The war in Iraq is the backdrop as the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young "Freedom of Speech Tour" crisscrosses North America. Echoes of Vietnam-era anti-war sentiment abound as the band connects with today's audiences.
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This past May, Neil Young brought his solo tour to Toronto's Massey Hall, an iconic venue in the city of his birth. Jonathan Demme was on hand to capture the two nights, which highlighted new songs from the album Le Noise, produced by Daniel Lanois, mixed with classics like "Ohio" and "I Believe in You." At sixty-five, Young retains a youthful vitality and musical curiosity that balances his wisdom and experience. It's no wonder he's been an inspiration to the likes of Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth. In Neil Young Journeys, Demme intersperses the Massey Hall concert footage with brief scenes from a road trip through Ontario. Driving a 1956 Ford Crown Victoria, Young visits the rural town of Omemee, where he spent a key part of his formative years, and reminisces about his former neighbors and their daughters. As he drives past bulldozers transforming the landscape, he remarks, 'It's all gone... it's still in my head.' Written by
Jonathan Demme's third film with Neil Young is yet another winner. What we basically have is a look at the hometown of Young who then drives to Toronto where he's set to perform in the history Massey Hall that night. In between the songs from the concert, we flashback to Young telling a few stories and giving his thoughts on some subjects. NEIL YOUNG JOURNEYS isn't quite as great as HEART OF GOLD but as someone who saw two shows from the Twisted Road tour, this documentary was a great reminder of what made the shows so special. I can understand if some are wanting more of a "greatest hits" concert or if they don't want any of the new material but I found some of the strongest work to come from the new stuff. 'Lela' was a touching song and we get a truly haunting version of 'Love and War.' We also get 'You Never Call,' 'PEaceful Valley Boulevard,' 'Hitchhike' and 'Walk With Me' from the recent stuff. Older classics include 'My My, Hey Hey,' 'Ohio,' 'After the Gold Rush' and 'I Believe in You,' which is certainly one of the highlights of the show. This really isn't a straight documentary or straight concert film but the majority of the show does go to the concert footage. There are some bizarre camera shots, which really get you right up in Young's face and I'm guessing Demme did this to show the passion and fire that he performs with. A couple songs appear to have a camera on the microphone so you really get up close. If you were a fan of the Twisted Road tour then I think you're going to enjoy this even though it's missing some songs that were played then (like Cortez the Killer and Cinnamon Girl). Still, Young and Demme are truly great together and make the film worth checking out.
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