In our last rock movie review, A Band Called Death, we took a look at a documentary that exposed a relatively unknown band, Death, who gained fame more than 35 years after they disbanded: an underdog story in the truest sense. But in today’s Rockwood Cinema Review we take a look at one of the biggest, most well-known bands in rock, who in many ways were (and still are) also misunderstood and underdogs themselves (albeit in a different sense). I am talking about the Canadian rock band, Rush and their documentary, Rush -Beyond The Lighted Stage (2010).
Rush were always a little too conceptual, too cerebral, too intricate and too Canadian for mainstream rock critics and their detractors. The fans, however, would disagree and in many ways Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage is a gift to them, as well as a testament to the band who would not give up. Now, Rush are one of the biggest, most prolific band’s in rock history but as this movie documents, there were times where their future was bleak. That their style of music was out of sync to what the record companies wanted and confounded typical rock fans, who wanted simple rock songs with shallow subjects. As Beyond The Lighted Stage shows, the band members were in many ways outsiders as individuals as well in their own right while they were growing up in Ontario. In some sense, it is no coincidence they would go on to be the biggest “cult” bands in the world. Rush place third, only to be outsold by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for the most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band.
Listen to Rush’s “Fly By Night” on Cottage Country Vol. 22:
Rush: Canada’s Own
For many Canadians (myself included) Rush are identifiably “our band”. Geddy Lee (bass) and Alex Lifeson (guitar), the sons of Jewish immigrants, and Neal Peart in many ways epitomize the Canadian experience: ernest, honest, intelligent, as well as dorky, goofy but devoted with the gumption to do it their way, in spite of all else. Characteristically, I find Canadians to be good listeners, (not something I can quantify) but it seems to me that Canadians are influenced by many different cultures and countries. In Rush, they may have “borrowed” elements from bands they loved (namely early on with Led Zeppelin, then later in the 80s, you could hear the heavy influence of The Police). However, they took these things and made them their own musically, visually and lyrically. No other band sounds like Rush and this is not just because of their technical prowess.
Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage was directed by fellow Ontarians and Canadians, Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen, who prior to this directed and produced the critically-acclaimed, Heavy Metal documentary, Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey (2005). So, what they did lovingly for the Heavy Metal genre is here devoted to Rush. It is longish by filmic standards but for Rush fans that can’t get enough it is perfect. A fairly comprehensive and intimate look at the band and their history.
What is clear in Beyond The Lighted Stage, if it wasn’t for Rush’s commitment to their musical perspective, Rush’s music might not have been as be compelling and enduring as it is today. I think that for a lot of bands who are contemporaneous to Rush, some of the music has not aged as well. There is something about the musical synergy between this powerful trio that seems to endure.
The movie includes interviews and tributes by their peers, including Gene Simmons (from Kiss), Kim Mitchell (Max Webster) and Mick Box (Uriah Heep) whom they toured and performed with. As well as musicians and pop icons they influenced, including: Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails); Sebastian Bach (Skid Row); Kirk Hammett (Metallica); Mike Portnoy (Dream Theatre); musician and comedian, Jack Black; Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society); Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters); Vinnie Paul (Pantera); and Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin (from Smashing Pumpkins). No doubt a small portion of the people they have influenced, but it’s amazing to see these people’s imaginations ignited when they recount Rush’s music (air drumming, bassing, guitaring et al) in appreciation. It’s particularly note worthy how many of those artists themselves are guilty of heavy-handed concept albums themselves.
Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” appears on Cottage Country Mix Vol. 5
The title “Beyond The Lighted Stage” is of course lovingly borrowed lyrics from their song, “Limelight” and, such, is a candid look at the band on and off the stage.
Lovingly assembling new interviews, archival and behind the scenes footage from the Snakes and Arrows Tour, Rush -Beyond The Lighted Stage is both revealing and satisfying for the casual, to the most die hard fan of Rush and is a great Rock and Roll movie. Obviously, re-watching it now in 2021 after the passing of Neil Peart, it is, of course, bittersweet. The movie, which follows the progression of the band up to their triumphant return (after the tragic death of Neil Peart’s son), could not have foreseen the untimely death of Neil Peart himself and consequently the end of Rush. Watching the film now during this pandemic, with the footage of the live crowds loosing their minds to the music of Rush performing on stage, it seems, in retrospect, a world away, but it’s movies like this that remind us and inspire us to dream bigger.
Rating: / 5
Length: 1h 47m
Best time to watch: Really anytime (whenever great docs are enjoyed) but great during the day or early evening.