Rush is probably the strangest anomaly in rock music. They have sold the third most number of albums worldwide of any band (after The Rolling Stones and The Beatles), but have never had a number one single. Their fans are arguably the most devoted in the world, and yet (until recently), Rush has been panned by critics. Rightly called the biggest cult band in the world, these Canadian rockers have only just now had a documentary made about them: Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, directed by Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn.
I’m not a Rush fan, and most of the information imparted in the doc was unknown to me, and so held some interest. McFadyen and Dunn make the smart decision to focus almost exclusively on the music: how the three found their passion, their influences, development, and the strange roads they often took. There is no denying that Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart are incredible musicians, and between their incredible talent and esoteric lyrics, it’s sometimes strange to think of how popular they remain—particularly in the world of Lady Gaga. McFadyen and Dunn go into great detail about the sound and lyrics (which are definitely some of the oddest you will ever hear, I wonder how many fans are even able to understand what Lee has been singing all these years.) Canadian rock bands often have a hard time finding large audiences outside of their home country, and I’ve always thought it’s because our Canadian-ness just doesn’t translate very well—the exception of course being artists such as Bryan Adams and Celine Dion, whose generic pop sound unfortunately does translate.
The directors gathered an enormous amount of archival footage, photographs, and memorabilia, much of it from fans. I’m sure there is little that is surprising for Rush fans, at whom this documentary seems to be aimed. As a film, there is little that is interesting or imaginative; it feels as though it was designed for television, though certainly the concert footage looks great on the big screen, and having interviews with musicians such as Trent Reznor, Billy Corgan, and Jack Black (!) will help gain an audience. The audience at my screening was mostly Rush fans, and I couldn’t help but be swept up in their energy and love for the band. Anyone with an interest in music will find the band’s discussion of the development of their sound interesting, particularly considering the band has been together for so long; and even though they have gone through changes, their songs are instantly recognizable as Rush. No one else sounds like them. The same cannot be said for the film, which follows a rather standard biopic format; but that hardly seems to matter for those with an interest in the band.