Sweatin’ to the oldies

Jonathan Demme gets a second take on a Canadian music legend in Neil Young’s Trunk Show

I bet your Grandpa can’t rock like that: Neil Young performs in director Jonathan Demme’s latest documentary (and second Young flick) The Neil Young Trunk Show. Larry Cragg

At 64, Canadian music legend Neil Young may just be a hair younger than his musical contemporaries. But when the man with the heart of gold gets onstage, as anyone who has seen him can attest, he gets a whole lot younger.

Neil Young’s Trunk Show is the second Young doc in four years by fan-auteur Jonathan Demme (Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense), who previously captured his performance at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium in 2006’s Neil Young: Heart of Gold. Nonetheless, Trunk Show will be an incredible trip down memory lane for some, and a welcoming red carpet to new fans.

There is nothing old about Young here, as he continues to jump around the stage, breaking out a sweat while swaying to the tempo. His continuous passion for peace and poetry shines through in every word he utters.

Demme’s keen eye and countless camera angles succeed in providing the audience with the experience of being onstage with the legend himself. Even the drummer’s viewpoint is captured.

Demme takes a unique approach here, allowing the audience to watch the crowd from a performer’s point of view, capturing every fan in their seat as they become completely entranced by each melody.

The painted picture of true musical genius lifts you up and satisfies every inch of anyone’s love for folk music.

The emotional stone-cold backdrop takes you back to the ’60s, while you watch “The Sultan” paint music to canvas. This artistic show has everything a Neil Young fan could ever ask for.

The very few backstage clips come at just the right time to ease you over to the next song.

Demme chooses to let Young’s work speak for itself, with little discussion with the man himself, which may leave some viewers longing for more intimate moments.

Those looking for a deeper exploration into the mind and beauty that only Young can explain may not find it here, though perhaps, as Demme knows the man well, those things are best explained through his performance.

“I’m just a dreamer, but you are just a dream.”

Like a Hurricane is just one of the many magnificent performances in this 90-minute concert, though Young staples such as Hey Hey, My My or Out on the Weekend are surprisingly absent. But as a compromise, Demme does capture an incredible, jaw-dropping 20-minute guitar solo in the midst of Oh Hidden Path, something you likely won’t see anywhere else.

All and all, folk music is given a new twist of wonderment through Demme’s steady lens.

Young said it best: “Rock and roll will never die.”

Published in Volume 64, Number 24 of The Uniter (March 25, 2010)

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