ur resident jazz guitarist Robert Burton offers a review of the documentary film Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, making the case that rock musicians can be great players and effectively demonstrating that just because one loves jazz doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for some serious rock and roll…
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Rush is a band that was always different. Sure they have a front man who sang impossibly high, their lyrics were harder to understand, they play in odd time signatures, they were (and remain) above-average musicians and, most of all, Canadian. But I have found other things that made them different. They always gave credit to their stage crew in the liner notes even on STUDIO albums. They stayed out the press for most of their career for anything negative (until guitarist Alex Lifeson and his son had a run in with Naples Florida Police in 2003 or the disclosure of Neil Peart’s personal tragedies) and they always credited founding member/drummer/vocalist John Rutsey even though he was only on the first album and had very little to do with what would become the band’s sound. Despite no critical acclaim or serious airplay they became a high grossing band, third on the list for most consecutive gold and platinum albums behind The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Above all they are a band you love (or hate) because of the music and not because of their looks or notoriety.
So it is with the rock-u-mentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage. Where other music documentaries are light on music and heavy on talking (particularly the annoying habit of starting a bit of music and 15 seconds in to have someone narrate over top), in this movie the talking and music are clearly separated.
There are the obligatory famous fans; endorsements from Jack Black, Sebastian Bach (ex-Skid Row), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theatre), Gene Simmons (Kiss), Les Claypool (Primus), Kirk Hammet (Metallica), Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins) and Danny Carey (Tool), etc. But some of these folks also offer criticisms (particularly in respect to the bands over use of keyboard phase). Later in the movie the question is posed, why was one of the greatest guitar power trios trying to sound like it wasn’t?
For fans of the band the concert footage (both on the main DVD and bonus disc) is worth the price of admission alone with performances from the pre record deal era to present
Directors/writers Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen (Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey and Iron Maiden: Flight 666) approach this from a fan’s point of view (something they have been criticized for), and why not? Why would one make a product to sell to people who don’t like the band? Having said that, I think a non-fan or casual observer should come away with respect for a group that has stayed out of the gossip grinder, stayed with same line up for decades and resisted pressures to conform (something that is sadly lacking in the music arts).
I’ll paraphrase Danny Carey…maybe you didn’t like Rush in your day but after 36 years you probably need to give them their due. For a look at the movie trailer, click here.