Last night I attended Fathom Events’ screening of the new documentary Rush: Time Stand Still.
Documenting the lead up to and execution of the Canadian power trio’s fortieth anniversary tour in 2015, lovingly dubbed “R40,” Time Stand Still is narrated by Rush fan Paul Rudd, and incorporates interviews with both the band members and long-time fans.
Rudd’s narration is good, such as it is. It is very limited and spread across the length of the feature. The documentarians seem to have made the conscious choice to tell most of the story through the voices of the fans, so much so that I believe there is more fan input than even the band’s more-than-ample contribution of stories and tidbits about the process they undertook while deciding whether or not forty years was long enough, of whether or not they could continually physically undertake what is generally acknowledged to be one of the hardest shows in rock music to put on: a three-hour set of musically complex and demanding music, all performed by guys in their sixties!
What we know now, of course, is that August 1, 2015, in Los Angeles, California, was, indeed, the last stop on the last, major, large-scale Rush tour. After thirty-five dates over 4 months, thousands of fans had finally come to realize that this was almost certainly the end.
Some of the stories in the film have been told before; some, like the story of Alex Lifeson and his early alter-ego, “the Bag,” were new, and provided an insight into those early years of touring.
But Time Stand Still is not about the beginning, but the ending, and how you make that choice to end something which has, for so long, been part of—a BIG part of—your life and identity.
Not solely the decision of Neil Peart to rest his tired, bruised, and beaten body after forty years, but also an acknowledgement of Alex’s physical limitations, namely his arthritis, bringing the idea of ending their monumental assaults on the rock touring landscape into sharper relief. And, while no one seemed really angry about the ending (though Geddy did have a bit of a tone that might have indicated he was willing to continue) of touring, neither did anyone seem truly happy for it to be ending.
Peppered throughout with the band’s music, of course, Time Stand Still’s most poignant moments, for me, were not those moments of fans gushing over how many shows they’d seen over the years, or celebrities espousing their adoration of the band, or even the guys themselves talking about what and why this was happening.
The moments that stick out in my mind were those moments where the filmmakers chose not to add anything to what they were filming, whether it was the guys in the green room waiting to go on, not speaking, just gathering themselves, or Geddy walking silently down the corridors under an arena after coming off stage, the crowd noise slowly fading away, leaving only the quiet sound of footsteps as he made his way to his dressing room.
Those moments, that silence, is what the film is truly about. The silence that has fallen over the lives of the fans, and even, in some ways, the band itself now that they’ve finished.
While they have not ruled out working together in the future, or even doing some kind of in-residence event someplace like Madison Square Garden for a week or so (but not Las Vegas; that just wouldn’t be Rush), one cannot help but feel like it is, actually, truly, over.
I was lucky enough to have seen the Salt Lake City stop of the R40 tour with my daughter from the third row, center stage, and it was as magical a musical experience as any I’d ever experienced, or will likely experience in the future. I, like so many Rush fans, am thankful that I was able to instill in my daughter a love of the band, which in turn has fueled her love of live music in general. And, also like so many fans, I am sad that the days of our sharing that for an extended evening are likely over.
But Time cannot and will not Stand Still.
Not even for the greatest band in history.
[Rush: Time Stand Still will be available for purchase on November 18 from multiple outlets, including Amazon, BestBuy, and FYE, along with RushBackstage.com. I highly recommend picking it up.]