Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage
Growing up in San Antonio in the 1980s, my brother and I fell firmly into the Rock and Roll camp, versus those country and western afficiandos whose pickup trucks frequently ended up in ditches (or worse, at the kicker bars!).
But our tastes diverged. Bob, Tom, Dan and I were at every heavy metal concert, in line for Judas Priest, April Wine, AC/DC, UFO…pretty much any band that had two or more guitars and could be played loud. My brother was listening to RnR, but venturing more into the Pink Floyd sound…which I considered “the dark side”; it wasn’t country, but it wasn’t heavy metal.
Then he brought home an album with the back of a naked dude on the cover staring at a red star. I knew he’d lost it.
He then cranked up “Working Man” from All the World’s A Stage, and I was hooked. I even used some of the themes from their songs for my first fiction attempts in high school and college; the obsession had begun.
Thirty years later, the DVD release of Beyond the Lighted Stage not only goes through the band’s history and provides some excellent concert footage guaranteed to cause flashbacks, but it begs the question: why aren’t these guys in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Is it simply because they are Canadian? Their lyrics too complex? Their playing just too good? Waiting on their new album, Clockwork Angels, before you let them in?
The first DVD of the two DVD set walks through the history of the band, starting with Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson’s school boy friendship as the kids who got beaten up through their latest endeavors. The documentary walks through their first contract, what drove them to replace their first drummer, John Rutsey, with Neil Peart and how Peart’s lyrics started them into the longer “saga” songs; how they went out on a limb with the concept album 2112 (the album my brother started with) against their label’s wishes but to the raves of fans; and an excellent segment on Hemispheres, my favorite Rush album, how complex and virtuoso each of their playing was on that album and all of their albums. It also taunts their fashion sense (or lack there of) and Geddy’s voice.
The list of things that Geddy’s voice sounds like:
- a rat caught in a wringer;
- a hamster in overdrive;
- the dead howling in Hades;
- Mickey Mouse on helium (from Alex);
- strangling a hamster;
- a cat being chased out the door with a blow torch up its ass;
The story finishes with the band taking a break as Peart, working through the death of his child and wife, takes off on his motorcycle, and ultimately rejoins the group (Note: Peart has written several books about his ride, good reading). There are great concert scenes all the way through (I did not glimpse me or my brother), including excellent Farewell to Kings tour footage and one of Peart pounding out “Tom Sawyer”.
The second DVD starts off with some longer segments from the first side (not outtakes, perhaps director’s cuts of scenes, like Geddy and Alex searching the school for the room where they played their first gig). But the jewels of the second DVD are the concert footage, especially the “Canadian Bandstand” footage of a very young Geddy, Alex and initial drummer John Rutsey cranking out “Best I Can” and “Working Man” while teen school kids from Laura Secord SS sit on their hands in the auditorium (from 1974)…priceless. A full jam of my favorite Rush song, “La Villa Strangiato” is included, along with “Between the Sun and Moon”, “Far Cry”, “Entre Nous”, “Bravado” and “YYZ” (with Geddy Lee ripping the bass while some dude takes clothes out of a dryer on stage?).
Put them in the RnR HOF. After all, as the DVD cover proclaims, “….Ranked third in consecutive gold or platinum albums after the Beatles and the Rolling Stones…”, they are with pretty heady company.