Do we really need another Neil Young movie?
Fair question. You've got Journey Through the Past (1972), Rust Never Sleeps (1979), Weld (1991), and Greendale (2004), among others.
And with Neil Young Trunk Show, Jonathan Demme, that most musically empathetic of movie directors, has now made a pair of full-length Young movies, including Heart of Gold (2006), and is planning a third.
OK, so maybe need is not the right word. But if you're a fan of the indomitable Canadian rocker - high-pitched voice, proto-grunge guitar, total immersion in the music - then you want to see Neil Young Trunk Show on the big screen, for sure.
That's because the concert film was shot in 2007 at two shows at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby - particularly great shows, even by Young's no-holds-barred standards.
Trunk Show takes a nearly opposite approach from the beautifully becalmed Heart of Gold, filmed in Nashville in 2005, a short time after Young had suffered a brain aneurysm.
Heart of Gold had the feel of a family gathering, a warm, deeply felt country sing-along in simple celebration of how good it felt to still be alive.
Trunk Show is a different deal. It's a half-acoustic, half-electric rock-and-roll carnival that's a fanciful survey of Young's prodigious career. It comes at Young with a spontaneous feel, and from odd angles. Demme's cameras capture Young from the balcony and behind the drum kit. On a stage cluttered with oddities - a red telephone, a guy painting as the band plays - Demme wisely resists the urge to dazzle us with rapid-fire cutting, instead lingering on Young's expressive 62-year-old face.
Backed by a knockout band that includes multi-instrumentalist Ben Keith, bass player Rick Rosas, and Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina, Young largely avoids warhorses - though, never fear, you do get "Cinnamon Girl" and "Like a Hurricane."
Neither a pure Crazy Horse rawk fest nor a contemplative guitar pull, Trunk Show instead blends the two. "We can do a lot of different things," Young confidently tells Demme in the one short backstage interview segment.
There are acoustic rarities like "Ambulance Blues" and banjo-plucked larks like "The Believer," plus the six-string maelstroms "Spirit Road" and the 23-minute "No Hidden Path." On the latter, Young lets rip with an epic solo that's extraordinary for its duration. You'll have time to get popcorn, go on a bathroom break, and make a few phone calls. Rest assured that when you return, Young, as always, will still be rocking.
Contact music critic Dan DeLuca