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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Trunk Show

Old Neil Young still cranks ’em out live. But how much is enough?

Posted By on Wed, Mar 17, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Well, thankfully, at least he hasn't given us Journey Through the Past again. But Trunk Show is another Neil Young live performance filmed by Jonathan Demme, (who also shot 2006's Nashville-based Heart of Gold), this one taken from the Chrome Dreams II tour's stop at the Tower Theatre in Upper Darby, Pa. How one reacts to it will be based entirely on how one reacts to this particular musical facet of Young's oeuvre. This writer found Heart of Gold to be kind of a bore, ... but if you disagree, this might be your cuppa tea.

Near the beginning, Young praises the band he used on the tour — multi-instrumentalist Ben Keith, bassist Rick Rosas and Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina — actually calling them "better" and more versatile than "the Horse." Which they may very well be, but they also lack the personality and fiery passion that makes Crazy Horse preferable to many fans and which seemingly drives Young's undeniably great guitar work to even higher heights. 

So, basically, with the exception of a few rather narcissistic backstage moments (Young getting his finger mended by a physician, for instance), this is a film of Neil on acoustic guitar, on piano, on banjo, or rockin' out with his band. The cinematography is fine — but the songs are mostly long, although "No Hidden Path," featuring a long extended jam, and Young at his Phenobarbital-meets-pyrotechnics riffing best is pretty damn terrific. But there have been better filmed live versions of, say, "Cinnamon Girl" and "Like a Hurricane" — and one wishes Neil would simply expand and release the great career-spanning doc that ran on PBS's American Masters series last year.

In some ways, Trunk Show almost seems pointless. Neil fanatics may consider it Grade-A. But for the rest of us, it's, at best, a DVD rental.

Opens Friday, March 19, at the Main Art Theatre, 118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111.

Bill Holdship is the music editor of Metro Times Send comments to bholdship@metrotimes.com.

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