Neil Young Journeys is full of sheer musical authority
A documentary by Jonathan Demme. Rated G.
In Neil Young Journeys, the third such Young concert film from Jonathan Demme (Neil Young: Heart of Gold and Neil Young Trunk Show preceding it), the high-voiced Canadian takes a loose solo tour of his past and present. And he pulls it off through sheer musical authority.
Shot during a 2011 concert at Toronto’s Massey Hall, the presentation is divided between deathless ditties like “Helpless” and “After the Goldrush” and material drawn from his 2010 album, Le Noise—a title referring to producer Daniel Lanois and the record’s dominating grunge factor.
You might think the noisier new numbers would have been toned down for this solo outing, but that’s not strictly true. Although the Whiner in D Minor is flying alone, he performs with considerable feedback and colouration, usually running his Gretsch White Falcon and ancient black Les Paul through multiple tweed amplifiers.
Dressed in white linen and a battered old hat, he also utilizes a twangy acoustic Guild guitar (especially on the confessional “Love and War”), as well as upright piano and an ornate pump organ, which are decorating the set alongside a wooden cigar-store Indian. Demme and cinematographer Declan Quinn prowl the stage, sometimes making odd choices, most notably when using a “spit cam” attached to the jowly, unshaven singer’s microphone stand. Another iffy spot comes during “Ohio”, when Demme shows us the same photos of Kent State shooting victims at least twice.
Much subtler is interspersed footage of Young driving a 1956 Crown Victoria through Ontario, including Omemee, the small town near Peterborough where he grew up. He ponders a few “dream-comfort memories” but is mostly scabrously cryptic about the place. Of course, one reason this artist has never gone out of fashion is that we’re never quite sure what he means.
Watch the trailer for Neil Young Journeys.