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Published: Thursday, 6/10/2010

'Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage': Rush documentary even for non-fans

Welcome to the Blade blog Culture Shock, a three-times-a-week riff by Pop Culture Editor Kirk Baird on pop culture news, events, and trends. The blog will appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings here, with the odd night or off-day posting if something is merited.

As you read in Wednesday's blog, I make no excuses for my fondness for Rush. Thursday night I attended the one-time screening of the new documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage.

Since the film will be on DVD and Blu-ray by the end of the month, and VH1 is showing the documentary in its entirety beginning at 9 p.m. June 26, I thought I'd post a quick review.

As a rock-and-roll documentary, Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage is a potent dose of edutainment, chronicling the band's past and present with a thorough cataloging of historic footage; interviews with the band members and many of those close to them; never-before-seen music clips; the obligatory fellow musicians as fans; and a strong sense of general purpose to explain who these guys are and how they came to be, in the word's of lead singer and bassist Geddy Lee, "the world's most popular cult band."

It's difficult to breakdown a nearly 40-year career in less than two hours — especially for a band as complex as Rush can be — but Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage does an admirable job of it. And you don't have to be a Rush geek to enjoy it or appreciate it.

Sure, Rush fans will dig the exclusives and to see other musicians bow to the prog-rock altar of Rush's unquestionable musicianship, especially after watching the band get kicked around by music critics for decades. This is a very pro-Rush film — don't look for any of those Rolling Stone magazine naysayers and other critics to discuss their sometimes hostile feelings about a band known for its intricate time signatures and intellectual lyrics.

But non-Rush fans will walk away from the documentary with more than a cursory knowledge of the band, rather, one would suspect, a new-found respect for the power trio as musicians and people. Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage successfully brings to the surface what many of us already knew or suspected: the three members of Rush — Geddy, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart — are incredibly normal guys, even geeky like many of us, who happen to be extraordinarily good at what they do.

The fact that they have managed to spend most of their adult years working in such close quarters with each other — in clubs, recording studios, hotel rooms and planes — and still genuinely like each other is a testament to them as people. That Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage spends time to help us see that side of the band is also a testament to the documentary.

Will Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage convert those who don't get the group? No, although after watching the documentary they may have a strong desire to spin "Moving Pictures" and hear — perhaps again — what all the fuss is about.

Of course, many of us already know what the "fuss" is about. We're just waiting for everyone else to be clued in.

Agree or disagree with a posting? Lemme know. Have a topic or suggestion? Lemme know that, too. Send an e-mail to kbaird@theblade.com or call 419-724-6734.

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