I’m a big fan of Neil Young. I have loved his music since I was able to listen to it. From his solo work through his work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; Mr. Young has proved time and time again that he is a master of sound and music. Jonathan Demme perfectly captures Young on his solo tour, specifically his performance at Toronto’s Massey Hall, which is his birth city. If you are a fan of Neil Young, this will no doubt make a good addition to your Neil Young collection.
Before seeing the film, I expected more of a documentary than a concert film, but ‘Journeys’ is 95% live concert footage of Young and 5% footage of Young driving one of his famous 1956 Ford Crown Victorias through his hometown onto the Massey Hall venue. We see Young and his brother drive in his hometown of Omemee, where he grew up, and get a glimpse of where he lived or what’s left of it, as he gives us some very amusing stories of his childhood. As Young drives past new buildings and construction that is tearing down his old childhood landmarks, he remembers these old locations and old friends who are now gone and says, “…it’s okay that they’re gone, because they’re still in my head and in my heart.”
Young, 66 years old now, still gives his all and sounds the same as he did when he was in his 20s. It’s some kind of special magic that he is the only person on stage performing, and still sounds like a full band that is playing every song. He switches from guitar to piano often and belts out classic tunes as well as some new ones. I loved that there were titles of each song and what year they were released that popped up on screen during each tune that was performed. The songs that were performed were Peaceful Valley Boulevard, Ohio, Down by the River, Sign of Love, Rumbling, Love and War, Leia, After the Gold Rush, I Believe in You, My, My, Hey, Hey (Out of the Blue), You Never Call, Hitchhiker, and Walk With Me. A wonderful set-list to see on film.
Demme’s use of cameras during the concert was incredible. He uses unorthodox angles to showcase the artist’s creativity and mood. It’s very poetic and rock n’ roll at the same time. One of the more unusual shots was an HD lipstick camera that was mounted to the mic stand where we only see Young’s throat and mouth. At one point, a little bit of spittle from Young attacks the camera and it stays there for the duration of the song. It’s as if we are that close to his genius. There are psychedelic visuals at times and shots from inside his piano looking up at Neil playing. I loved this aspect of it as it was a very artistic way of watching a concert. The sound of the film was spectacular. It’s as of we were actually at Massey Hall watching Young perform live. That is possible from the 96khz recording of the music and film. My whole body rattled when the bass sounded. If I closed my eyes, it was as if I was there in person.
'Journeys' comes with a glorious 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Director Jonathan Demme shot two different things here. One is a documentary that follows Young around in his car as he drives around his hometown. The other is pure concert footage. The concert itself is like watching a live work of art. The picture itself is crisp and clear. It's a very dimly lit gig with dark yellow and red lights, and the brown colors of the old instruments Young uses. The detail is amazing, as you can see every hair on Young's face, and the scratches on the face of the guitar. The flesh tones are natural and smooth. The blacks are deep and inky as well.
When we are not at the concert, we are in Young's car, driving around with Neil and checking out the land. Here is where the brighter colors show up with the blues and greens. There was no notice of aliasing or halos. The dim lighting through the whole concert gives us a very intimate night with the music legend.
The video presentation is very good, but the audio presentation is excellent. The disc has a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix and sounds amazing. When Young hits those deep low notes on his guitar, the whole house and my body rang. The vocals are very crisp and clear, and sound great. The ambient noise of the crowd is never overused and the instrument sounds are incredible.
The rear speakers are used mostly for the echoes of the instruments, which gives you a real feeling of being at a concert venue. The documentary part of the film sounds great, too, with the dialogue sounding clear with no flaws. This is a fantastic audio presentation, as I'd expect from Demme and Young.
'Journeys' is by no means the ultimate Neil Young concert film. It’s less pleasing than his many other documentaries, but non-the-less a good addition to the archives. Technically, 'Journeys' is astounding. It sounds amazing and the camera angles are powerful. This film is definitely worth a look to fans of his music, and Demme does a great job of capturing this time of his life. The video is great and audio is demo-worthy.