March 28, 2010

Neil Young Trunk Show

The journey never ends for Neil Young. Captured cinematically just a few years ago in the formal Nashville recital Heart of Gold, the legendary rocker and that film's director Jonathan Demme return with Neil Young Trunk Show. The result is a rich, organic chronicle of the 2007-8 tour in support of Young's Chrome Dreams album. With multiple video angles and handheld cameras, Demme's spontaneous approach meshes perfectly with Young's free-floating, soft/loud, this-old-man-will-do-whatever-he-wants-to artistic imperative.

It's hard to think of another 60-something singer-guitarist granted as much reverence by his audience, and one that can summon as much electric fury. It was a smart idea, then, to capture the aging Young in this particular chapter in his career - increasingly grandfatherly and gentle one moment (the acoustic "Harvest" and "Oh Lonesome Me" are given poignant readings), then flattening the crowd the next with blazing steamrollers like "No Hidden Path" and "Like a Hurricane." Humble every second, yet never pandering, Young reveals himself throughout, apparently feeling every note he plays to the utmost. And as this concert movie goes on, the foundational themes of this singer-songwriter's body of work -- how a defiantly solitary man reconciles himself with the outside world, love, and spirituality -- come into progressively clearer focus.

Young and his band, including bassist Rick Rosas, guitarist Ben Keith, drummer Ralph Molina, and backup vocalist/wife Pegi, present a wholly convincing argument for artistic purity and old ways. With an eye toward both spectacle and heart, Demme captures his subject unpacking a Trunk Show complete with a live painter, vintage lighting, and, at center stage, those songs. It all boils down to the songs; Young serves no other master.

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