Forty years in the same rock band and there’s not an overdose, trashed hotel room or groupie scandal to speak of?
How on earth would directors Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn make a film about Rush interesting to those who can’t recite the lyrics to 2112? Is there something here beyond a typical rock doc? The answer, surprisingly, is yes.
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The story doesn’t start with the Toronto band’s first album in 1974, but goes back to its members’ upbringing, schooling, and motivation.
It’s about three teenagers — one the son of Holocaust survivors, another of Yugoslavian immigrants — who were fiercely committed to music. All of them — singer-bassist-keyboardist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart knew what they wanted to do in life — rock out. And not in a slacker, excuse-to-avoid-adult-responsibilities way.
Through rare early footage of Rush playing high schools to “overreaching” sessions in the studio and more current live clips, one sees that Rush never wavered from this pursuit of musical excellence. The trio’s progressive hard rock and cerebral lyrics with words you’d sometimes have to look up won millions of dedicated fans.
For the film, Trent Reznor, Billy Corgan, Jack Black, Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and others gladly spoke of their love for the band, often quoting musical and lyrical passages. Black declares the members “not even human” at one point.
But despite the seriousness of Rush’s music and work ethic, the film is filled with humour. The band members crack joke throughout, from their so-called Down The Tubes tour early in their career to their fashion choices (i.e. Lee’s Asian robe phase).
It’s the funny stuff that gives a glimpse into their personalities, how they have stayed together all this time, and why Beyond The Lighted Stage is not just a story about musicians.