Rush is dead.
So it seems.
But their memory lives on in the hearts and minds of fans, through terrestrial and satellite radio, and now apparently on worldwide big screen movie releases that just might come annually.
The not all that hyped Cinema Strangiato aired Wednesday as a one-time deal and it packed the house pretty good. I bought tickets nearly two weeks ago and the first theater I tried in the Portland metro area was sold out. Clearly, the Rush magnet remains. The concert film was originally marketed as the “1st annual Cinema Strangiato” but looks like someone got a hold of the AP Stylebook and learned “1st annual” doesn’t exist so it was switched to “inaugural.” (Sorry for putting on my reporter’s hat.) But my ticket showed “Cinema Strangiato 2019” and the official website uses a subtitle of “An Annual Exercise in Fan Indulgence.” Strangiato, indeed.
Cinema Strangiato basically encapsulated the R40 show in Toronto (with the segment for “Losing It” filmed in New Jersey – the hometown of violinist Jonathan Dinklage) presenting Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart in their element. It wasn’t the entire R40 show but the two hour and 20 minute film certainly could have contained all the songs played on their final tour if edited to remove the videos played at the start and after the 20 minute intermission during the live show. Instead, a solid number of songs were picked like “Headlong Flight,” “Roll the Bones,” “Distant Early Warning,” “Subdivisions” “Xanadu” and of course “Tom Sawyer” and “2112,” along with interviews and the same video skits (and possibly some new ones – I can’t remember) that entertained audiences on the R40 tour woven in-between.
It worked, actually, and didn’t interrupt the flow as you might expect once you got lost in the audio and video component of the concert to only get jostled awake from your dream of seeing Rush again one more time. Cutaways included interviews with producer Nick Raskulinecz , Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins and Foo Fighters’ drummer Taylor Hawkins, among others, outtakes from the various video montages over the years and just a couple of behind the scenes like Peart preparing for a day of motorcycle riding between shows and a couple of soundchecks – the most entertaining coming during closing credits as Lifeson sang his version of lyrics for “The Garden.”
The interviews were new and nothing was repeated from the Time Stand Still documentary, a more engrossing and emotional look into the band’s final tour. If you missed the chance to see Rush on the R40 tour this offers your only hope to get a taste. My theater was certainly loud enough to double as a concert and the footage got you up close and personal with the band as well as the usual full stage shots from the rafters. This live production far exceeded the Clockwork Angels Tour which was unwatchable except for those with serious ADD. Yes, the camera stayed put on the fretboard during Lifeson’s “Working Man” solo.
Though it was nice to congregate with Rush fans once again and see Geddy, Alex and Neil on stage, even if just a movie screen, I would have been just as happy and more comfortable to grab the eventual DVD and watch at home. It was no more than A Show of Hands, R30 or Rush in Rio and when factoring in the cost of tickets which included a service fee, dinner out (might as well) and a bag of popcorn for the wife, well I should have just waited for the home video release and saved a whole bunch of time and money.
Be that as it may, expect some type of release next year to separate the faithful from their cash. Rush fans to tend to turn out in droves, don’t they? But whatever they plan for the “second annual” I’m not sure what’s left and really what’s the point? They’re not coming back and releases like this only serve to remind us of that reality. I think Rush fans now sit in two camps – those who say they deserve the retirement and owe us nothing (the majority) and (where I sit) those who remain heartbroken and looking for every ounce of possibility of their return – even if that means without Peart. He can still write the lyrics, you know. Music by Lee/Lifeson and Lyrics by Peart. Would look no different than any other album. Might sound a bit different…
At any rate, it’s been four years since R40 and seven years since Clockwork Angels was released. I get their age. I get they gave us 40+ years. I get Peart suffered through some pretty gnarly wounds (but seriously take a day off from the motorcycle would ya) on the last tour. However, working on new music from their respective home studios, emailing lyrics and collaborating via today’s technology without ever getting on a plane won’t work?
In Cinema Strangiato, Raskulinecz said he’d be honored to work with Rush again and he’d be honored to remain good friends. Sounds like he’s on board. Corgan provided the most touching send-off which probably rings quite true. No, I’m not falling for for the little “See You Next Year” tagline at the very end of Cinema Strangiato as some sort of teaser that our Canadian heroes will return in 2020 with new music and/or to the stage. Just expect Cinema Strangiato 2020.
Sometime ago, I read an interview with, I believe, John Lennon and when he looked back on all the lost years after the Beatles broke up he lamented about the music they never got to share with their fans. I wonder if any of the members of Rush ever think about the music that could have been, that will never be?
Well, now that Rush has joined the ranks of bands that release films in movie theaters how about joining the growing list of bands taking up a residency in Las Vegas?
It will work.