Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage
by Kevin J. Hosey
Priests of the Temples of Syrinx
Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage
A perennially popular movie theme has the nerds and geeks beating the nasty rich and allegedly cool people. While no one is beaten or punished, the three members of Rush come out victorious while letting their collective geek flag fly in the new documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage.
The movie takes viewers from the band’s origins through its current status as platinum-selling legends and masters of the hard-edged, intelligent progressive rock sound. Bassist/singer Geddy Lee, guitarist/backing singer Alex Lifeson, and drummer/songwriter Neil Peart repeatedly, openly, and gladly admit to being geeks and nerds, and many fans and musicians proudly agree.
Throughout the film, many musicians declare their undying love for Rush, including Gene Simmons of KISS, Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Pantera’s Vinnie Paul, Sebastian Bach, Jack Black, and Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins. Simmons notes that when Rush and KISS toured together, while KISS was participating in its usual post-concert hotel bacchanalia, Lee, Lifeson, and Peart were in their rooms watching television and reading. Hammett leads several musicians raving about the difficulty of playing the classic “La Villa Strangiato” (from the Hemispheres album), unable to hide their wonder and admiration.
Beyond the Lighted Stage details Rush’s early stages when childhood friends Lee and Lifeson joined original drummer John Rutsey to form the band in Toronto. Rush gained a following playing high school and church shows, before the drinking age increased and the band moved to Toronto bars. After releasing its debut self-titled album in 1974, the band dropped Rutsey (apparently for apparent physical/health reasons—touring exacerbated his diabetes), and Peart, a loner/geek/drumming phenom, joined with just weeks to rehearse before their first US tour. The film includes amazing early concert footage, not only of Rush’s first major tour but of a Sadie Hawkins dance it played in Magnetawan, a very small town hours north of Toronto.
Peart, considered the smart one by the band and a serious book reader, was asked to write the lyrics, which got increasingly conceptual (and science fiction and libertarian influenced). When sales dropped off and the label asked for more commercial songs, Rush recorded 2112, a milestone for the band commercially and artistically, and began to grow in both ways with every new release, culminating in Moving Pictures in 1981, the point at which, Lifeson states, “We became us.”
The film shows Rush’s progression and reactions to major success and musical changes, focusing on the band’s several-year hiatus following the death of Peart’s daughter and wife in the late 1990s. This is one of the few points in the film where the musicians are not joking or openly talkative; they pause, wince, and grasp for words to describe the horror. The return to recording and touring with Vapor Trails in 2002 allows the band and the viewer to exhale.
There is lots of music, live and studio, and the sound mix, even on the old live recordings, sounds wonderful, and Lee and Lifeson seem most relaxed. Lifeson may surprise some being so talkative and thoughtful, being neither the lead singer nor lyricist. Lee, Lifeson, and Peart may be three of the most normal, geeky, nerdy, thoughtful, and downright nice musicians in a very successful hard rock band.
But: What happened to Rutsey? He is not interviewed in the movie. Has he never commented on leaving Rush? (Apparently he quit drumming shortly after leaving Rush and kept a low profile until his death May 2008.) Did border cities like Buffalo and Detroit help Rush gain US popularity? How do the members feel about their popularity among musicians? These are small complaints; Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage is very enjoyable and informative. I consider myself a fan, my wife Val is a legitimate Rush fanatic, and she learned things from the film, including that Lee’s parents were Holocaust survivors.
If you want to make a full, fun weekend (or evening) out of it, watch the band’s live DVD Rush in Rio, recorded in November 2002 at the end of the Vapor Trails tour, preferably before but even after viewing Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage. The concert fleshes out both the music and many interview portions of Rush as well as shows an absolute apeshit reaction from 60,000 Sao Paulo fans getting to see the band live for the first time ever.
Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage will be screened at the HD Video Cafe, 5445 Transit Rd, Williamsville (688-4933) and at The Screening Room, 3131 Sheridan Drive, Amherst (837-0376). Advance tickets are available by phone and highly advised.
Watch the trailer for Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage
blog comments powered by Disqus
Issue Navigation> Issue Index > Summer Guide: week of June 10, 2010 > Film Reviews > Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage
This Week's Issue • Artvoice Daily • Artvoice TV • Events Calendar • Classifieds