Rush to the Cinema

Rock fans have a good reason to pay a visit to the Tel Aviv Cinematheque next month.

rock music 390 (photo credit: Courtesy)
rock music 390
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Call them the Rodney Dangerfield of rock. For decades, Rush has enjoyed the acclaim and adoration of legions of fans worldwide while being largely ignored by the rock music establishment. So it’s only fitting that it’s a fan of the Canadian progressive rock heroes who’s bringing the film Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage to Israel.
“I first started listening to Rush when I was in Israel on a Youth Aliya program in 1981,” says New York native Alex Gutman, who immigrated to Tel Aviv in 2009.
“One of my roommates was from Toronto, and he put a tape on for me, and “Tom Sawyer” came blasting out [a track that went on to become one of the band’s defining songs from their album Moving Pictures]. It changed my musical direction forever. When I got back to New York, I bought every one of their albums, and they’ve stuck with me all these years.”
Since breaking out of their Canadian home base in the mid- 1970s, the high-energy trio, consisting of bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart, has rivaled every rock legend in terms of sales and popularity. Featuring their unmatched musicianship, complex compositions topped by Lee’s unique helium-filled vocals, and lyrical motifs drawing in equal parts on science fiction, fantasy and philosophy, the band developed an avid fan base and rank third in consecutive gold or platinum albums after The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Yet they’re rarely, if ever, mentioned in the same breath as metal colleague elites like Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath and are regularly ignored by established bodies like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But according to Gutman, Beyond the Lighted Stage, which debuted at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, where it earned the 2010 Audience Award and was later nominated for Best Long Form Music Video at the 53rd Grammy Awards, goes a long way in rectifying the situation.
Directed by Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn, known for making Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, the film is a loving in-depth look at the band’s evolution, featuring ample interviews with the members, rare concert footage and entertaining testimonials by notable fans like Jack Black, Billy Corgan, Trent Reznor, Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), Kirk Hammett (Metallica) and Gene Simmons, explaining their devotion to what has become the world’s biggest cult band.
“The film has been really successful,” says Gutman, adding that the concert footage and interviews provide some memorable moments. “They juxtapose them today looking at a clip of themselves in 1975 wearing flowing robes and sandals. It’s really amazing. It’s a great film for Rush fans but also anyone who loves rock music.”
But there’s an extra attraction to the band for Israelis who may be unfamiliar with their music – Geddy Lee’s strong Jewish identity.
Born Gary Weinrib, Lee’s parents were Holocaust survivors – his mother from Bergen-Belson and his father from Dachau. Lee has often spoken in interviews about being the child of survivors and has said that Rush’s classic album Grace under Pressure and especially the song “Red Sector A” is about their experience and “being on the brink and having the courage and strength to survive.”
According to Gutman, Lee talks about his Judaism in the film.
“He tells a story about being the only Jewish family in the neighborhood and about his bar mitzva. You get a Jewish vibe from the film,” he says.
Ever since he arrived in Israel, where he works as a “technology evangelist” by day, Gutman has been in touch with promoters and with Rush’s management about bringing the band here to perform.
But when he heard about the film, he decided to begin with a more modest venture and get the buzz going about the band.
The Israel premiere of Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage will take place on Sunday at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque at 10 p.m. The debut will be followed by midnight screenings on March 2, 9, 23 and 30.
Gutman says he’s bringing some local musicians of varying age groups to talk about how Rush influenced their music.
“I wanted artists of different ages because when you go to a Rush show, you see three or four generations there,” he says. “I hope to spread the word about Rush. For me, their greatness is in their longevity, their excellent musicianship, their humbleness. They’re just great guys and good friends making music together. That’s enough for me.”