Saturday, September 24, 2016
RUSH: BEYOND THE LIGHTED STAGE
(June 2010, U.S.)
The first thing I need to say before I get started is that between the time I first saw this film in 2010 and my post for it now, RUSH is (apparently) no more because drummer Neil Peart announced his retirement in December 2015. I cannot even begin to tell you how much that SUCKS!!!
My deep love and appreciation for the rock band RUSH is not too unlike the appreciation I had for Howard Stern. Sounds strange? Well, sometimes you can spend so much of your life listening to the music and what comes over the radio, that it barely occurs to you to know much more about the artist or person behind what you've been listening to. As was with Howard Stern, what I heard on his radio talk show every day only said so much about the man. The book and film of PRIVATE PARTS (not too be taken too literally or seriously, I'm sure) opened up many of his fans to who the man was and managed to humanize his existence beyond the radio microphone. I've been a fan of RUSH's music since I was sixteen years-old and have seen them live in concert numerous time. My fan base was limited, however, because I knew nothing of the men who comprise the legendary Canadian trio.
One of the first things I learned for the first time from this in-depth look at this progressive rock band was that its front man Geddy Lee is Jewish! Whoah! Didn't see that one coming! I mean, really, not to sound too stereotypical (I'm Jewish myself), but his name hardly suggests it. We learn that both of his parents were Holocaust survivors and that (predictably), he took to the idea of music at a very early age. Geddy himself proclaims that he was a rather nerdy and nebbish kid. He and RUSH guitarist Alex Lifeson met when they were in middle school and became instant friends based on their love of music and guitar. From there, they joined drummer John Rutsey to form their band, which interestingly, did not function under any other original name but RUSH. Look into the history of some of the most popular rock bands of all time and you'll often find they once called themselves something else, i.e. Led-Zeppelin was once known as the New Yardbirds, etc. By the time they finally got their first record deal and debut album in 1974 (titled only Rush), John Rutsey was replaced by Neil Peart due to Rutsey's due to his health problems with Type 1 Diabetes, as well as musical differences with the other members of the band (Rutsey died of a heart attack in 2008).
Perhaps it's what I learned about drummer Neil Peart (the greatest fucking rock and roll drummer in the world who has, unfortunately, recently retired!) from BEYOND THE LIGHTED STAGE that I've found most intriguing. I've always known that he wrote all of the band's music; his lyrics addressing universal themes and diverse subject matters including fantasy, science fiction, philosophy, as well as humanitarian themes. However, I never knew just how well-read and how intellectually experienced the man is. The documentary also filled in the "blanks" of what happened to the band between the years 1997 and 2002; a time I thought they were merely taking a long hiatus. During that time, Peart lost his daughter in an auto accident and then his wife to cancer nearly a year later. Peart took to the road on his motorcycle on a long road trip for a personal journey of emotional healing. His written memoirs in GHOST RIDER: TRAVELS ON THE HEALING ROAD tells of his sabbatical to mourn and reflect his losses. He traveled extensively throughout North and Central American on his motorcycle, all the while, avoiding recognition and steering clear of people, in general. Like myself, he has a rather low tolerance for strange people he doesn't know (perhaps that's another reason I gotta love the guy!). It's a book that I recommend for anyone you loves RUSH, Neil Peart, or is simply a motorcycle rider who understands the power and meaning of the road.
Although recently (and finally!) inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, RUSH has long been one of those immensely popular rock bands with countless fans (mostly male) that has also never truly received the critical recognition they've always deserved. Don't look for any praise in Rolling Stone magazine by critics who consider their material too complicated or Geddy's voice too squealing. Forget about reading any positive critical reviews for some of their most legendary albums like 2112 and Moving Pictures (Fuck 'em! What do they know??). As much as I hate to label their fan base as "cult following" or any such term, they've always commanded respect and loyalty from those who love them most, even during the 1980s and early 1990s, when their sound was changing and considered questionably by their fans. The RUSH fan whose life was changed by the spectacular power and force of 2112 would hardly feel the same way about Grace Under Pressure (1984) or (their weakest album, in my opinion) Presto (1989). They'd likely even feel let down or even alienated by the band. For the true RUSH fan, there is likely no bad RUSH music - just some that's much better than others. Even if you feel disassociated by some of their (weaker) material, you can very easily bring yourself back to that special RUSH state of mind when you watch them perform their great instrumental "La Villa Strangiato" from the Hemispheres album. As a live act, take it from me - there is no other rock band like RUSH! To watch all that they do on stage and know that it's being done by just three men is simply staggering...
Like the members of KISS, they appreciate their fans and never fail to do all they can do give them their money's worth on stage. My personal discovery of the band goes back to late 1982 just after their Signals album was released. I saw the music video for "Subdivisions" on the still very new cable channel MTV and was immediately hooked by its progressive keyboard sound. I must confess that during my high school years, I was a bit of an outcast kid that didn't necessarily fit into any traditional school clique or group. So I felt that I could relate to the song and video's commentary on the (bullshit!) society pressures to adopt yourself to specific lifestyles of the "cool" suburban youth culture. Like its lyrics so perfectly suggested, "Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone." and "Be cool or be cast out." And this was all before these pressures of life became more prominent on today's social media. I saw them live for the first time in Buffalo, New York in 1986 during their Power Windows tour and six more times after that up until their Clockwork Angels tour of 2013. I've never looked back or turned away from RUSH, and "Subdivisions" remains my favorite rock song of all time.
Finally, I'd like to end this post by dedicating it to a gentleman whose name is the same as mine. This man, whom I only really know as an acquaintance, is without a doubt, the most serious RUSH fan I've ever encountered. The man has seen the band live more times than I can count and has even traveled around the country following them like a loyal "Deadhead-type". Really, you gotta respect a man who loves RUSH that much! This one's for you, Eric! I'm sorry that we may never get the opportunity to see RUSH together.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Interviewer: "This will be your twenty-fourth record? What's the motivation to keep doing it?"
Alex Lifeson: "Chicks!"