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"Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage" Review

Canuckian prog-rockers Rush were inducted into the Rock & Rock Hall of Fame in 2013 and for 40 years have been the epitome of musician's musicians, never really being considered "cool" and never really topping the pop charts, while being a consistent and sizeable-drawing act and their rise and further rise is documented in Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, a slick if somewhat superficial retrospective.

Tracing the band's history from Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson's childhood friendship in North York (a suburb of Toronto), the doc is chockablock with tons of info tidbits that I, a casual fan of their early mid-era material (i.e. Permanent Waves until the keyboards ate them alive in the Eighties), didn't know. How they got their record deal in a day after having a song hit in Cleveland that was basically chosen to give DJs a chance to take a dump (the same reason "Stairway To Heaven" and "Free Bird" and "Kashmir" and "Inna Gadda Davida" were FM staples) is one such detail. Their association with then-new KISS and their time touring with a pre-superstar Ted Nugent were also news to me. There's footage of really early shows and behind-the-scenes drama with Lifeson's family that appears to be from a contemporaneous documentary that's never explained, but provides an angle rarely covered because who has people covering them in their earliest days?

The emphasis is mostly on their beginning and after the mid-Eighties it seems to skip over albums with a wave of the hand, so it's far from complete; it's like a glorified Behind The Music episode for a band where no one had drug problems and the only devastating tragedy was the deaths of Peart's daughter (accident) and wife (cancer) in a short period that sent him a 55,000-mile motorcycle journey across North and South America to cope, putting the band on hold for what they thought could be forever.

A hardcore Rush fan friend of mine groused that the doc didn't cover Peart's trip to England before joining the band where he discovered Ayn Rand's work which deeply informed his lyrics and other trivial details, but since this was before he joined and Rand's influence is touched upon, I think this is being nitpicky. While not a penetrating expose laying bare the souls of Rush in encyclopedic detail, Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage manages to leave most viewers more informed and possibly curious to delve deeper into the band's massive catalog than before.

Score: 8/10. Catch it on cable. (Netflix has it.)


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