If ushering in a new decade means foregoing the “Behind The Music” cliché that VH1 made popular in lieu of nerdier, more music-based films handled by Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn, then thank goodness. The duo behind “Metal: A Headbangers Journey” that undoubtedly sparked a minor cinematic remembrance of all things leather and tri-tone, now rock a bit more obscure with “Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage.”

This time, the lens shifts to the Canadian prog-rockers best known to the mainstream for crippling fingers in Guitar Hero with “Tom Sawyer.” But it isn’t fair to pretend this documentary isn’t meant to just be a few live songs thrown against morphing still images (a continuing trope from the McFadyen/Dunn camp that doesn’t grow old at all.) This is a look into, to quote Geddy Lee, the “world’s most famous cult band.” 

In a 13-part program, the history of Rush is broken down through Lee and Alex Lifeson being lifelong friends, growing up through the Canadian music scene and early touring on the 70s American music circuit among KISS and Ted Nugent while trying to sell a record to an American audience. Going through their catalog over their shift from gritty rock into the sprawling epic concept albums that went through roman numerals and references to Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead”–mainly attributed to second (and current) drummer Neal Peart. 

The music documentary’s evolution went from concert film to the Maysles-friendly “fly on the wall” to give fans a happy medium of live music and proof that our rock gods are just like us—but cooler and awaiting a helicopter to take them up to Woodstock (so yes, I am a fan of “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out.”) But McFadyen/Dunn have given this up and thrown the “Behind the Music” idea out the window, focusing instead of letting music speak for the band, its fans and a who’s who of other musicians that love them; in the case of Rush, we’re given affidavits from Jack Black, Sebastian Bach (“I was the number three member of Rush’s Backstage Club!”) Gene Simmons, Matt Stone and countless other producers, musicians and pop culture kingmakers (i.e. Stephen Colbert) showcase that we’re not just dealing with a famous band. But they’re a band that helped crate a new brand of listener: the dedicated geek.

At least, that’s the intended goal throughout this film. Rush doesn’t need a new fan, but vice versa; in our current pop culture climate where being a nerd is now cool, Rush helped pioneer literary references and sprawling fantasy concepts so bands like Coheed and Cambria could produce a comic book based on their entire song catalog. Likewise, Rush are a power trio that continuously tweak their sound, their voice and their image for people—ok, mainly guys—to attach to and broaden their view.

Or, you know, maybe we should just plot out our daily lives using roman numerals and pretend we’re Tom Sawyer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Kris says:

    Been a fan of Rush since I was a kid but have been out of touch with them in adulthood. Watched this doc on YouTube last night and enjoyed it very much. Geddy, Alex and Neil seem like genuinely nice guys who enjoy each others’ company and want to do right by their fans. Plus, they fought for their creative choices when the chips were down and won. Who doesn’t love that kind of story?

  2. norm says:

    I have to agree, that was one bad review. Looking forward to the film, however.

  3. BGB says:

    My only critisism of the movie is, does Sabastian Bach have to be in everything? he’s a wannabe that had his 15 minutes. OK, rant over.
    I have been a fan since “Fly by Night” in 1974. I’ve seen them live about 10 times (Farewell to Kings in ’77 was the BEST!) and they ALWAYS deliver. As far as I’m concerned, the R&R hall of Fam has no credibility until they (And KISS for that matter) are enshrined there.

    I was lucky enought to meet Alex walking outside the concert hall when they played here. He was warm and gracious and put up with a bunch of teenagers when clearly he could have signed a few times and run. He stayed for about a half hour BSing with us before he had to go for sound check. Axl Rose would have blown us off.

    Rush will be my favorite band forever.

  4. Ron says:

    Anyone who’s seen Rush live gets “it”. They are the 3 most talented musicians in rock,,,period. They put on a 3 hour show, no backup band, fantastic video, special effects. Songs that have you on your feet screaming,,,others that have you in your seat with tears streaming down your face. When they finally went back on tour with the Vapor Trails tour,,,they followed up Neil’s solo with the accoustic Resist and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the arena. I started with the “All the World’s a Stage” tour and have tickets to the “Time Machine” tour and have seen plenty in between. There is nobody that compares….With the documentary and the new 2112 Guitar Hero, etc…maybe they will finally get some respect they deserve.

  5. Robert says:

    I have never really been a fan of Rush aside from buying Signals and Roll the Bones, and Grace Under Pressure. Happened to catch the Documentary premiere on PLDIA channel the other day. I came away impressed with the openness and genuineness of the band. From listening to them talk, I can certainly see why their music has touched many fans over the years. Maybe I buy a few more Rush songs!

  6. jay says:

    ps. and i do agree with a couple of people who have commented on this review. i mean what?

  7. jay says:

    Not to go on again about Geddy’s voice but I simply think that the morons that criticize Geddy’s voice are actually clueless to it. Most of them like a bad rumor have just fed off of 1 bad opinion and have never given Rush a chance. The intellect and musicanship of Rush have less musically inclined people stumped. They are simply not intelligent enough to comprehend Rush. Rush are musical integrity, period.

  8. bob says:

    That review was.. horrible. No clue what the f**k you are trying to say.

  9. Bronx says:

    Movie was GREAT!
    They are THE power trio..talent, skill, musicianship..Try and find another band like RUSH. no way.

  10. J. D. Scott says:

    I have been a RUSH fan since 1975 . RUSH is band that is a journey and I have been there since the early time. The first time I saw RUSH they were warm up for REO SPEEDWAGON. How things REO is playing state fairs now. I lost my wife to Breast Cancer about the time Neil lost his wife. She was 46 . So I can understand why he is so private. Every one I think will enjoy the RUSH DVD . Some people dont like RUSH to each his own. But I for one think they deserve to be in the Rock and Roll hall of fame.

  11. DB says:

    Great movie. All this debate of Geddy’s voice and stuff is killing me. This ain’t about whether or not you like the band. It is about the freaking movie.

    I do love the band, but this movie is accessible to everyone as far as I can tell. It is genuinely funny. Jack Black should be interviewed for commentary for any documentary out there as far as I am concerned, his stuff was hilarious.

    The fan interviews were a bit weird. Any time you are talking to obsessive people in general it is probably a bit weird. Funny thing is, when the one fan is talking about connecting with the alienation of being an ‘outsider’ during high school regarding ‘Subdivisions’ I was surprised. I never thought Subdivisions was an ‘outsider’ song, but more of a critique on how brutal the clique system is to everyone in a sea of isolation, how pointless and cruel existence is for all in suburban subdivisions. The ‘in crowd’ or the ‘out crowd’ was irrelevant, we are all disconnected by suburban subdivisions and the growing sophistication of technology. But hey to each his own (I know, I know, this was not technically ABOUT the movie, but it was at least brought up in the movie).

    The bit about Sebastian Bach picking up the Fountainhead as a 14 year old because he saw it mentioned in the liner notes of a Rush album cracked me up. OF course, I had done the same. I also have a few William Byrd collections from reading Metallica liner notes, so there you go.

    It is a great idea to pull musicians that grew up loving a band in these documentaries. Screw what friends, even famous ones, have to say about the subject of one of these rockumentaries, go to the artists who grew up loving them. Their descriptions of what worked for them, or not, during different points in the development of the band were passionate, insightful, creative, funny and obviously heartfelt. That combo made for great viewing.

    I actually learned nothing new about these guys biographically (a few details sure), other than, even in the 70s, they never really got into the groupie thing. I knew they had that reputation in the 80s and so on, but I just figured they grew out of it. Maybe that is why they still have some of that ‘rocket juice’ left in the bottle to this day.

    Go see this movie.

  12. MAVIII says:

    I dont think Arthur Ratnik saw this Film, I think if ANY person watched this Film-being a non fan of Rush or the Genre, would have put 2 and 2 together “…oh, these guys are pretty intelligent”.
    The Geddy voice thing is old, his voice has matured with “age” but many of us fans like it, you dont, end of story.
    The point about “The Tree’s” though would not be the way “to make a point” unfortunately. Those are the songs that the critics and ignorant alike will use to make fun of Rush, we get it, but if you want to point out the intelligents of the band, its the music itself. If you want to convince the contemporary audience that inhales what only Radio gives them, you need to point out the ideas and lyrics from “Permenant Waves” to now when the stories focused on the everyday life and human struggles we all live in for a non-fan to get a sence of the intelligents of the band.
    Rolling Stones have been nothing but “Lifestyle maintenance” for over 20 years. Rush on every album is about the Craft in making music from the 1st track to the last, not hit singles but an entire album. Like Ayn Rands “Fountain Head”, Rush is the Howard Roarke, uncompromising, unwaivering, he creates Art for the sake of it, integrity, a monument for the unique, the individule, they create their music for their own hearts and minds, and if WE happen to like it, we’re journey on the same path, even if spiritually we ride different vehicles we ride the same road.
    This Film/Doc was awe-inspiring, but it needs to go beyond “preaching to the choir”, it needs wider distribution.

    Go see this Film for your curiosity and to learn something new and be surprised 🙂

    By the way, Jimmy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins should be Rush’s official spokesman, he articulated everything that makes Rush a great Band with intelligents and humility, the audience would follow with applause at his words!

  13. Stephen Schaff says:

    I’m tired of people slamming Geddy Lee’s vocals. When he was young he did belt out the lyrics,but it suited the themes of the songs. Over the years he has adjusted his singing to fit the many different phases the band has gone through. He has a high voice, so be it. The idea that RUSH could ever or would ever change singers is as likely as the ROLLING STONES replacing Mick Jagger…GET OVER IT!! This is a band that does it’s own thing and doesn’t cow down to out side pressure. They, as a group, can out play any band in the history of rock music. I’ll just continue to enjoy them, while they continue to make GOLD and PLATINUM albums.

  14. Dan Wolf says:

    This is to Arthur Ratnik(the RAT) Are you that lame! Do you have any idea what talent is all about. Simply put, Rush is one of the top talented bands in Rock n Roll history! To compare Geddy Lee’s voice to Micky Mouse is ubsurd! You apparently have no idea what Micky Mouse sounds like. Neil Peart is an actual genious. He really is! The lyrics he writes are fantastic stories of adventure and fantasy! Think of “Red Barchetta” or, “The Trees”. I’ve made my point! Alex Lifeson is hands down the best guitar player in Rock n Roll! I will review the movie after I see it!

  15. ArthurRatnik says:

    I always thought Rush would have been good if they got rid of the vocals. That would be a twofold improvement as it would save us from Geddy’s operatic Mickey Mouse voice and would have prevented Neal Peart from pulling any more lyrics out of Ayn Rand’s a*s.
    2112 made a lot of stoned teenagers feel smart when I was in high school. I never saw their fans as nerds, most I knew were metal-heads. The nerds from my parts were listening to E.L.O.
    Lifeson’s cool, he gets huge points for appearing on Trailer Park Boys.

  16. Mark Bell says:

    Well, Fred, at least you backed your argument up with reasons why you felt it was the worst review ever. For a while there I thought you were just going to be negative without actually contributing why you felt the way you… oh… nevermind.

  17. Fred Bob says:

    That was the worst review I’ve ever read…

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon