Monday, June 07, 2010

Beyond the Lighted Stage

The first of two Boston area screenings of the Rush documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage opened with an appearance by Donna Halper, the Dorchester native and former Cleveland radio music director who is credited with discovering Rush by playing "Working Man" on her station back in 1974. The opener for Friday's upcoming second showing will be the local Rush tribute band Lotus Land, and while that piques my curiosity, I'm glad I opted for this particular night.

She briefly told her Rush discovery story, including offering credit that's not given in the film, to Bob Roper, the A&M Canada executive who sent her the record. She also lamented the fact that Rush is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a situation that I'm sure will eventually be rectified, although surprisingly they are getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The movie itself is interesting, informative, nostalgic and occasionally hilarious. Yes, I said hilarious, and in no way do I mean to make fun of the film by saying so. Particularly funny are some of the interviews with artists influenced by Rush, such as actor/musician Jack Black, Skid Row's Sebastian Bach, The Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan, Rage Against the Machine's Tim Commerford and Foo Fighters' Taylor Hawkins.

Just a few of the film's notable moments:
  • Bach laughing about how, as a 12-year old, a rock album—Rush’s 2112—influenced him to dive into Ayn Rand and other literary greats.
  • Metallica's Kirk Hammett referring to Rush as "the high priests of conceptual metal."
  • The age old demographic discussion of the gender of Rush fans. Alex Lifeson says they're 100% male, but he's obviously wrong. Approximately 15-20% of Sunday night's crowd at Arlington's Regent Theatre are proud female fans.
Of course, there are many more highlights, but I recommend you find out for yourself. The most interesting point that I came away with was the parallel between the early career paths of Rush and the band that was the subject of I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, the last movie I saw at this little theatre. On the verge of being dropped by their record label, Rush decided they were going to go out with a bang on 2112, just as Wilco refused to give in to record label pressures when they released Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

For both bands, the album on which they refused to give in became their breakthrough, and the turning point in their careers. Wilco, of course, has a long way to go to reach the distinction that this film has bestowed on Rush, of being the world's biggest cult band.


  1. Funny, Rush has come up in a lot of conversations lately with friends. Perhaps it was their conspicuous absence during the Olympic ceremonies, perhaps the scope of their influence (and so, their greatness) is now simply unavoidable.

    My wife is a huge Rush fan, always has been. For this fact alone, I consider myself truly blessed.

  2. I believe we had a brief discussion about the Olympic ceremony performers over on Lee's Steez. That was before Neil Young played the closing ceremonies, though. It would have been ideal for Rush to open and Neil to close those games.