Published Jul 12, 2012Journeys captures veteran Canadian rocker Neil Young playing two sold-out gigs at Toronto's Massey Hall on the Le Noise tour last year. It's Neil solo on acoustic or electric, with no band, and he soars. The film mixes classics such as "Down by the River," "I Believe in You" and "Hey Hey My My" with newer numbers, including "Love and War," "Leia" and "You Never Call."
A standout is "Ohio," performed on searing electric guitar as Demme superimposes the names and photographs of the four student demonstrators the National Guard gunned down at the 1970 demonstrations at Kent State University in Ohio. The film's photography is simple and elegant, but fails to include any audience shots. Given the amazing acoustics of Massey Hall, the sound is predictably immaculate.
Journeys is the third concert film that Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme has shot for Neil Young, following 2009's Neil Young Trunk Show and 2006's Neil Young: Heart of Gold. There's a slight difference here, however. Demme intercuts footage of Young driving in a 1956 Ford Crown Victoria from Omemee to Massey Hall in downtown Toronto.
Young guides us through the "town in north Ontario" that he immortalized in "Helpless," though Omemee is actually a two-hour drive northeast of Toronto. Young proudly unveils the public school named after his father, respected sports journalist Scott Young. Elsewhere, Young and brother Bob wistfully look for their old home, now swallowed up by a forest. As he swings through the canyons of skyscrapers and condos that fill downtown Toronto, Young remarks that the city has vastly changed since he grew up here.
Young too has changed; he was 65 when the film was shot and his reminiscences early in Journeys suggest a retrospective of Young's life and career. Disappointingly, we don't get that, as the documentary becomes more or less another concert flick, albeit a handsome one. Perhaps this will be the next Young/Demme project. (Mongrel Media)