Neil Young's documentary about Crosby Stills Nash and Young's 2006 "Freedom of Speech" tour focuses less on performance than on the veteran supergroup's determination to use music to provoke discussion about Iraq, George W. Bush's presidency and the war on terror. And provoke they do.
Young was the driving force behind the tour, whose set list was heavily weighted towards the collection of overtly political songs he wrote in response to the war in Iraq and recorded as "Living With War." Young persuaded his old band mates -- whose internal conflicts are the stuff of rock and roll legend – to regroup, and invited veteran journalist Mike Cerre, who covered both the Vietnam war and was embedded with one of the first Marine Units in Iraq to help shape a film about the tour in general and audience response to hot-button songs like "Let's Impeach the President" in particular. Things get off to an uneven start: Voices are distressingly froggy, the band's trademark crystalline harmonies are off, tills takes an embarrassing tumble after colliding with a footlight (embarrassing to everyone but him, apparently) and reviewers wonder why four "four balding hippie millionaires" with a history of butting heads are subjecting themselves to the physical and psychological rigors of two months on the road. Age appears to have mellowed them personally (when the film was shot Graham Nash was 63, David Crosby was 64 and Stephen Stills and Young were both 60); there's no rancor in Crosby's voice when he says that "CSNY is not a democracy. It's a… benevolent dictatorship. Neil is in charge." But with the exception of Stills, who cheerfully admits his ambivalence about hitting the road with a passel of protest songs, they're as engaged as they were in 1970, when Young penned "Ohio" in response to the killing of four Kent State University students by over-zealous national guardsmen. Audiences skew old, but include people in their teens and twenties, and response is predictably mixed, though it's hard to imagine that ticket holders who call themselves fans are so unfamiliar with CSNY's body of work that they're shocked -- shocked -- when they get politics with their music. And while "Let's Impeach the President" prompts walkouts in Atlanta, the same show was attended by a man who says, "I'm from Tennessee, I'm a Republican -- a conservative Republican -- but I think what Neil Young is doing is fantastic."
CSNY/DEJA VU – whose title alludes to the band's first album – doesn’t break any new documentary ground, but it does exactly what it sets out to do: Preserve a live event and make it available to a broader audience.
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- Released: 2008
- Rating: R
- Review: Neil Young's documentary about Crosby Stills Nash and Young's 2006 "Freedom of Speech" tour focuses less on performance than on the veteran supergroup's determination to use music to provoke discussion about Iraq, George W. Bush's presidency and the war on… (more)