By Jen Chaney
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 29, 2010; 12:36 PM
Some prominent musicians and assorted celebrities -- from Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails to Jack Black -- are finally coming forward and telling the truth. They are fans of the Canadian prog-rock power trio Rush. And they don't care who knows it.
"Rush is just one of those bands," Black says with complete sincerity during "Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage," a documentary out Tuesday on DVD ($19.98) and Blu-ray ($24.98), "that has a deep reservoir of rocket sauce."
That so-called rocket sauce -- otherwise known as the massive, hard rock, often synth-infused sound generated by front man Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart in songs like "The Spirit of Radio" and "Tom Sawyer" -- provides the fuel for this engaging little film, which traces the history of a band that, until recently, some were embarassed to admit they unabashedly love. But after getting recent votes of pop culture confidence from sources as varied as "South Park," Stephen Colbert and the bro-mantic comedy "I Love You, Man," -- a movie in which Rush actually appears, to the delight of an air guitaring Paul Rudd and Jason Segel -- it seems that digging Rush has become sort of, vaguely, hip.
The moments in the movie that capture the combination of joyful admiration and genuine respect felt by the band's longtime (mostly male) fans, as well as their colleagues in rock -- including Reznor, Black, Billy Corrigan of the Smashing Pumpkins, Gene Simmons of Kiss and many others who appear in interviews -- are what make "Beyond the Lighted Stage" an energetic document of what it means to remain loyal to a band even though time may pass and critics may demean them.
But as a probing portrait of what makes this trio tick, "Stage" is less successful. Unlike recent, well-received rock docs like "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster" or "End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones," there's no great conflict between the band members to infuse ripples of tension into the film. Lee, Lifeson and Peart all seem like pretty normal guys who still get along well with each other after decades in the music business. Even an emotional section that covers the band's hiatus following the sudden, tragic deaths of Peart's daughter and, later, his wife, doesn't quite deliver that classic, "Behind the Music" punch; a mere part-time Rush devotee knows that they eventually re-grouped and continued making music.
Of course, Rush fans -- who may already have seen the film when it recently debuted on VH-1, VH-1 Classic and Palladia -- won't care about the absence of friction. They'll simply appreciate the cinematic access to their arena-rock heroes as they recount their early days on the school dance circuit and the evolution of their music from the concept-album phase ("I think we were pretty high when we made a lot of that record," Geddy Lee says of their epic "Caress of Steel," "and it sounds like it.") to its permanent place in the mainstream rock radio rotation.
The DVD's special features provide even more footage for "Limelight" lovers to pore over, including a half hour of deleted scenes -- one of which takes viewers to the annual fan gathering known as Rush Con, where there are indeed women in attendance -- and, even better, 23 minutes of concert performances. The gems of that bunch? Videotaped footage of a pair of songs performed with John Rutsey, the drummer from the earliest of early Rush days, at the illustrious venue known as Laura Secord Secondary School in Toronto.
"Beyond the Lighted Stage" clearly is, above all else, a valentine to the fans who stood by Geddy and co., even through their mullet-and-excessive-synthesizer period. And that probably means this DVD will have no trouble finding an audience, even if it's a niche one.
As former Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin puts it: "Rush fans are like Nascar fans. They ain't going anywhere."