Trunk Show's Mission: "To blow your eardrums out"
After Greg Kot's rave review of 'Neil Young Trunk Show: Scenes from a Concert', we thought we'd be hard pressed to find a critic who could top describing the indescribable.
But here's another review to whet your appetite over next 24 hours.
From Reverse Shot by Andrew Chan:
Trunk Show allows us an intense focus on an aging man throwing his entire body into the music, at times seemingly surprised by the passion and sheer sadness of the sound he’s making.
There are, indeed, few sounds in popular music more heartbreaking than a Neil Young vocal.
Sometimes a sharp and atonal bleat, sometimes hanging nervously in the back of his mouth, Young’s voice is so instantly memorable it needs no words and no narrative to flesh it out. Demme trusts in this and is clearly, appropriately, in awe of it, but he also isn’t interested in presenting us the same permanently plaintive Young. In an interview, he has even advised: “If you’re not a Neil Young fan, don’t waste your time . . . if you don’t love electric guitar, don’t go.”
Accentuating the murkiness and loudness of the rocker’s new material is a stage lit by dim, sickly yellow and purple spotlights, substituting for the comfort of Heart of Gold’s ochre and umber. Gone are the backdrops depicting hearth and home; here, a few grotesque props remind us of the set design for the grungy Young-directed concert film Rust Never Sleeps. As if standing in defiance of those who accused Heart of Gold of pimping Young as some Starbucks-friendly folkster (or those who remain suspicious of an artist who briefly cultivated a soft-rock following in the Seventies), Trunk Show eventually announces its mission to blow your eardrums out.
The meat of the film is not the bravely shy singer but the merciless guitarist, and “No Hidden Path,” a monstrous 20-minute jam that brings the first half to its climax, serves as a kind of litmus test. Taken from his latest studio album, Chrome Dreams II, the song starts out with images of moon and mist that would have fit in the lyrics of “Harvest Moon,” before launching into the type of vague spiritual pronouncements that have recently muddied Young’s once-vivid songwriting.
Once the guitar takes over, though, there’s no turning back. A cacophony of escalating moans, yelps, and screeches, the performance is likely to try the patience of all but the truest devotees. But by the end, the uninitiated may feel they’ve undergone something like a religious conversion—especially when Young lets our bleeding ears rest once again on some of those impossibly delicate ballads. Even the most brutal of art-house provocateurs would have a hard time cinematically sustaining such an outburst of anguish and foreboding, while steering us so swiftly back to safety and solace.
What emerges is the most coherent and generous portrait of this artist yet captured on film, and probably the most remarkable melding of his soft and hard sides since the 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps. When he’s stalking across the stage in a rocked-out stupor, wisps of hair dangling in his face, it’s the force of his commitment that moves you. Where Heart of Gold showed us a man ready to make peace with the dying of the light, Trunk Show gives us all the rage Young has left in him.
Awesome Andrew. Thanks!
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