Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Watch RUSH: Beyond the Lighted Stage (a great new documentary)

I watched a very good documentary last night on the legendary Canadian rock band, Rush. The film, Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, is a brand new, two hour film that tells the story of the band from their days playing high school dances in the 1960s to their prog-rock days of the 1970s to the synthed up sounds of the 80s, and all the way to the present.

I think every music geek goes through a "Rush phase" at some point in their life. Mine started in high school, as it did for countless teens. For many, that Rush phase coincides with someone's first experimentation with pot, for others it comes when one first begins playing a musical instrument. The unbelievable musicianship, along with wholly original and intellectual lyrics and a "stoner friendly" style of music, make Rush hard to resist to many smart, though often alienated, young people. Personally, my phase never really ended. Sure, I don't listen to Rush much any more, but whenever a song like "Spirit of Radio," "Fly By Night" or "Working Man" comes on the radio, I instinctively turn it up. It's a subconscious reflex.

In addition to very rare footage of the band in its early days, and lots of concert footage from throughout its nearly 40 year career, the documentary also highlights younger musicians who were inspired by Rush. Among those featured were: Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), Tim Commerford (Rage Against the Machine), Kirk Hammett (Metallica), Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Vinnie Paul (Pantera) and Les Claypool (Primus). Rush peers like KISS' Gene Simmons also appear, as do comedian Jack Black and South Park co-creator Matt Stone.

I learned a lot about the group that I didn't already know. For example, though I knew bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee was Jewish, I didn't realize that both of his parents were Holocaust survivors who came to Canada after the war. I didn't realize that Lee and Alex Lifeson (guitar) had been friends since junior high (both were immigrants), nor that they existed for many years playing high school dances across Canada. Drummer and lyricist Neil Peart is the most confusing and interesting member of the band. Peart is considered one of rock music's all time great drummers, but his lyrics are what set Rush apart from most of its peers. Peart was heavily inspired by conservative philosopher Ayn Rand; and the band's landmark double album, 2112, was influenced by themes presented in Rand's novel, The Fountainhead, and her concept of objectivism.

Peart suffered some personal tragedies in the 90s that almost derailed the band for good. His daughter died in a car accident, and shortly thereafter, his wife died as well. To try and make sense of things and clear his head, Peart embarked on a 55,000 mile motorcycle trip all across Canada and Alaska. He was gone for nearly two years, and rarely communicated with anyone. Following that, he decided to re-learn how to play drums in an effort to reconnect to what it was that made him a musician in the first place. He emerged with a new style that forced the band to adapt. After a nearly four year break, Rush returned and has not stopped since.

I would recommend this flick to anyone who likes music and/or a well made documentary.


  1. Thanks for the heads-up on this movie, I must check it out!

    Jim and I saw Rush in the Seattle area this last Saturday. I had always been a moderate fan, not heavily so... totally respected their musicianship, listened to Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures quite a bit back in the day, purchased Chronicles when it came out, have kept up with their releases with help from Jim.

    I wanted to get a better feel for Rush prior to the concert, so over the past couple of months I have been picking up new and used copies of Rush CDs I do not have or have not heard. Getting a better feel for the band and then seeing them in concert has launched my "Rush phase" at the tender age of 53! LOL! I am finding I like Signals, Roll the Bones, and Counterparts almost as much as Moving Pictures and Permanent Waves!

    They are simply an amazing band. I already can't wait to hear their next album... the two teaser songs they played from it on Saturday were both excellent. And now I'll check out the movie so I can learn more about their background and gain more new insights.

    I have been in a major Ween phase too since I saw that band at Sasquatch... I had hardly even heard anything at all by Ween or given them a moment's notice, but seeing them play live changed that... I think they are amazing.

  2. I haven't seen the band since the 80s, and haven't bought a new Rush record since that time, as well. Still, their 70s/early 80s period material holds up remarkably well. Sometimes the lyrics can be a bit corny or pretentious, but more often than not, they can still provoke thought and debate. Few bands can do that.

    Rush and KISS are two great hard rock bands from the same era, and both deserve to be in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. The oversight of both is ridiculous.

  3. I haven't really bothered to ever look at the Rock and Roll HOF roster... but if Rush and KISS are not in there, maybe there is no justice.


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