We're going on a little trip, folks…
Neil Young confused and irritated audiences worldwide this past summer. How did he do it? By devoting most of his set to songs from an upcoming concept album called Greendale. As part of a limited edition two-disc set, Warner Reprise Video presents a DVD culled from a four-night stand at Vicar St., Ireland. Ten songs are performed from his new album of the same name.
The songs deal with the Green family. They live on the Double E ranch, located in a small town called Greendale, population 25,000. It seems to be a mellow place, but one day, cousin Jed Green commits an act that will forever alter the Green family and life in their small town.
At least that's what I think it's about. Hard to tell in an album so disjointed. Before I discuss this DVD, I think I should say a few things about the album.
Greendale the album is intended to be in the tradition of such rock operas as The Who's Tommy, Rael 1 (part of the Who Sell Out album) and Quadrophenia. The problem is while Neil Young is usually a great songwriter and musician, storytelling was never one of his strengths (if you don't believe me, see his 1983 film Human Highway). There are some good songs on the album such as "Bandit," "Falling From Above," and especially "Grandpa's Interview," but the songs don't come together to form a cohesive whole like the aforementioned Who rock operas. This album doesn't even work as a collection of songs that all share a common theme (the kind of album Harry Chapin and Bruce Springsteen are so good at).
So if the album is a mess, how is the DVD? Surprisingly, it is a better experience than the album. Young performs all the material solo with acoustic guitars. Stripped down to their bare essentials, the songs are easier to comprehend and easier to take than the overdone electric arrangements on the album. This material needs a certain subtlety to the music. Crazy Horse were never known for subtlety, so that's why it doesn't work on the album. Young's acoustic performance is less obvious and weighty, making it a cut above the studio versions. The DVD also has the added benefit of Young telling the story between songs, which while not a complete remedy, is easier to understand than his muddled album liner notes.
Warner Reprise presents the concert in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. I commend them for presenting it anamorphic, since most CD/DVD sets tend to go the non-anamorphic route. The concert was shot on digital video and looks it. There is a considerable amount of grain, which is normal for digital video shot with limited light sources. The image is also blurry at times, an obvious sign of the wrong aperture being used for exposure. While this approach may have worked for other Young concerts, for an intimate acoustic journey just as this, it fails.
While the visuals are a disappointment, the sound is excellent. Given three options of DTS Surround, Dolby Digital Surround, and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, it doesn't matter which one you choose to listen to. They all sound clear, crisp, and clean.
Young fans don't need any encouragement to pick this up. For the casual fan or non-fan, $19.99 for a two-disc set of one of Young's disappointments may be too much to pay for one spin.
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