Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage

Whenever people jot down the greatest bands of all-time.  Whether it’s the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin, the Clash, Pink Floyd, Nirvana, or anything else.  There’s always an argument into why these bands are great.  Then there’s Rush.  The Canadian power-trio formed in 1968 by Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee, with the addition of Neil Peart in 1974, were a band that not many people understood.  Despite selling more than 40 millions and having more gold and platinum albums next to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.  They were not a band that were big enough for the mainstream or the darling of critics.  By 2010, the band’s popularity is still thriving than ever as the year also the band’s story be told through a documentary called Rush:  Beyond the Lighted Stage.

Directed by Sam Dunn and Scot McFayden of Metal:  A Headbanger’s Journey and Iron Maiden:  Flight 666Rush:  Beyond the Lighted Stage chronicles the band’s early years to 2009 as the band is currently riding a wave of pop culture.  From the early hard rocking years through the late 70s/early 80s period of popularity and onto the synthesizer period of the 1980s.  Dunn and McFayden interview the band along with associates and fans of the group including musicians like Gene Simmons of Kiss, Vinnie Paul of Pantera, Tool’s Danny Carey, Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater, Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlain of Smashing Pumpkins, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and Sebastian Bach along with actor/musician Jack Black and South Park co-creator Matt Stone.  The result is a fascinating, entertaining, and thrilling documentary one of the greatest rock band of all-time.

The documentary is broken into several chapters of Rush’s history from the band’s early beginnings to their most recent tour promoting the 2007 album Snakes & Arrows.  Particularly into the backgrounds of Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee in their suburban backgrounds and how they met in junior high.  Even as there’s brief profiling on original John Rutsey, who is heard through an audio interview in the early 70s, as he is mentioned and why he was out of the band due to health issues.  The meeting of Neil Peart in 1974 after the release of the first album led to some funny stories about the band opening for Kiss.

Stories about the band’s rise following the release of 2112 and why they wore the kimonos in an age where jeans and t-shirt weren’t cool which the band wanted to wear.  Even as they talk about the critical lashing they received over the years and how their fans dismissed it despite a critical re-evaluation in some circles in recent years.  With the release of 1981’s Moving Pictures, the band became popular as they moved into the age of synthesizers known as the Synthesizer Period of the 1980s that divides fans to this day.  Even as it would eventually get the band back into hard rock territory while Neil Peart studied drum techniques with Freddie Gruber.  The story of Neil Peart’s family tragedy is touched upon on how it shut the band down with Lifeson and Lee worried about Peart’s state as he went on a cross-country trip through North America where he finally returned in 2001 to record Vapor Trails.

The documentary is considered to be a Holy Grail to Rush fans as archive footage of the band’s early years, rare interviews, and such is finally presented in this 107-minute tale that chronicles the band and all of their albums.  Even as some are profiled briefly while it allows fans, famous and non-famous, a chance to talk about those periods and how much Rush means to them.

The band themselves come off as just real guys who are relaxed, funny, and intelligent.  While Lee and Lifeson are more accessible, even as they give autograph to fans.  Peart, is presented as someone who is very private though he does reveal a lot in the interviews he’s given despite the fact that he’s very shy and not wanting to get a lot of accolades.  Band personnel like manager Ray Danniels also fill in to the band’s history along with Peart’s parents and the mothers of Lee and Lifeson.

Some of the film’s entertaining moments come from the famous fans in the film like Jack Black and Sebastian Bach, who each give more light-hearted, comical interviews.  Notably Bach who explains that 2112 led him to read Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead at such a young age.  Musicians like Mike Portnoy, Vinnie Paul, Danny Carey, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, and Ozzy Osbourne/Black Label Society guitarist Zack Wylde delve into the complexity of the band’s music.  Even to some of the criticism towards the synthesizer period where Trent Reznor is revealed to be a fan of that period while Billy Corgan contends that “middle of the road Rush” is still someone’s left field.

The archive footage shown, including a scene of a young Alex Lifeson arguing with his parents about his future is really a treasure for fans.  Even as the fans themselves get to be revealed in talking about their love for the band in an almost-geek like fashion.  Rush’s devotion to its fans is shown as it is clear that their fan base is one of the strongest.  Even as it’s clear that no matter how much the mainstream ignores them or how much flack they get from the critics.  Rush has always endured through many trends with a strong loyalty of fans proven by album sales and sellout concert tours.

Rush:  Beyond the Lighted Stage
is a remarkable documentary from Sam Dunn and Scot McFayden.  Fans of Rush will no doubt be happy to see the band’s history told in such a respectful way while giving them archival footage that they will enjoy.  Those new to the band with a keen interest will no doubt be amazed by the band’s history and the testimony from fans and musicians into why they’re one of the best.  Even as Matt Stone that the band deserves to have their props, otherwise you’d be a dickhead.  This is definitely one of the finest music documentaries ever made without any of the sentimental Behind the Music trite or skimming over things like most programs about individuals.  Dunn and McFayden get it right with Rush:  Beyond the Lighted Stage.

© thevoid99 2010

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