Friday, August 4, 2006

Reviews:: Neil Young - Heart of Gold

Last night I finally got around to seeing the Neil Young documentary, Heart of Gold. I know anyone who likes Mr. Young has already seen the movie and talked about it, but it was finally at the cheap theatre, and I wanted to see it on the big screen. I also know this makes me the guy talking about a movie that no one cares about. It would be like walking into the lunch room at my tech company and starting to ask "if anyone had seen that movie with they guy from Bill and Ted who controls computers with his mind."

The film focuses on the debut performance of his new album, Prairie Wind, at the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The performance includes over 30 people and was captured under the watchful, cinematic eye of Jonathon Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia and bar setter for the music films, Stop Making Sense).

Demme's take on the performance matches perfectly with the theme of the record. He focuses on close-ups as opposed to wide angle band shots and you really feel like you are part of the performance. It also shows a more open and emotional side of the great Canadian song writer. This record is one of Neil's most personal and Demme captures this emotion perfectly.

As the film starts, you are introduced to Neil's band, or as he puts it, "my friends." Luckily for Neil, his friends are extremely talented musicians, so the performance is tighter than Larry and Balkey. It was a pleasant surprise to see the presence Emmylou Harris commands on stage, and the amazing musical arrangements Neil uses. Adding a string quartet, back up singers, his band and a gospel choir all helps create a wall of country sound that engulfs the listener. Neil rips through the new album, pausing only to introduce some songs, and talk about the changes in his life (which we already talked about here). The album plays like Neil's final thoughts on life and is so personal it's hard not to take the songs for more than they are. Neil pays tribute to his father, his daughter, his peers and opens himself up for questions, using the support of his "friends" to help him through one of the most challenging times in his life.

The true power of the film comes when Neil switches outfits, comes back on stage and starts firing through his classic. It's amazing to consider people still get chills and sing along to songs he recorded 20 years ago. Very few artists stand the test of time (to be honest, very few artists stand the test of blogger time these days), and Neil continues to write great songs and engage fans every time he steps on stage. Hearing Neil rip through classics like Old Man, Harvest Moon, Heart of Gold, and The Damage the Needle's Done is a fitting close to the film and sadly, it might be seen as a fitting close to Neil's amazing career as we finally get to see another side of the stoic, reclusive man.

This is a great concert film that I recommend to any fan of Neil's.

Posted at 12:40 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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