Monday, July 21, 2008

CSNY DEJA VU - Neil Young throws down again

CSNY DEJA VU isn't a movie about forensic scientists, as one colleague of mine erroneously believed. It's a documentary by and about Neil Young - legendary folk-rock musician, political protester, and all round rebel. As part of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, he wrote one of the best known and most heart-felt rock anthems of all time - "Ohio". Nearly forty years later, it's a different war but the same old fear and loathing, and Neil Young is angry. So angry that he dashed off an album, "Living with the war", in 2006, corralled his old band-mates, and hit the road again. The band are under no illusions about their capacity to inspire a political movement. Moreover, they know that in many cases they'll be preaching to the choir. What they want is to get the choir off their asses.

The tour starts off looking creaky - much like the sixty-something band members. Worse still, as the band moves to the south, they get nervous about the reaction they might get to songs with lyrics such as:

"Let's impeach the President for lying / And misleading our country into war
Abusing all the power that we gave him / And shipping all our money out the door

Let's impeach the president for hijacking / Our religion and using it to get elected
Dividing our country into colors / And still leaving black people neglected."

As you might imagine, the band are greeted with as many boos as cheers. Plenty of people resent having politics forced on them for the price of a $100 concert ticket. But the reaction, as chronicled by ABC embedded war reporter Michael Cerre, isn't universally negative. There are plenty of war veterans who feel that CSNY articulates their angst.

Now, I'm a great Neil Young fan, and I agree wholeheartedly with his views. But the documentary felt cobbled together and never gained traction with me. I couldn't help but wonder if it would have been more effective as a straightforward concert film, along the lines of Jonathan Demme's HEART OF GOLD. These songs are so effective, and their staging to powerful, that I may well have been more moved by hearing them through without the video diary interruptions.

CSNY DEJA VU played Sundance and Berlin 2008 and is currently on release in Germany and the UK. It opens in the US on Friday.

No comments:

Post a Comment