In May 2011, Neil Young brought his solo tour to Toronto’s Massey Hall, an iconic venue in the city of his birth. Jonathan Demme was on hand to capture the two nights, which highlighted new songs from the album Le Noise, produced by Daniel Lanois, mixed with classics like ‘Ohio’ and ‘I Believe In You.’ At 65, Young retains a youthful vitality and musical curiosity that balances his wisdom and experience. It’s no wonder he’s been an inspiration to the likes of Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth.
In Neil Young Journeys, Demme intersperses the Massey Hall concert footage with brief scenes from a road trip through Ontario. Driving a 1956 Ford Crown Victoria, Young visits the rural town of Omemee, where he spent a key part of his formative years, and reminisces about his former neighbours and their daughters. As he drives past bulldozers transforming the landscape, he remarks, ‘It’s all gone… it’s still in my head.’
At Massey Hall, Young shares the stage only with a wooden statue of a Native American as he moves between two pianos, an organ and several guitars, acoustic and electric. The songs are full of intense, poetic imagery. In one haunting number, ‘You Never Call,’ he pays homage to his late friend Larry ‘L.A.’ Johnson, who ran Young’s film company, Shakey Pictures. And in ‘Love And War,’ he offers a kind of summation of his whole career: ‘Since the backstreets of Toronto/I sang for justice and I hit a bad chord/But I still try to sing about love and war.’
– Thom Powers, Toronto International Film Festival