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Well, that’s not totally true. I guess that statement depends on just how big a Rush fan one is. Take me, for instance. I own darn near every album, seen the band live around four times since the late 80’s, watched the live DVD’s through all of the various bonus features, and have read at least two books on the history of the band and three of the four Neil Peart travelogue’s . . . (deep inhale) so the informative content of Beyond the Lighted Stage wasn’t all that knew for me. However, spending three hours or so watching one of the bands that has been a constant musical companion through life is always time well spent. Watching the trio in various situations was like hanging out with old friends, a group of people who I know on an intimate level though have never personally met. It was almost like I was catching up with my college chums over a nice meal and a few glasses of wine.
Beyond the Lighted Stage is brought to us by the wonderful production team of the Banger Brothers, the same group that brought us last year’s fantastic Iron Maiden documentary, Flight 666. If you’re one of the folks who’s spent the time immersing themselves in that epic piece of film, then you should have an idea of the production quality of this one. The team of Scott McFadyen and Sam Dunn takes us through the rich history of Rush, starting with the childhood of both Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, the musical development of both kids and their eventual meeting with original Rush drummer, John Rutsey, and eventually the addition of “the new guy,” Neil Peart. Broken up into numerous chapters, the early portion of the documentary introduces us to the parents of the members of the band, which I feel helps give the band that extra human element. Due to this bands god-like reverence from its fans, it’s easy to forget that these guys are flesh and blood, emotional animals like the rest of us, and the inclusion of the family members is a nice, heart-warming touch that acts a subtle reminder that Rush is made up of real life people.
The rest of the documentary runs through the band's meandering and weaving rise to fame. They didn’t do it the easy way, never achieved the chart success of their peers, or had the super-nova explosion of fame. Rush started by playing music that they loved listening to and created their own success without sacrificing their integrity or ideals. I can’t think of any other band, especially coming up in the 70’s that the same thing can be said about. As Gene Simmons says in one of his many interview snippets about the band, “They’re fearless.” The band never shied away from something that they were told couldn’t be done. They never took the easy path in creating their art when the more difficult path was available . . . and more interesting. They never conformed to the ever changing world in which we live in, and based on the band’s continued success, especially in the way of touring, Rush can kinda’ sit back and nod the heads in approval as to how everything turned out.
Beyond the Lighted Stage is filled with great commentary from a number of artists who hold the band in reverence like so many fans around the world. As already mentioned, Gene Simmons adds his two cents, Sebastian Bach, Kirk Hammett (Metallica,) Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails,) Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters,) and Vinnie Paul (Pantera) are but a few who have been touched by Rush in one way or another, and though we may not hear the direct influence in each of these bands’ sounds, the indirect influence is just as important in creating the music of tomorrow. The Jack Black segments are pretty damn funny, especially when he starts singing . . . good comedy. Oh . . . and speaking of comedy, make sure you throw in disc 2 and watch the segment of the lads eating dinner. Damn! I knew these guys had a sense of humor, but after a few consumed bottles of wine, Lifeson’s banter had me damn near in tears. Watching this portion of the film is the highest highlight for me because it’s the moment where the members of Rush are suddenly vulnerable human beings, enjoying some time that only a life-long friendship can create.
One other must see moment on this disc, specifically disc 2, is the performance of "Cygnus X-1." I’ve said it for the past twenty-five years, Alex Lifeson is the most underrated rock guitarist out there, and this performance is one of those moments that has me shaking my head and wondering why he isn’t mentioned in the same breath as his peers. His emotional attack and dynamic approach on this song is otherworldly . . . the volume swells, the bizarre chord changes, the lightening fast scale runs, the palm muted riffing . . . seriously, breath taking!
Beyond the Lighted Stage is an excellent documentary on a band that has been doing what they’ve been doing for almost forty years. The video has humor, it’s informative, highly entertaining . . . it’s everything one could ask for in a documentary. With that being said, there’s no way that three hours of edited video footage is going to give you the most comprehensive information on Rush. For the casual fan or those who want to learn a little more about Rush, the documentary is perfect. For the Rush fans who wake up with "YYZ" rattling in their heads coz’ that’s just how brilliant the song is, then Beyond the Lighted Stage is simply a must have to complete the collection. My advice for those who want to know more about the band is this: Purchase and watch said documentary, then run out and purchase and read Contents Under Pressure written by Martin Popoff and Rush: Chemistry by Jon Collins. Both books go into an insane amount of detail about the history of the band, the recording of each album, the trials and tribulations of the subsequent tours, and the philosophical and personal conflicts within in the band. And, of course, you can’t really know the band unless you listen to the music, so . . . go out and buy all of the albums and spin ‘em ‘til your head explodes. - Pope