to find a Rock soloist drummer who masterfully blends complex technical skills with performance artistry of Neil Peart.
† - To do Peart's double crossover imagine two instruments (two drums) drum 1 and drum 2. The R is the right stick and the L is the left stick. Here is the sticking pattern he employs:
Stroke: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Drum 1: R L R R L
Drum 2: R L L R L
When you see him crossing his hands as he alternates between his snare and floor tom this is what he is doing.