I am a huge Rush fan, and have been since the early ’80s. I had heard some of their songs on the radio, but my real introduction was the first side of Moving Pictures, which someone copied onto a tape for me. Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, YYZ, and Limelight. Four unbelievably fantastic songs, which I played over and over again. Imagine my surprise when, at least a year or two later, I realized that there were more songs on that album! And they were really good too! I eventually got most of their older albums as well, and I remember Signals being one of the most popular albums when I was in grade nine. Hearing the opening of New World Man still reminds me of early high school. I started to lose interest with the Grace Under Pressure album, and wasn’t too thrilled with the next couple of albums. It wasn’t so much that they started using more keyboards (Signals had lots of keyboards and I love that album), for me it was more that the keyboards seemed to replace the guitar rather than complementing it. I didn’t even buy Hold Your Fire (or Test for Echo) for many years, which meant that Rush had been removed from my list of auto-purchase bands – when a new album was released by bands on this list, I would immediately go and buy it, even if I hadn’t heard anything from it. Dream Theater has been on this list for years, and Linkin Park was, up until the most recent album A Thousand Suns, and now I’m not so sure about the next one. But I digress. Presto was pretty good, and rekindled my interest in the band. For Christmas, Gail bought me the DVD of the new movie Beyond The Lighted Stage, a documentary about the history of Rush. I have heard (on the radio and twitter) that even people who aren’t Rush fans are really liking this film, so I figured I would love it, since I am a Rush fan. I wasn’t disappointed.
There was lot more footage and pictures from the very early years of the band than I would have expected, including video of early concerts at local high schools and such. There was even video of a teenage Alex Lifeson sitting at the dinner table at his house, arguing about why he should be going to school when music is what he really wanted to do. Why someone in his family was recording that conversation, I have no idea. I found it funny that to this day, Geddy and Alex still refer to Neil Peart (who joined Rush in 1974) as “the new guy” because he wasn’t there for the beginning of the band and didn’t appear on their first album. There was a fair bit of discussion on each album up to and including Signals. After that, they mentioned that Rush entered a period where they used lots of synths which nobody but Geddy seemed excited about, including many fans. They squashed the Grace Under Pressure, Power Windows, Hold Your Fire, and Presto albums into fairly one short segment, and I don’t think they even mentioned the names Grace Under Pressure, Hold Your Fire, or Presto. Roll The Bones and Counterparts were touched on briefly and Test For Echo was almost ignored before a section focussed on Neil Peart and the tragedies that befell him in 1997 and 1998.
Within a year of each other, Peart’s daughter and wife both passed away, and Peart took several years off from the band to ride his motorcycle around North and Central America. (He wrote a book about this trip called “Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road” which is now on my must-read list.) After returning, he had doubts as to whether he would be able to continue in Rush because he’d been away from the drum kit for so long. It seems amazing that someone as talented as Peart (widely regarded as one of the best rock drummers there is) could have such doubts about his own ability. A couple of people in the film described Peart as a perfectionist, so he’d likely be unhappy performing at 80% of what he used to be able to do – even though 80% of Neil Peart is still better than a large percentage of other drummers. They also talked about how private a man Peart is, and how he really doesn’t like meeting with fans who gush or fawn over him, and is uncomfortable with his fame (for reference, see the lyrics of the aforementioned “Limelight”). Neil, if you happen to read this, just know that I think you are an extremely talented drummer and lyricist and your music has meant a lot to me over the last thirty years. And I promise that if I happen to see you at a restaurant or store or something, I will leave you the hell alone.
Funniest scene: Alex and Geddy are sitting in a diner (the scene looks pretty recent, i.e. 2005-2010 time frame), and the waitress recognizes Geddy. She said that her son or nephew or something is a big fan, and asks if he can give her an autograph. He says sure, and she basically elbows Alex (who she obviously does not recognize) out of the way to give Geddy something to sign. Geddy asks if she wants Alex to sign it as well, and she just says “Thanks a lot” and walks away. Alex is laughing the whole time.
A number of prominent musicians were interviewed throughout the movie, including members of Rage Against The Machine, Smashing Pumpkins, Dream Theater, Metallica, and Kiss, as well as musician / actor Jack Black. Sometimes Jack Black can be really funny while other times a little goes a long way, and I kind of found that here. A few interviews with him were fine, but I almost wanted to fast-forward over a couple.
I guess it’s not surprising that I really enjoyed this movie, since I am such a fan of the band. But as I said, I have heard a couple of different people talk about how much they enjoyed the movie despite not being Rush fans. At least, they weren’t Rush fans when they started the movie.