Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage

Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (2010) movie poster

(2010) directors Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen
viewed: 12/06/10

This affectionate documentary about the Canadian rock band Rush is an affable affair.  Heck, the members of Rush, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart are an affable group of fellows, mellow, down to Earth and lacking in major drama.  This would make for a boring Behind the Music documentary, one that had to rely on sex and drugs and death and scandal to add to the rock’n’roll  for a good story.  Rush’s story is much less about the wild times and much more about three dudes who just want to play some seriously challenging music together.  And the fans that love them.

Rush was never exactly my bag.  Typically, they are a band that other musicians tend to appreciate because their music is so complex and challenging to play and they have such virtuoso qualities as musicians.  And the film features a number of talking head famous fans including Billy Corgan, Trent Reznor, Sebastian Bach, Kirk Hammett, and Gene Simmons among many.  Oddly there are a lot of douchebags on this list.

The film discusses the early years for Lee and Lifeson, growing up in Ontario, children of Eastern European immigrant parents, and their love for music.  Their earliest music channels heavily on Led Zeppelin, and was pretty hot and heavy.  They came to the fore in the early 1970’s, but it wasn’t until Peart joined them that the trio became the “Rush” that one thinks of when one thinks of Rush.

Actually, the film softballs everything.  For as progressive and innovative as they were, a lot of their music is ponderous and opaque.  And while the film likes to point out that they were never a mainstream success nor critical darlings, the fans just plain loved them.  It offers soft jabs at their lack of fashion sense, discusses their incredibly long tracks in the middle Seventies, and casts an appreciative eye on Peart’s verbose and complex lyrics.  It’s all done with love and affection, but really for my money, their music was never that enjoyable, their lyrics are convoluted and absurd, and they while much more talented and proficient, the content of their music modeled inspiration for many heavy metal cliches played out by the likes of Spinal Tap or Anvil.

So, for a film about a band that seem like really nice guys, not sell-outs, whose music ranged from Rococo epic jams through many evolutions in style including a wayward emphasis on the keyboard, a drama without much drama (Simmons makes fun of them for not sleeping with more groupies), the film is entertaining enough.  I mean, as people, what’s not to like?  They’re nice guys, classically Canadian perhaps, and while I don’t find their music compelling (and the movie didn’t wind up making me feel compelled either), the movie was okay.  Certainly not a classic of the “rockumentary” genre, but what the hey.

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