A decade of well-meaning yet reductive name checks (Freaks and Geeks; I Love You, Man; etc.) has only solidified the stereotype of Rush as the ultimate geek band. Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, a smart and fantastically thorough new doc on the progged-out Canadian power trio, doesn’t attempt to dispel this notion so much as reclaim it. If Rush isn’t cool, as codirectors Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen assert, then neither are we.
But even diehards might be shocked by the pervasive squeaky-cleanness of these post-Zeppelin longhairs. A priceless moment finds Kiss hell-raiser Gene Simmons recalling the asceticism of his former tourmates: Presented with their pick of groupies, bassist-vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart typically retreated to their hotel rooms to watch TV or curl up with a highbrow book.
If the film gets in its fair licks on the band—for myriad fashion fouls, an ’80s synth infatuation, Lee’s piercing screech—it repays the trio with genuine respect. A parade of rock heroes, including Trent Reznor, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, a hysterical Jack Black and a formidably articulate Billy Corgan, extol not just the musicians’ famous virtuosity, but also their civility toward families, fans and one another.
No Rush tribute could sell a determined skeptic on the band’s deep-seated eccentricities, so haters should steer clear. And the methodical, album-by-album pacing may bore casual viewers. But for anyone who’s ever fallen under the group’s weird spell, Beyond the Lighted Stage is a godsend. Superfans will squeal over the robust bonus disc, packed with previously unreleased live clips and charming minutiae, like a segment on the annual RushCon.—Hank Shteamer
More DVD reviews