Saturday, July 03, 2010
WHEN THE LEGENDARY CANADIAN ROCK BAND "RUSH" APPEARED ON THE COLBERT REPORT, Stephen Colbert mentioned the fact that the band had not yet been inducted into the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame and asked if the title of their next album was going to be called "That's Bullshit!". A healthy belly laugh from the band did not cover up the fact that that was, in fact, major bullshit! One item that goes a long way toward rectifying this gross injustice is the recently released to DVD award-winning documentary "RUSH: BEYOND THE LIGHTED STAGE" directed by Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen (helmers of "Metal: A Headbanger's Journey"). While I don't consider Rush a "metal" band (similarly I don't consider Led Zeppelin a "metal" band either -- they're both hard rock), the gentlemen seem ably qualified to make this rather superb documentary (which won the coveted Heineken Audience Prize at the Tribeca Film Festival). The members of the band (school chums Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson and "new guy" Neil Peart) have been notoriously close-mouthed about their personal lives and have never courted the tabloid press. Therefore, the in depth biographical information provided in this movie-length documentary is particularly interesting and enlightening. It is also very much appreciated by this particular fan that the film spends a great deal of time on the trio's early life and career from their formation in 1971 up to the classic bombshell of the "Moving Pictures" album. Rest assured, the time period of "Moving Pictures" and everything up to the present day are not neglected either but given the same treatment. It's just really nice that the movie didn't start with the commercial success of "Moving Pictures" but gave equal time to all the excellent albums leading up to their blockbuster. Besides the biographical track followed by the film, a great deal of effort is spent focusing on most of the band's albums; from the eponymous first album to the seeming "career suicide" of "Caress of Steel" to the experimental mental albums "2112" (which actually proved to be commercially successful as well) and "Hemispheres" and on and on. My one complaint about the film is that Geddy Lee's iconic vocal on Bob and Doug McKenzie's "Take Off" is never mentioned! How could they neglect such an epochal moment in western music?!?! But laying aside this small caveat, the documentary is a Rush fan's dream; in fact, it's even extremely enjoyable to someone who isn't particularly a Rush fan. It's simply a magnificently-done film. There are also a great deal of laughs throughout (showing the band has never really taken itself too seriously) including the lambasting Rush has gotten from the critics over the years, the various humourous descriptions of Geddy Lee's voice ("a squirrel in a blender") and the fashion-shattering kimono period. A passle of celebrities also chime in on their love and respect for the band as well as musical influences Rush has had on their careers: Jack Black, Kirk Hammett, Billy Corgan, Trent Reznor, Sebastian Bach (who I SWEAR looks exactly like Suzanne Somers in the film), Gene Simmons and South Park's Matt Stone are just a few. The exemplary musicianship of the gentlemen in Rush is talked about and demonstrated via performance clips. Geddy IS a fabulous bassist and Lifeson IS a superb guitarist -- there's simply no denying that -- but, while I have never been one to really get wet over drummers -- I must join the happy crowd in admiration of the nearly super-human chops belonging to "new guy" Neil Peart who is simply one of the best drummers on the planet. And his heady lyrics ain't so bad neither. RUSH: BEYOND THE LIGHTED STAGE is really one of the best music documentaries I've seen in quite some time; since Scorsese's Dylan doc surely. It really gives one the feeling of achieving a "closeness" with the band which has never quite happened before. Like the aforementioned Bob Dylan (who famously kept biographical questions at arms length and answered personal questions with hilarious fibs), Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart seem to have allowed the filmmakers unprecedented access to their psyches and their minds. All of which makes for a cracking documentary experience. Perhaps the greatest tribute to the film is that it'll send you leaping for your old Rush albums. I know I did. So race off to your dusty cd collection and grab "2112" or any other cd that takes your fancy. "Suddenly ahead of me across the mountainside a gleaming alloy air car shoots towards me two lanes wide. . ."