The first time, it was about creating a concert. This time, say Neil Young and Jonathan Demme, it was about capturing one. And doing it as faithfully -- both visually and, more important, aurally -- as possible.
That was the mission statement for Neil Young Journeys, the pair's third film collaboration in documenting Young's concert presence on film, which opened in limited release June 29. (2006's Neil Young: Heart of Gold was their first; Neil Young Trunk Show -- 2009 -- was the other.)
"This film was about this tour -- about filming a live show inspired by all the shows on the tour," says Demme, 68, the Oscar-winning director of The Silence of the Lambs. "With Heart of Gold, it was staged for the movie. That show was never on tour. We had a costume designer and rehearsed it the way you would stage a show, with a visual script design for certain shots. It was completely handcrafted. This film was inspired by an existing show, with us coming in and filming it. We knew the magic a live audience gets -- and we tried to figure out how to do that for a movie audience."
For Young, the concerts -- part of the tour to support his 2010 album, Le Noise -- were a first for him. For the album, producer Daniel Lanois used various sonic and digital tricks to loop and otherwise turn his guitar sound into a wall that utilized pieces of the songs for the finished product. Young wanted to recreate that sound onstage; while he had given solo acoustic concerts in the past, Le Noise was an experiment in songs backed by solo electric guitar.
"Electric solo is something I'd never done," Young, 66, says. "Solo electric guitar has a different character when it's married to a hall with the right acoustic resources. I had prepared sound from the album, so it was bionic, but still organic. The sound was bigger than life.
"I wanted to do the new songs, but also songs from my life. So there were seven from that album and eight songs from my life. I thought they could tell a story. I tried to think of it more as a play than a concert, instead of being free-form."
This interview continues on my website.