Rush is certainly an oddity in the music world. How many bands can you name that did their own, decidedly non-mainstream thing and still became a massive commercial success?
One only has to look at the millions upon millions of records they’ve sold, the huge amount of awards they’ve received, and the army of followers they’ve amassed over a career spanning four decades to see what they’ve accomplished. But they’re still somewhat obscure, certainly nowhere near as popular as their contemporaries, and their history isn’t common knowledge like the other rock giants. Even though everyone certainly knows tracks like ‘Tom Sawyer’, singer/bassist Geddy Lee jokingly refers to them as “the world’s most popular cult band”.
Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn (creators of the excellent Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey) here tighten their focus to one band, drawing from their vast network of musicians to get the full story and show Rush’s enormous influence. From contemporaries like Gene Simmons to folks influenced by their musical abilities like Billy Corgan from The Smashing Pumpkins, Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater and Vinnie Paul from Pantera, they talk to an incredible amount of people and let the music do most of the talking. Everything about Rush is laid out for you here, from their beginnings as a high school band all the way through their massive tours today. The members of the band relate their story in their own words and the doc smartly uses music and old footage to keep your interest.
But the biggest hurdle a doc about Rush has to face is the fact that they’re not what most people look for in rockstars. They’re self-confessed dorks, writing about trees, libertarianism and fantasy, with no entertaining-yet-sad drug and alcohol-laden stories to tell. Bands they toured with that had lines of groupies waiting to sex them up (like Kiss) remark how weird it was that they never seemed to get laid. Their fans are portrayed as oddball music geeks, faithful to them for years and years and going to hundreds of shows, showing off an almost-frightening level of fandom. But Rush hasn’t really dealt with many hardships (save one massive one) over the years, either in their personal lives or from the music industry, so the film is mostly drama free.
So don’t go into this expecting any dark and dirty secrets exposed in this film- Rush simply has none. The focus here is completely on the music and it dives into it album by album.
Fortunately, one thing that everyone can agree on- whether they like Geddy Lee’s vocals or not- is that they are absolutely amazing musicians. It’s fascinating to watch them hone their craft over the years in ways that few other bands have, especially Neil Peart, who is quite simply one of the greats, and to this day is still trying to improve himself as a drummer. But the focus on the music and nothing but the music does hurt the film a bit and make it less accessible.
This isn’t an Anvil! The Story of Anvil, where anyone can watch it and fall in love with the story and members of the band regardless of how they feel about the music, this film as oddly niche as Rush itself. Fans will undoubtedly get the most out of it as it contains everything you could possibly want to know about the band, but everyone else’s enjoyment will be dependent on how much they appreciate the music.
Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage played at Tribeca this year where it took home the Audience Award. It will hit theaters on June 10th, so check the site to see if it’s playing near you.