The band Rush is the Rodney Dangerfield of music - no respect. Despite dozens of gold albums and decades of consistently sold out concerts - Rush's extraordinary musicianship and half dozen bona-fide rock anthems are consistently ignored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and critics in general) in favor of critic's darlings The Stooges (among others). To some Rush fans, this is an outrage and part of the Hall's conspiratorial bias against progressive rock that has kept Yes, and until last year, Genesis, out of the Hall.
But this isn't the whole story.
Rush is an odd band. Their vocalist, Geddy Lee, sounds like "a hamster being chased by a flamethrower." Their lyrics, written by drummer Niel Peart, while drawing on numerous literary sources (most famously Ayn Rand) - are some of the most tedious in rock. When it all comes together however, like it does on "Tom Sawyer" "Free Will" or "Spirit of Radio" and a dozen or more other songs, Rush's music is something unique that ROCKS! I dare say a song like "Limelight" is downright irresistible to any fan of rock and roll. The opening riff, the drum fills, the lyrics, the spacey middle section - all epic and iconic at the same time. Is it any wonder it can be found on the game Rockband!
Thanks in part to the bands longevity, some are taking a second look at Rush and their place in rock and roll history. Recent appearances by the band in the movie "I Love You Man" and the TV show The Colbert Report have brought them back into a bit of, ahem, limelight.
A terrific new documentary, "Rush - Behind the Lighted Stage," furthers the case for revisiting this often dismissed band as one of the great bands of rock. Filmmakers Scot McFadyn and Sam Dunn, previously of Heavy Metal: A Headbanger's Journey and Iron Maiden: Flight 666, clearly know their material and have created a most respectful mostly chronological documentary of the band.
Having full access to the band and their inner circle, McFadyn and Dunn provide a portrait of Rush's history from their high school struggles and early gigs, the addition of "new guy" Neil Peart, and their evolution as music makers from concept albums to radio friendly shorter tracks. What emerges from this telling are three pretty regular Canadian guys who seem down right well adjusted and relatively nonplussed by their fame and success - this despite the constant criticism and a few personal traumas (Peart lost his daughter and wife). They really seem to enjoy each other, the music they make, and the fans that like them. No bitterness comes through. This is not a Behind the Music type of documentary.
What also emerges is their incredible precision as musicians. "If you can play Rush, you can play anything!"
Talking heads like, Gene Simmons, Trent Reznor, Billy Corgan, and Jack Black (among others) provide witty and insightful commentary about Rush's career while showing the influence Rush has had on many of today's musicians. Clearly the respect for Rush runs deeper with musicians than the critics.
I hope some members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame view this as they may find they actually Rush more than they realize, and vote them in. For everyone else, it's just a great documentary to be enjoyed recalling how fresh it was to hear "Fly by Night" all those years ago.
From Banger Films on Blu-ray