|Rush : Beyond The Lighted Stage (Universal)|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Monday, 28 June 2010 05:00|
At the tail-end of this pretty amazing documentary Geddy Lee proclaims Rush to be "The World's Most Popular Cult Band" and, when you see the plethora of rock legends who line up to pay tribute to the Canadian icons before the title card has even popped up, you would be foolish to disagree; Billy Corgan, Trent Reznor, Gene Simmons, Kirk Hammett, Sebastian Bach, Taylor Hawkins, Jack Black, Vinnie Paul, Les Claypool, Zakk Wylde, Mike Portnoy and Tim Commerford all waxing lyrical, playing air guitar and generally gushing over the subject of this film.
Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen, makers of the passionate if not perfect 'Metal : A Headbanger's Journey' documentary in 2005 and last year's well received 'Iron Maiden : Flight 666', have found a winning formula when it comes to rock docs and, with commercial doors being blown open by the unlikely success of a film about a rather different bunch of Canadian rockers, are assured of high critical acclaim for this latest piece of filmmaking.
The fascinating opening to this documentary offers a rare glimpse into the personal lives and history of Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson. The rise of the band is remarkable, the lifestyle of the band members seemingly the opposite. They appear to have always been on the outside of the popular looking in, whether it be school cliques, fashion, women - you name it. The picture painted was that they were simply nice guys, the only tears in the canvas appearing to be the sacking of original drummer John Rutsey when their star was just starting to rise. For all the talk of the band's lack of image (which, as Lee points out, actually became their image) Rutsey's cool 70's glam look might well have changed rock history had he not been axed from the band for, as former manager Vic Wilson states, "health reasons."
The fact that the movie opens with backstage footage of Rutsey's replacement Neil Peart may be coincidental but it is his story that really provides the emotional backbone for the film. Lee and Lifeson are charming and witty and tell their story with great passion and humour, yet Peart's journey is the most fascinating chapter of the Rush story. Intensely private and a severe victim of shyness - his bandmates do the meet and greets without him - Peart's journey of self discovery following tragedy is absorbing. After losing his daughter in an accident and his wife to illness, the drummer's decision to disappear on his motorcycle is moving and handled wonderfully by the filmmakers. Even his decision to relearn the art of drumming with "Yoda of drums" Freddie Gruber makes for incredible viewing. Hugely respected as a musician, Neil Peart will surprise and inspire viewers of this film.
A rare quality of this documentary is the role of the talking heads - the experts rolled out to spout their pearls of wisdom on the subject at hand. For once, every single one of the musicians (or music business aficionados) is passionate about the band and speaks with genuine respect and excitement about Rush. Credit to Dunn and McFadyen, they even manage to reign in the usual stream of Gene Simmons bullshit! Actually, the chapter devoted to the band's early tour as support to Kiss is hugely entertaining and includes a great make-up less Polaroid photograph that I have never seen before. Kudos to the filmmakers who have, easily, made their finest work to date.
And I say that for one main reason; I am not any kind of Rush fan. Why am I reviewing this film? For that fact alone. The Story Of Anvil may have garnered unlikely success and plaudits but, ultimately, the lashings of irony are what made its devouring all the more easy. 'Beyond The Lighted Stage' is way, way different; watching this film makes you want to listen to Rush - not to laugh at, not in an ironic fashion, purely because you cannot fail to be inspired by the legacy of this seminal act. That is successful filmmaking, to move people. Rush fans will love this insight into the band and, honestly, I can see no reason why everyone else shouldn't take a lot from it either.
This blu-ray nerd was slumming it with the standard DVD version of this film but, upscaled on the multi-media machine at Über Towers, it looked great. The second disc of this two disc set comes loaded with extra content making this package all the more desirable. A host of great extra scenes (most of which would have sat nicely in the film itself) are included, featuring everything from the band's hobbies, Rush conventions, their pre-gig warm ups, their fashion sense and their infamous dalliance with rap. There is also footage of eight complete songs including a trio of numbers from the 70's (including two with Rutsey), and a couple each from the last decade's 'Snakes And Arrows' and 'R30' tours.
Easily one of the finest music documentaries in recent memory, 'Rush : Beyond The Lighted Stage' comes highly recommended and branded with the Über seal of approval. Buy it!