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Greendale Second Edition: Inside Greendale



Inside The Head of Neil Young


Source: NOW Magazine (Canada)
Author: Michael Hollett
Published: Vol. 23 No. 30 Mar 25 - 31, 2004 
Copyright: 2004 NOW Communications Inc.
Contact: [email protected]

Canada's Gift To Rock Still Kicks Ass, Lots Of Them... Including George Dubya's, Clear Channel's And CNN's. And He's Made A Trippy, Lo-fi Film To Get His Great Greendale Story Out.

Dearborn, Michigan – barreling west on the 401 with Neil Young's Greendale blasting through the speakers, it's easy to be swept up by the album's urgent pro-environment message. I'm racing past beautiful countryside freshly dusted with snow while dodging the debris that spills out of the huge transport trucks crowding the highway. The dirty 18-wheelers are on their way to Michigan to dump Toronto's garbage, and I'm headed for suburban Detroit to talk with Canada's rock god. 

When Young strangely lurched to the political right in the 80s, singing songs soft on Ronald Reagan, Joni Mitchell assured me during an interview that "Neil will be back – he just has to explore." 

Well, he's back big time and raging against George Bush's "illegal" war, mega-corporations and the music industry. 

When he joins me in a hotel bar just blocks from Ford world headquarters, he cracks the first of many smiles, noticing I've already ordered a beer. 

"Since you're a Canadian, I better have a beer with you – I must have a beer with you," says Young, wearing an iconic red flannel shirt. I have a true Wayne's World moment as we clink glasses, exchange cheers and tuck into our drinks. 

Young is two weeks away from wrapping a tour in support of the excellent Greendale disc that launched as the bombs were falling on Baghdad last March and most Americans were still relishing what was supposed to be an easy war. 

The album spins a surprising narrative set in a small California town, lashing out at intrusive, monopolized media, war and enemies of the earth. 

It's one of his best in years, and it's also spawned a strange but poetic film of the same name that opens in Toronto this week. 

The film, like the arena rock show, features mostly amateur actors performing the actions of the story as Young blasts out the songs. 

"At first nobody had any idea what I was doing," says Young. "The war was in full bloom, and people were really emotional both ways, pro and con. It was fantastic." 

A fake Clear Channel billboard on the stage reads "Support Our War," and initially people cheered it, then got the gag and screamed their protest. 

"Both sides were there. They're all my fans, so I tried not to draw conclusions for people. Personally, I think the war is illegal and it's a travesty, it's justice trashed. And like somebody in Haiti said on a protest sign, 'America gets an F-minus in democracy.' 

"The war with Iraq and the occupation were obviously done for oil and revenge. Those are the American motives, controlling the flow of oil, which is now miraculously stronger than it was before the invasion. Yet they destroyed the museums, lost all the art and had no plans for protecting the culture." 

Young thinks big media like CNN and Clear Channel are selling the Bush agenda. 

"Why is it that Martha Stewart is getting more headlines for a $200,000 infraction than (Vice-President Dick Cheney's former company, U.S. military supplier) Halliburton for a $61-million infraction against the American people? Stewart's crime wasn't against the American people, it was just a company she was trading. It wasn't like she was trading in somebody's future or taking away someone's Social Security. But the media's obviously controlled." 

While Young thinks America is "slipping into darkness," he's encouraged by the record voter turnouts in the Democratic primaries. 

"It doesn't matter who the hell they vote for as long as they vote Democratic. So there will be change as long as there's a fair election." 

As always, Young has great faith in youth. Eighteen-year-old social activist Sun Green is the star, and hope, in the sometimes tough Greendale story, just as young people are the stars in Young's world. A media critic and political skeptic, Green's rising activism gives the movie its wheels. 

"I just hope people can take pride in having an opinion, in being active on what they believe in. There is no reason to lie down just because some conservative government is saying environmentalism is passé and you're a bunch of tree huggers. They try to make it unfashionable to have a conscience about things you believe in if they're counter to the government. 

"They're trying to paint it as a 60s thing, but they're in for a big surprise. It may not be this year, but if Bush wins there will be a lot of activism because there's no other recourse. Right now people think we might be able to get the presidency back, but if they can't get it back and this guy has nothing to lose in a second term, then all hell's going to break loose. 

"It's fertile ground for the type of revolution we had in the 60s, right now. Absolutely." 

What's so different about today? 

"There was no reason for revolution during the Clinton years. He wasn't a fundamentalist imposing his religion and values on everybody. Now we have a president who barely scraped into office no matter how you look at it – he either stole it or scraped in – and he's treating the American public like he has a huge mandate. He's making gigantic sweeping changes in the country's way of life, values and morality. 

"He hasn't got a leg to stand on. Well, he's got one leg, he doesn't have two. Fifty per cent of the people voted against him. He's standing on one leg making all of these big changes. All you have to do is hit him in the ankle and he's gone; that's really where Bush is at." 

Young sits back on the couch, taking a long sip of his beer, his mutton-chop sideburns framing a now troubled face. 

"It makes me long for the simple days of Canada. You have a government that has its problems, too, but they seem to be a little more innocent and idealistic up there. It's pretty trashed down here right now." 

Young's a look-you-in-the-eye kind of guy. His fire burns hot, but there's always a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. Despite a mythically successful career, he's still a driven outsider not prepared to coast. Young's 40-year run has seen him veer madly across musical genres, from soft-singing folkie to raging rocker and country crooner, always ready to challenge himself and his audience, often with spectacular results. He's also probably the only musician ever to be sued by his record label because it felt an album he delivered was unreleasable. The label was wrong. 

"I can't do anything in the record industry, or especially radio, because it's so controlled by corporations. There's nowhere to go. I'm out of fashion, I don't contribute to what they're playing, I've gone a different way. The songs are all over five minutes, and to get on radio you have to make so many concessions it's not worth it. You have to water down the songs, they have to be short, and you can't talk about certain things. 

"I've made records for a long time, and I loved music and I still love music, but making records is not as important to me as it used to be. 

"I used to use it to effect transcendence, some sort of uplifting feeling emotionally with the audience. The digital media that music is distributed through doesn't allow for that any more – psychologically and emotionally, that doesn't happen." 

Young has been a party-pooper against CDs since they were invented and is just as opposed to digital cameras. He used Super-8 to make the Greendale film. 

"CDs don't do it. The information isn't there, and there isn't enough variety in the information that's carrying the music. It doesn't have the depth of the media we were using before digital. While the master was the best and everything else a copy, in digital the master is clonable but doesn't have nearly the depth of the master I used to make before the 80s. 

"The pure joy of making records and listening to what you created was lost in 1982. These two things wore me down: not being able to get on the radio, and having the records not sound as good as they did before, when I started making records." 

Back then "I had the joy of mixing and listening to it and taking it home and listening to it again. Smoke a J and sit there and listen to it maybe 10, 15 times in a row, just feeling it. People don't do that any more because digital doesn't allow that to happen. You can go for content instead of going for transcendence and a kind of washing of the soul; you've got to go for intellectual content, and digital allows that through. 

"Those are two strikes against what I do, so I'm going to another ballpark, somewhere else. I'll keep putting out albums, and eventually I'll strike out. I'll have all three strikes and there won't even be a reason to put it out other than to support a film." 

At the mention of film, Young lights up again. 

"Film is totally driving me. I'm making a change. There's no way to get my music out there – the only way to get it noticed is to do a film. If I can make a film well enough to get attention so people know there's a record, then that's what I should do." 

But Greendale is not remotely a traditional film. The actors only occasionally mouth the lyrics Young is singing, and they never speak formal dialogue. In Greendale, the action and visuals are to the film what a soundtrack is to a traditional movie. 

At Austin's SXSW, legendary indie director and sometime Young collaborator Jim Jarmusch raved to me about Greendale. Young sent Jarmusch an early version of the film for input. 

"I would like to think that this is the first of an evolving form, " says Young. "It's a new form for me, and it may be a new form period. It sits in between – it doesn't try to be a film, but it's not a video. It's not trying not to be a film." 

Young made Greendale with a $500 camera for under $500,000, and "there was nobody in the film I didn't know. 

"I didn't want to go outside my own circle. I didn't want to talk to people's agents. I didn't want PR press people around the actors working in the film trying to further their careers, doing interviews with People magazine. I don't want to have anything to do with that. I think I've shown you don't have to be part of the film industry to make a film. 

"I don't want to use anybody else's money," says Young, leaning into his point. "I don't want anybody to be telling me what I should be doing. I don't want anybody to feel like they own me, like I have to do something because they gave me $10 million to make a movie and now I've got to pacify three executives." 

Not surprisingly, Young dismisses digital cameras as too perfect, too much like TV, and says his next film might be in 16 or 35mm, maybe black-and-white. 

"I like the lo-fi guerrilla approach because it suits my music. It suits the sound; it looks like I sound. It's breaking up on the edges. You can tell what it is, and you can feel it. It leaves you enough room to explore your imagination, because everything's not so clear, you're not told everything. You'll always leave the film with the feeling that you haven't seen it, that you missed something. 

"Records used to bear up to repeated listening, and I want to make films that bear up to repeated viewings. You go to a small theatre with 5.1 sound and watch the picture and listen to us play and you're going to hear Greendale better than any other way to hear it. You'll be immersed in it and surrounded by it." 

Young's last film was 22 years ago, and people weren't exactly begging for another, so why buck his music success? 

"But that's not success. That's residual success based on the past. I am who I am because of what I've done. In this case, you're here for this story to a great degree because I am who I am because of what I am doing. It has to do with Greendale, it has to do with the fact that I've done something different. That's a good feeling. 

"I don't know what the hell I am or where I fit. Luckily, I don't have to know," he says with a smile. 

On Greendale, he sings of depressed angels falling from the sky, and I ask if the angels are depressed now. 

"They're flat as a pancake," he says, cranking one more grin before leaving. "Say hi to the Immigration guys for me." 

GREENDALE written and directed by Neil Young, produced by Young and L.A. Johnson, with Eric Johnson, Ben Keith, Elizabeth Keith, Erik Markegard and James Mazzeo. A Shakey Pictures production. Opens Friday (March 26). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 80. Rating: NNNN (for Neil Young fans), NNN for everyone else. 

This is not a traditional movie, but it's also not a rock video or a performance film. It's a low-tech lyric, a poetic visual telling of Neil Young's narrative album of the same name about a northern California town where a cop is killed, a grandpa battles the media and a young woman experiences a political awakening. 

It's shot on lo-fi Super 8, creating a wash of overexposure and pastels, like a watercolour on a truck-stop placemat. It's a silent movie with a rock score, a high school play where you know most of the kids. Greendale will definitely freak many people out, especially if they're looking for a normal movie. But if you can surrender yourself to Young's story and let the music overpower you, it works. Just pray the theatres play it really, really loud. 


Neil Young's 'Greendale': Hey Hey, Sigh, Why 

Source: Washington Post (DC)
Author: Desson Thomson, Washington Post Staff Writer
Published: Friday, March 19, 2004; Page C04 
Copyright: 2004 Washington Post 
Contact: [email protected]

To watch "Greendale" is to understand everything about Neil Young. Like him, it's grungy, honest, disarming and unapologetically original. 

It's a sort of lip-synced home movie: Young sings on the soundtrack while the characters lip-sync to the words. Thus the musician-filmmaker is putting words in his characters' mouths, as they act out his songs -- 10 in all. It's a literal visualization of an album. 

Set in the fictional town of Greendale, the film's a rather heavy-handed celebration of small-town life with a rather clear and obvious damnation of corporate greed. In a way, it's the mirror opposite of the upcoming Lars von Trier movie, "Dogville," which is about the evils of small-town bigotry. 

There are three plots running throughout. When Cousin Jed accidentally kills a police officer, his family (the Greens) has to weather the hysterical consequences, including obnoxious TV cameras. The family's teenage daughter, Sun Green (Sarah White), evolves into an activist for the environment, trying to draw attention to harmful government policies. And a devil figure wearing a red jacket and playing the harmonica dances allegorically up and down the Greendale sidewalk. 

The scenario is about as profound as a student film project. And these aren't the sharpest, steadiest images ever recorded on film. Young, who directed, shot "Greendale" in Super 8 under the tongue-in-cheek pseudonym Bernard Shakey. Suddenly that name, which Young has used frequently in his career, gets a whole new meaning. 

But the movie's real power is the strength and conviction of the music. Which is to say, "Greendale" is about its own Neilness. Young has always been bold, innovative and kinda messy. His guitar solos are valiant stumbles through the dark. And his lyrics have a breakthrough simplicity that can charm you into submission. You should bring ears, not eyes, to this movie; not just to appreciate the tunes, but maybe to catch the thump-thump of that shaggy, beating heart beneath it all. 

Greendale (83 minutes, at the Landmark E Street Cinema) is not rated but contains violence and obscenity. 




Young, Crazy Horse Spin Morality Tale

Singer brings `Greendale' to life at CSU Convocation Center

Source: Beacon Journal, The (OH)
Author: Malcolm X Abram
Published: Friday, March 12, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Beacon Journal Publishing Co.
Contact: [email protected]

Review -- During the course of his 30-year-plus career, singer/songwriter Neil Young has pretty much done whatever he wants whenever his muse gets riled up. His fans may not love every musical twist and turn, but they always come back to see what's next.

Apparently, the 58-year-old's muse is in overdrive, having inspired him to create the concept album Greendale, featuring his longtime backing band Crazy Horse, along with an accompanying film (showing at Cedar Lee starting March 19) and tour that stopped at the CSU Convocation Center Thursday night.

The CD is loosely plotted with rambling liner notes from Young, and the recording sounds too much like tentative rehearsal takes. But after a few months of touring, Young and Crazy Horse have grown comfortable with the songs, adding much needed power and groove to the mostly midtempo 10-song cycle.

The plot of Greendale is frankly too convoluted to delve into in this space, but roughly it's a morality tale centered on the Green family: Sun, Grandpa, Grandma, cousin Jed, Edith, Earl, and Capt. John, and some pivotal events that happen to the family and its small town, changing both forever. More to the point, the characters act as mouthpieces for Young to touch on familiar topics, including the environment; the greed of corporations, governments and the media; and the importance of younger generations taking action.

Greendale was staged like an elaborate high school play, albeit one with fantastic lighting, a giant video screen and a rock legend as the house band. A group of actors, including Young's wife, Pegi, as Edith, provided the action, lip syncing the lyrics sung by Young and between-song banter that fleshed out the characters and story much better than the album notes.

While much of the audience seemed unfamiliar with the songs (``O-HI-O!'' someone kept yelling at inappropriate times), several songs drew the audience into the story. Two were the rabble-rousing Devil's Sidewalk and the anti-Patriot Act song Leave The Driving, featuring lines such as ``And we'll be watching you, no matter what you do, and you can do your part by watching others, too'' while video of John Ashcroft played on screen. The media tirade Grandpa's Interview also brought some approving hoots from the crowd, as did the big anthemic closing number, Be the Rain, featuring the band, the entire cast and 12 dancers from the Cleveland area all on stage encouraging folks to protect ``Mother Earth.''

After Greendale, Young and Crazy Horse returned to give the fans a taste of past hits, including Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).



Like a Hurricane 

Gusting through Greendale, Neil Young remains a force of nature. 

Source: Cleveland Scene (OH)
Author: Gregory Weinkauf
Published: March 10, 2004
Copyright: 2004 New Times 
Contact: [email protected] 

He's been to Hollywood. He's been to Redwood. To Ohio, too. And now Neil Young is sitting on a puffy sofa in his manager's office, toughing out a cold and chatting enthusiastically about, among other things, his exciting new multimedia project, Greendale. 

At first, with his low, cordial voice purely antithetical to his familiar croon, his arbitrary attire possibly donated, his timeless mutton-chops ever at the ready, Young is so earnest, it's almost scary. 

"I'm happy," he declares, betraying not a trace of the eternal rebel. "I'm happy to be doing what I'm doing, having a good time on the road with people I like to work with. It's exciting having a film come out. It was a blast making it -- one of the best times of my life, doing that film." 

Encapsulating many of Young's perspectives, Greendale is an album with his band Crazy Horse, a tour and stage show thereof, and now a new movie, shot on Super 8 by Young's alter ego, Bernard Shakey. It employs a variety of characters to speak the artist's mind, literally: The denizens of Young's fictional small town lip-synch his vocals throughout. Handily addressing the government ("They're all bought and paid for anyway"), the creepiness of the so-called Patriot Act ("You can do your part by watching others"), and the media ("It ain't an honor to be on TV, and it ain't a duty either"), a lot of sociopolitical bluster blows through his allegorical town. (Meanwhile, he's putting his money where his motor is, running the current tour's rigs on vegetable-based fuel, significantly cleaner than petroleum.) Born of what Young calls his "grooves," the American microcosm of Greendale emerged through a process that sounds darned close to spiritual channeling. 

"After all the songs were written, [the title] came as an echo-chorus add-on in 'Devil's Sidewalk' -- the words 'green dale' weren't originally there," Young explains. "They were added after the fact, because I didn't know what 'Devil's Sidewalk' was about. I kept listening to it, going, well, it's a place. Somehow one morning, I just woke up and said, well, this whole place is just Greendale, this is what it is. 

"It was a totally unconscious attempt to make a record," he adds cheerfully. "It started off as 10 songs, and one at a time they were developed. I wouldn't write the next one until the last one was done. So everybody kind of got it one chapter at a time, including myself. When we got finished, that's when the visuals started happening. There wasn't a plan to do this. It just evolved." 

The man is positively proud of making art by happenstance (which may explain his cameo in the role of Wayne Newton). No script doctors, no character rewrites, just ideas to paper, transcribed to computer, et voilà. Blithe though Young may be when discussing the film, there's also a hard line in Greendale, best represented by the character Sun Green, a teen cheerleader who becomes a staunch environmental activist. In addition to shouting Young's declamations through a bullhorn and even transcending a feminine rite-of-passage way ahead of average (she loses her kitty -- to the FBI!), the character, crafted much like Keisha Castle-Hughes's in Whale Rider, is indicative of changing times. Sun is portrayed by a high school classmate of Young's daughter, a cinematic debutante named Sarah White. 

"She's very environmentally conscious, and she's an exceedingly talented girl," Young says of White. "She is Sun Green. If I couldn't get her, I probably wouldn't have done it. It was that right. Sun has some powers, she's supernatural in some ways, she's gifted, psychic, has some edge to her. She's a different girl. She's got something going on." 

Is Sun, perchance, representing? 

"I hope so!" Young exclaims, his eyes twinkling. "I'd like to see one of these really popular pop stars come along that really has a conscience for the environment and for what's right and wrong -- like a superstar that turns into an activist in a big way and doesn't turn away from the mainstream but uses it, knows how to use the media to get the thing across, like Sun." 

There are probably a lot of ways to get Young hyped up, but a good one is to ask him how pop music has changed since he began his arc. 

"It used to belong to the kids. Now it belongs to the corporations who are feeding the kids. There are some voices out there that are individuals that are outside the system, that are being heard through the college stations and all that. But it doesn't get to the top like it used to. Because it's controlled from the top down." 

Of his own work, Young admits, "I'm only really concerned with what I'm doing now, because that's what I'm doing. What I've done is just something I've gotta ignore. Because I don't need it." 

He doesn't need his own classic songs? 

"You know, it's nice. I love to play the songs for people when I feel like playin' 'em, but I don't have to play 'em. Especially the old ones." He will not name a favorite, though he does consider timeless story-songs like "Powderfinger" and "Cortez the Killer" easier to resurrect. With that, mention of Young's cameo in the forthcoming rockumentary Mayor of the Sunset Strip leads the conversation back to film. 

"The art of the crude segue is appreciated here," he laughs. On to Young's partnership with "sensitive, exploratory guy" Dean Stockwell (his co-director on Human Highway) and enduring producer Larry "L.A." Johnson. He particularly raves up cinematographer David Myers (Woodstock, THX-1138, Wattstax, Young's previous films) as a creative mentor and genius of shooting coverage. 

"Also, I learned from him the art of not stopping. Don't stop filming!" he exclaims, as if straight from his raucous tour-documentary, Muddy Track. "Especially when things go wrong, that's when you've gotta really keep going. Things happen, you know." 


Neil Young Show Melds Politics With Raw Rock 

Source: Dispatch, The (IL)
Author: Sean Leary, Entertainment Editor 
Published: March 8, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Moline Dispatch Publishing Company, L.L.C.
Contact: [email protected]

Moline -- Neil Young's unshakable talent for thoughtful, political and bleedingly raw rock lit up a crowd of roughly 6,500 at The Mark of the Quad Cities Sunday night. 

Proving he's still one of the most unique and vital forces in music, Young thrilled the sold-out, theater-style setting with a three hours-plus concert of passionate, potent music and multimedia. 

Girded by his rough-and-tumble backing band, Crazy Horse -- drummer Ralph Molina, bassist Billy Talbot and guitarist Frank ``Pancho'' Sampedro -- as well as a host of extras, Young unwound his sprawling musical novel, ``Greendale,'' and scalded through a too-short run of golden oldies. 

Melding rock opera with theater, film and spoken-word performance art, ``Greendale'' dominated more than half the show. However, unlike the newer works of many of his contemporaries, which translate into mass audience bathroom breaks, ``Greendale'' kept fans transfixed. 

Young's performance provided the musical and literary narrative as actors played out a winding tale of small-town America, corruption and commentary on modern society and environmental crisis. The result was an ambitious mix of genres; a rootsy, idealistic fable that captivated the crowd. 

Jangly guitar flickered over a Southern-smoked groove on ``Falling From Above.'' A bluesy cough dirtied up the cynical ``Double E.'' And squealing harmonica undercut a sweet, sing-along chorus on ``Devil's Sidewalk.'' 

During ``Devil's,'' Young gnawed on the hand of his tour sponsor by displaying a giant billboard emblazoned with ``Clear Channel: Support Our War.'' It may have been one of the more brazen political statements of the night, but it was far from the only one. 

The bold ``Carmichael'' was more subversive but no less incisive. The tale of a gunned-down policeman from different characters' perspectives was sophisticated, even-handed and resonant. 

Conversely, a segment nailing the media as vultures was musically satisfying but thematically broad and predictable. Likewise, the one-two punch of the finale, the anti-establishment swipes ``Sun Green'' and ``Be The Rain,'' offered a mixed bag. At best the tracks had a grungy, idealistic glory. At worst, they were simplistic and goofy, such as during the introduction of a male character called ``Earth Brown'' to pair with female activist ``Sun Green.'' 

Still, you had to credit Young for his overall effort, and the crowd did, giving him a standing ovation for most of ``Sun'' and extending it through the powerful stomp of ``Rain.'' 

The lovefest continued beyond the bows for ``Greendale,'' amped up a few notches during the hit parade second half of the show. 

``Hey Hey, My My'' grumbled through the speakers with deadly guitar slashes, pummeling percussion and vocals echoed by the pumped audience. A furious thrash-out of string-shredding fury ended ``Hey'' and segued into ``All Along the Watchtower.'' Torrents of rhythm guitar were broken by weeping melodic forays and Young's bracing vocals. 

As with all the selections, the band bent the tune's framework, snaking off on rich tangents before returning to familiar territory and pounding home. 

Unfortunately, deadline pressures prevented me from seeing the ending of the show, but I took in more than enough to be suitably impressed. 


Young Blends Rock and Theater

Source: Daily Herald (IL)
Author: Mark Guarino, Daily Herald Music Critic
Published: March 06, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Daily Herald Company
Contact: [email protected]

Rock operas and concept albums are the troubled twins of rock. Rarely are they cohesive from start to finish and what's more, they often fail to make an impact live.

Not necessarily so with "Greendale," the ambitious new project from Neil Young that is an album, a live show and -- released next week -- an independent film. At 58, Young is at an age when most of his peers have cashed in their legacies to become an act, rather than continuing as artists.

Even with its faults, "Greendale" shows Young is as restless as ever, still committed to challenging himself and his audience in the spirit of celebrating change over complacency.

The tour arrived at the Rosemont Theatre Thursday, the first of two nights. The three-hour show -- which included an encore hour of old songs -- was the finest synergy of rock music and theater in recent memory. Parts "Prairie Home Companion," "Our Town" and high school musical, the show encapsulated the many intertwined levels of anxiety most Americans living in small towns have dealt with since Sept. 11.

Rather than tell a linear story, Young introduced characters between songs in a role similar to the Stage Manager in "Our Town." Almost 40 cast members and dancers provided the visuals, re-enacting the 10 songs Young and his time-honed band Crazy Horse played. Things happened, but their significance and inter-connections were for you to make.

A police officer gets shot. His widow mourns. A high school student rallies for the environment. The Devil dances. Corporate suits shake their fists. Images of John Ashcroft and Tom Ridge flash onscreen in the role of Big Brother. The town's elderly monarch gets assaulted by the media. 

"The whole story falls apart if you don't follow it -- or if you do follow it, I don't know," he cracked wise at one point.

The production was decidedly ragtag -- the acting (associates and family members of Young and crew) and sets were directed and designed as if cued from a children's storybook. 

Likewise, the music was not fussy. Young and the Horse cranked crunchy blues riffs with few variations. He and drummer Ralph Molina harmonized in soul music falsetto.

Young crammed in closely with his band to reinforce the music's physicality, but on one song sat alone playing an acoustic guitar that emitted such creaky groans, it sounded as if rigged with ancient strings.

Taken in parts, "Greendale" had a charm, but when it came together, its mess had potency. The unwieldy production illustrated the disconnect running straight through Young's fictional town and the nation clawing at its borders. Something was underfoot and it was dangerous, it was saying. 

During the show's finale -- a feel-good environmental plea ("Be the Rain") -- more than 40 people danced in the guise of townspeople in every racial makeup and age. 

At one point, an American flag was hoisted with rebel pride, a popular gesture these days for sure, but one that felt a little more rooted to the soil.

Clear Channel -- Young's tour promoter and the nation's biggest conglomerate of radio stations, billboard advertising and concert venues -- lurks on the town's outskirts. 



Neil Young: From Southern Man To Multimedia Man

Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Author: Greg Kot, Tribune Music Critic
Published: March 4, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Chicago Tribune Company
Contact: [email protected]

Neil Young knew he had bitten off almost more than he -- or his fans -- could chew after he developed the music and story lines for his latest album and movie, "Greendale."

But for Young, the idea that he's pushing himself and his audience is what has made "Greendale" his most vibrant work in more than a decade.

"I woke up a couple years ago and decided that I was going to re-apply myself to trying to find out how to do things that gave me the same spark I had when I first started making music," he says in a phone interview. "I knew I was still alive, and that meant new things. But I thought, have I been doing this for too long? Because I have been doing this for a long time. Then the evolution of using the camera came in and I'm real happy it did, because it rejuvenated me."

It all began humbly enough in August 2002 with Young writing songs for his next album and playing them with his longtime band, Crazy Horse. It quickly evolved into a series of interconnected songs about corporate greed, media manipulation, environmental disaster and grass-roots protest set in a fictional Northern California coastal town. The tale mushroomed into a massive multimedia project that encompasses a CD and accompanying DVD released last year as "Greendale" on Reprise Records, a Web site complete with a family tree and biographies at:   a yearlong concert tour that includes performances Thursday and Friday at the Rosemont Theatre, and a Young-directed movie that makes its Chicago debut March 12 at Century Centre Cinema, 2828 N. Clark St.

In a mercurial career that spans nearly 40 years, Young has rarely invested so much in a project. Nor have his fans been so widely divided on any of his works. His "Greendale" tour was alternately praised for its substance and derided for its indulgences, which include a touring company lip-syncing the songs and acting out the roles in Young's "musical novel." At times the production resembles a high school play, with its homemade scenery and amateur thespians, including Young's wife, Pegi. But the power of the ideas in Young's songs, and the simple, melodic, blues-based music that underpins them, can't be denied.

In an election year starved for substantive commentary, Young has delivered his most political album, and the stage show takes it even further, jabbing at everyone from Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft to media giant Clear Channel.

The album, tour and movie, shot by Young himself with a hand-held Super-8 camera, summarizes everything he has stood for in his career: the nurturing strength of family, respect for our elders, the sacredness of nature and youth, the corrupt invasiveness of political and economic institutions and the power of a really loud guitar to cut through all the distractions.

Little wonder that at age 58, Young sounds like an artist renewed.

Q. I think you like seeing how far you can push your fans.

A. [ Laughs] "Greendale" is as close as I could come in my own meager way to what Bob Dylan did with the Band when he was booed for going electric. I knew that by playing an hour-and-a-half of new material, the audience would go berserk. Some would be ecstatic and others would be so ticked off at me, they'd be throwing bottles. When we opened the American tour last year in West Palm Beach [Fla.], people were standing there with their mouths open. A couple of 'em were yelling out `Southern Man' and `Powderfinger,' and then that stopped. When grandpa [one of the characters in the play] started yelling about `Some people have taken pure [expletive] and turned it into gold,' half of the guys in the center section all stood up with their fists in the air and started yelling and screaming, and when [a picture of] Ashcroft came on the video screen, a guy stood up in front and turned to the audience and raised his hand and started cheering. I knew something was going on. I didn't know what it was, and I still don't really know what it is. But I think it's a play. Now I think it's a play, and the audience is responding in a way that makes me think we have something here.

Q. Last year you stood on stages owned by Clear Channel and skewered the corporation for buying up so many radio stations and concert venues. Now you're touring under the aegis of Clear Channel again. Why?

A. It's a sound business relationship we have that allows me to play for my audience. I haven't made a decision to react any other way to this, because I feel like they bought my house. I feel it's still my house, but they own it. Now what am I gonna do with it? Those concert venues are my house, and they own them all across America. That's where I go. It's like telling the devil he can't go to the jail in "Greendale."

Q. To me it's fascinating that these issues -- Clear Channel and corporate consolidation, the Bush administration's attitude toward the environment, the way the media reports on the news -- are all in play on this album and movie during an election year.

At the same time, the attitude toward pop culture is that the corporations want music that is less controversial than ever, in order to sell it more effectively. Did you consider those repercussions when you put out an album and movie that points fingers like this one does?

A. It's certainly become more provocative than I ever thought it would be. I really didn't know what I was doing, to tell you the truth, I really had no idea. It's just a story that came out. And it just seemed real everywhere I've turned. I started getting questions right away about the content of these songs. Being interviewed in the record business had become a surface ritual, talking about how my style was different from the last record, or do people believe me when I go from one style to another, or how committed am I to Crazy Horse -- how many times can I answer these questions? But with the film, people were talking about what I said, not how I said it or who I am. They have something to focus on besides me. The whole idea of me figuring out through the movie that it was more effective to have other people lip-syncing my songs, rather than me doing it, that doing it that way I could take the story and the messages further, was a real revelation to me. Having all kinds of characters [in the movie] using my voice really freed me up to comment on all these things.

Q. A lot of popular music avoids these issues altogether. We're hearing a lot of hit songs about acquiring things, or celebrating a lavish lifestyle. Does that disappoint you that popular music isn't more engaged with politics in an election year?

A. I feel like being concerned about that is like being out of step with the possibilities. Because I have seen everything change in my lifetime. Radio has completely changed. It's gone somewhere that is so controlled and so corporate and so programmed, aside from college radio, it's so different from what I grew up with, that I moved into pictures, for many reasons. It's so rewarding to shoot. I felt like I was doing something new.

I love to use the camera, it's a logical extension of my music, especially when I shoot the thing myself, and I make the camera move with the music. It's part of playing my guitar, the way I look at it. It's a moving, fluid thing. I can get into making a picture the same way that I can get into making a guitar solo. It's going by in real time. That's where I went, instead of being concerned that no one else is saying anything. It's one thing to say something and avoid it, having it echo around in your head or in the room. I'm just looking for a way to say something that will be heard and talked about. I feel like I got there with this one.



The Reinvention of Neil Young, Part 6

Source: Wired Magazine (CA)
Author: Ted Greenwald
Published: Issue 12 - 03 - March 2004
Copyright: 2004 Wired Digital Inc.
Contact: [email protected]

The folk-country-grunge dinosaur is reborn (again) as an Internet-friendly, biodiesel-driven, multimedia machine.

Neil Young flips genres so often that his record company once sued him for failing to release "Neil Young music." He experimented with orchestral accompaniment in the '60s and techno in the '80s. But the folk-country-grunge rocker's latest project makes those early forays look like adolescent angst. 

The 58-year-old has transformed the songs on his latest album, Greendale, into an opera that plays in every medium but PowerPoint (so far): There's a CD and bonus DVD; a live concert tour, which boasts three stages filled with 30 lip-synching actors; a Web site that streams every song on the album; and finally, a movie opening in Los Angeles February 27.

 Taken together, they tell the Faulkneresque tale of a fictional rural California family, the Greens, who get caught up in a media frenzy. Given Young's penchant for simple statements, Greendale's scope may seem like overkill. But that might be just what it takes for an aging rocker to survive in the MP3 era.

WIRED: You're a music legend. Why be a director and an Internet entrepreneur, too?

YOUNG: I don't have mainstream radio to count on anymore - they won't play my stuff. The Internet is the new radio. To tell the stories I want to tell, I have to use everything that's available and use it all at once. I have to go through a lot to make sure people won't perceive it as just a Neil Young record, because everybody thinks they know what that is. The challenge is to remind them that they have no idea what the hell that is.

In the CD's liner notes, you write that you'll be "corrected on the Internet" if you flub some detail telling the Greendale story on stage. Sounds like the Net is a pain in your ass.

When I play a new song in concert, it's immediately uploaded. Everyone has heard it before I put the record out. For a while, that was a negative thing for me. But with Greendale, I started using it deliberately. 

How do you mean?

During the acoustic tour in Europe, when I performed the show that's on the bonus DVD, I was aware that everything I said would be recorded, transcribed, and circulated. So every night I dumped in different information about different parts of Greendale. If you say something in one town, and the next night you add a little more, the Internet brings together these separate occasions. It makes you look at things as not being separate. 

Don't you want to control the use of your material?

I can't control what people do. I don't want to. If they want to sell my music to someone else or send it to their friends, they can just as easily tape it off the radio as the Net. MP3 quality sucks. If they want quality, they can purchase a DVD-A.

Fans were baffled by your last film, Human Highway. It's a fair bet that moviegoers will find Greendale just as puzzling. Is the multimedia blitz a way of filling in the movie's gaps?

Yeah, there are many ways of getting information about this story. One of the key elements is the Net. Go to the Web site to trace the family's history and see why people are the way they are. Look at Earl Green's artwork in the gallery, follow the events in the story on a map of the town.

How involved were you in putting together the Web site?


Did you code the HTML?

No, but I give directions about what ought to be there, where it shows up, how it's introduced, how hard it is to find, how it unfolds.

The movie has a distinctive look. "Real life" has texture, but the world presented by the media is hard-edged and sharply defined.

We shot in Super 8 and blew it up to 35 millimeter. That Super 8 grain looks like my music sounds. When you blow it up, it's like a magnifying glass that's not clear, or a looking glass that's distorted. There's something mystical about it. The mainstream media [within the movie] uses state-of-the-art video. That can be scary as hell because suddenly you can really see everything.

For a multimedia project it's pretty ambivalent about media. Print is relatively benign; electronic media is sinister. Television reporters hound Grandpa Green literally to death.

Grandpa trusts the newspaper, and he likes to start off the day holding something in his hands that he can read. But he's lost. A lot of what he reads about - the Patriot Act and all this stuff - he doesn't understand. Also, he's been told by the government that terrorists are communicating on the Internet. The whole problem of dealing with terrorism and corruption, tracking it with all this media and communications, is too much for Grandpa.

Where do you stand on all this?

I'm in the middle. There's not a big opinion coming out of Greendale. There's no conclusion. Just a bunch of people going through something.

You sing that Grandpa died fighting for "freedom of silence." What does that mean?

Today entertainment and news are being blended together so you can't tell the difference. You'll have a shot of Saddam being pulled out of his hole, followed by some country singer's new record on CNN's Music Room. In Greendale, the family suffers a personal tragedy when Jed kills a policeman. After that, the Greens are a human interest story. The media wants to know how it feels to have a cop killer in the family. Why is it OK to ask that question? The TV guys think everybody has a right to know, but the fact is, nobody has a right to know anything other than whether Jed is guilty or innocent.

But Grandpa's teenage granddaughter, Sun Green, sees the media differently.

Sun has taught me how to use the media to do something positive. One of my pet projects is to run the next Greendale tour on biodiesel. It gives off 80 percent less emissions. I'll drive the hugest SUV and 90 percent of the people who are yelling at me will be polluting more than I am. We'll show everyone that we can move in this capitalist system, deliver the goods, and not pollute. If we travel with a giant thermos-bottle truck with biofuel written on the side, the TV people will come. Then I'll be able to prostitute myself for something positive, instead of just selling a record. 

Ted Greenwald: [email protected]  -- is a senior editor at Wired.



Young's Music Sustains, from New Concepts To Old Hits

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Author: Kevin John Bozelka, Special To The Journal Sentinel
Published: March 3, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Contact: [email protected]

Neil Young & Crazy Horse's terrific show Tuesday night at the Milwaukee Theatre was a stage presentation of Young's latest release, the concept album "Greendale."

Early on in the extravaganza, an audience member close to the stage apparently was growing bored with Young's introductions to each song.

"Let's go!" implored the restless fan.

"Don't tell me, 'Let's go,' " Young fired back. "I'll take as long as I want!" And with that retort, he delivered a show that was a lovely summation of the spirit of his career.

The details of "Greendale" hardly matter. It's a muddled tale of a small-town family coping with their son's murder of a police officer, complete with sets, a video backdrop and about 50 cast members who act out the songs.

One song is a relatively coherent attack on the USA Patriot Act. And the finale is a multicultural explosion with choreographed dance moves, fist-pumpin' enough to make one forget this Canadian supported President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

What's so amazing about this show is that Young, who will turn 60 next year, is attempting something so nutty this late in his career. Never one to rest on his laurels, he risks ridicule and head-scratching when most rockers of his age are content to hash over the old hits.

What drives this man is a moral imperative. As his 1973 opus "Last Dance" made clear, Young knows he has it good compared with us 9-to-5 stiffs. So he aims to create something of consequence each time out, even when he's not particularly inspired or energetic. His thumping 4/4 (as inexorable as disco or house) and exhausted power chords are metaphors for the home-job-home-job grind.

But the music is always sustaining, always rocking. Whatever goofball concept looms over them, his shows become about their own perpetual victory over creative fatigue.

The audience largely respected Young's vision by remaining seated and quiet throughout "Greendale." But those who were dying to rock were rewarded after "Greendale" with a set of classics, including "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)," "Like a Hurricane" and "Powderfinger."

From the March 4, 2004 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel




Neil Young's Greendale Tour Runs on Biodiesel

Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Author: Juliet Williams, The Associated Press
Published: March 02, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Toronto Star 
Contact: [email protected] 

Milwaukee — Saving the family farm, helping the Earth and reducing America's dependence on foreign oil — they all go together for Neil Young on his Greendale tour.

The veteran Canadian rocker rolled into town yesterday with a fleet of buses and trucks running on biodiesel, an environmentally friendly fuel made from renewable resources such as soybean oil and recycled cooking oil.

Young said switching to biodiesel was his idea.

"Rather than talk about it, I figured just do it," he said, noting there is an environmentalist character in his new show, which includes performance as well as music.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Young said he can still be a capitalist and embrace the environment.

"I'm just trying to make a point. There are other ways to be self-sustaining," he said.

Young, who clearly has done his research, recited the reasons why biodiesel makes sense: It releases no ozone-polluting chemicals and reduces emissions by 60 per cent to 80 per cent; it's entirely renewable and doesn't require major exploration to extract; American farmers could produce it for a living wage; and it would probably save a tree or two slated for demolition in Alaska.

Alternative fuel has caught on in some places. More than 400 fleets across the U.S. now use it, including the U.S. Postal Service, Yellowstone National Park, public utility companies and school districts, according to the National Biodiesel Board. Its use in Canada is also catching on. 

But Young said ignorance holds many people back. His longtime trucking company turned him down when he first approached them about switching fuels. He switched trucking companies, too.

"I'm sure a lot of people who consider themselves to be conscientious would use it if they knew more about it," Young said.

"The people who have enough money to buy an Escalade or something like that are the ones who can afford to pay a bit more for this ... SUVs could be offered with a diesel option."

Young said as a member of Farm Aid for 18 years, he's always looking for ways to help the family farmer. He said there are millions of acres of unfarmed crop land in the United States and Canada that could be tapped for renewable energy.

But Young knows it's a struggle to persuade people to end their reliance on fossil fuels during the pro-oil tenure of President George W. Bush.

"You can't change the Bush administration with this. I mean, to them, I'm a tree hugger," he said.

"But I think to affect change you first have to have examples. If the children out there who have a conscience about this planet see this, they might be inspired."

Singer had fleet converted to new fuel.

Reduces chemical emissions up to 80%.



Neil Young's "Greendale" an Appealing, Quirky Album-Turned-Film

Source: Associated Press 
Author: Kevin Crust, The Associated Press
Published: Friday, February 27, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Associated Press 

Hollywood -- Neil Young has turned his self-described musical novel "Greendale" into an unapologetically personal and passionately political film that brings the album to life in a way that transcends the traditional long-form music video and defies easy categorization.

The movie version of "Greendale" reflects Young's intention of returning to a simpler, less distracted way of working musically and succeeds in creating a hybrid that is noteworthy for its uniqueness.

Beginning by stripping down his own way of making records, Young found himself writing songs that told a story. Not a single story, actually, but many stories, all set in the town of Greendale, centering on the extended Green family.

The fictitious locale with its strong Northern California flavor is nestled on the cinematic landscape somewhere between the true-believer sincerity of John Sayles and the oddball eeriness of David Lynch. Young's own sense of community is strong as he lays out this seemingly idyllic town of farmers, fishermen and artists, with each song serving as a chapter, introduced by a hand-drawn map of Greendale, that clarifies the filmmaker's intentions as it proceeds. Less a linear narrative and more a crazy-quilt of intertwined character sketches, "Greendale" unfolds in a vaguely unsettling way as things sometimes make sense only deep into the movie (or with repeat viewings).

From the opening scenes of Grandpa Green (Ben Keith) dispensing wisdom on the porch to cousin Jed (Eric Johnson) during the song "Falling from Above," there is a satisfyingly languid pace that evokes strong empathy for the characters. In the same way people you meet sometimes become the most important people in your life, characters introduced unceremoniously in the film become more significant as the songs play out.

The leisurely tempo also distracts us from the passage of time as the Greens face major changes in the world and in themselves. The fact that the characters speak no dialogue apart from occasionally lip-synching song lyrics as Young and his band Crazy Horse tear through the 10 songs on the film's soundtrack only enhances the slightly mysterious way they enter our consciousness.

There is an uninflected, voyeuristic quality to watching the non-professional actors who are mainly friends, neighbors and cohorts of the filmmaker. These performers, particularly Sarah White, who plays the granddaughter, Sun Green, bring an authentic, unaffected charm to the film even though we never hear their voices.

Directing under his longtime nom de camera, Bernard Shakey, and editing under another pseudonym, Toshi Onuki, Young has developed something that is the antithesis of slick, and visually embraces both the folk and punk sides of his distinctive sound.

The contrast of Young's sweet, comforting warble and the occasional screech and twang of his music is echoed in the vibrantly colorful home-movie feel of what is on screen as it morphs into surrealistically grainy tableaus.

Technically crude by Hollywood or even film-school standards, "Greendale," owes much of its aesthetic to being shot with a $500 German underwater Super-8 camera, then blown up to 35-millimeter for its theatrical release. The tremulous, hand-held camerawork, most of it by Young, who also acted as cinematographer, serves the film's folk-art sensibility.

No stranger to filmmaking, Young has made movies for his own amusement and more ambitious projects such as the concert films "Journey Through the Past" and "Rust Never Sleeps" and the apocalyptic "Human Highway."

Young frames his images like slightly shaky still-lifes in which movement just happens to occur. The natural grain of the blow-up produces an organic-food version of Technicolor in which greens and browns and oranges are the palette of choice. Gray skies cast uneasy shadows across the rich landscape, giving way to the darkest of nights in which houses appear to be on fire as their interior lights give off an infernal glow.

If film had feedback, it would look like this.

The familiar image of Young, with his mutton-chop sideburns and straw-like hair sticking out from under his trucker's cap, is seldom in evidence here. The singer/songwriter is glimpsed only twice, once playing "Wayne Newton" and again moving about with his camera during the rockin' Brechtian finale, but the film is completely of a piece with his 40-year music career.

Young would be the first to point out that "Greendale" isn't new territory for him thematically. It dwells on ideas that have always interested him: the significance of friends and family, the environment, the destruction of nature, artistic integrity, corporate greed, the importance of activism and the resistance to change. What he does here is approach those ideas in new ways in a new form.

Preferring the handmade item over the seamless, mass-produced model, and the resonance of the vinyl LP to the sterility of the CD, Young has channeled this sensibility and fashioned a determinedly low-fi movie. He's like a pastry chef who refuses to frost over his mistakes, concerned with its flavor rather than how it looks.

By the time "Greendale" reaches its rousing crescendo with the anthem "Be the Rain" and Young and Crazy Horse have blown off the barn doors, the Canadian-born artist has crafted one genuinely tasty slice of Americana.



Young's 'Greendale' Vision

Source: Long Beach Press-Telegram (CA)
Author: Glenn Whipp, Film Critic
Published: February 27, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Los Angeles Newspaper Group
Contact: [email protected]

Neil young's "Greendale" is the perfect marriage of music and images, a low-fi movie masterpiece that vividly captures both the grim realities and hippie idealism in Young's absorbing song cycle.

Arriving as it does in an election year, the film feels like a blast of fresh air, a topical movie with an actual political viewpoint and an ornery dedication to nobility at a time when most people seem hellbent on embarrassing themselves.

Shot on Super-8 and blown up to 35-millimeter, the grainy "Greendale" has something of a home-movie feel, appropriate given that the film essentially puts pictures to the saga of the Green family, a story that Young first unveiled last August (earlier if you count the concerts) when the "Greendale" album hit stores. The coarseness also perfectly complements the two- and three-chord blues vamps played by Young and his longtime backing band, Crazy Horse. 

"Greendale's" 10 songs detail the lives of three generations of the Greens, a family living in a coastal California town. (The film was shot around Half Moon Bay and on parts of Young's Northern California ranch.) The elder statesman, Grandpa (Nashville session legend Ben Keith), looks at the world and doesn't like what he sees (bucking - or accepting - change has always been a favorite Young theme). "The moral of this story," Grandpa says, "is not to get too old, the more time you spend on Earth, the more you see unfold."

Grandpa's son, Earl (James Mazzeo), is a Vietnam vet and determinedly aspiring artist, and Earl's teenage daughter, Sun (Sarah White), is finding her place in the world, making forays into political activism. Some bad things happen, then some good, the devil (Eric Johnson, Young's road manager) pops up now and again, and the story circles around, building to a high-energy finale that might spur a blip in voter registration for young people, should a few fresh-faced stragglers happen to wander into a theater playing "Greendale."

While the movie has an intentionally amateurish aspect to it (the "actors," most of whom are Young's friends and family, lip sync the lyrics to the songs), there is a real beauty to the images that Young captures with his camera. And there is nothing accidental about the precise, detailed observations about these people contained in Young's songs. "Carmichael" nails the bitterness and absurdities of grief as well as any song in recent memory, and "Bandit" is heartrending in the way its narrator, Earl, holds onto his dreams despite a life filled with disappointments.

Young reserves some of the best lines for himself. When a herd of television news crews overstep their bounds in "Grandpa's Interview," Grandpa complains, "That guy just keeps singing. Can't somebody shut him up? I don't know for the life of me where he comes up with that stuff." 

If Young sees himself as part of the problem, he's also trying to find his role in the solution. He chooses his battles well and somewhat predictably (if you've journeyed through his past) - environmentalism, libertarianism (he's no fan of the Patriot Act) and Grandpa's fight for the "freedom of silence." In the end, it comes down to "a little love and affection, in everything you do, will make the world a better place, with or without you." It's a message that bears repeating, no matter how tired it seems. And in "Greendale," Young dishes it out with uncommon conviction.



Neil Young Goes Green

Source: Rolling Stone (US)
Author: Steve Baltin
Published: February 27, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Straight Arrow Publishers Company, L.P.
Contact: [email protected]

New tour takes an eco-friendly approach

Neil Young has inspired generations of musicians musically, now he's hoping he can do the same environmentally. While promoting his latest album, the ecology-minded Greendale, and new film of the same name, the veteran rocker is filling his tour buses with Biodiesel, a cleaner burning alternative fuel, produced from domestic, renewable resources such as soybean oil and recycled cooking oil. 

Young is using B20, twenty percent Biodiesel mixed with eighty-percent diesel, which is the most common blend, to power the fifteen diesel trucks and buses it takes to carry the tour from city to city.

"I think it is incumbent upon me to do everything that I can to try to live up to Sun Green's version of what the world should be like," Young says, referencing one of his album's characters, "and the kind of changes people should make. Biodiesel has seventy-five to eighty percent less pollution than normal diesel. We're just trying to make a statement: 'Hey, this is something you can do right now. I could be driving around in my SUV or Hummer burning vegetable oil.'"

Young joins a list of rockers trying to raise awareness of the alternative fuel, including Bonnie Raitt, the Indigo Girls, Jonathan Richman and Jane's Addiction. At last year's Lollapalooza, Jane's used the fuel to power the tour's generators.

Joe Jobe, executive director of the National Biodiesel Board, says that having someone with Young's environmental track record use the fuel is a boon for the organization. "Neil has been a leader on a number of issues, and if he believes in something he will become a hardcore advocate," Jobe says. "He's proven time and time again that he is successful at it."

In addition to the environmental advantages, Young believes the alternative fuel offers a solution for the plight of the American farmers, a cause he's been actively involved in for a number of years with the Farm Aid concerts. "You're out there putting American farmers to work with a renewable fuel and taking away our dependence on foreign oil and our need to go through all these wars and tap dances we do over economics in the Middle East," he says. "Why should we do that when you have everything we need right here and we can put our own people to work?"

Greendale theatrical openings:

2/27: Los Angeles; Irvine, CA; Austin
3/5: St. Louis, MO; Denver (tentative)
3/12: San Francisco, Berkeley, CA; Milwaukee (tentative)
3/19: New York, Washington, DC; Baltimore; Pleasantville, NY; Cleveland; Atlanta; Montclair, NJ
3/26: Boston; Amherst, MA
4/2: Portland, OR; Providence, RI; Great Barrington, MA
4/9: Cincinnati (tentative); Gainesville, FL
4/16: Chapel Hill, NC; Eugene, OR
4/23: Nashville

Neil Young tour dates:

2/28: Albuquerque, NM, Tingley Coliseum
2/29: Colorado Springs, CO, World Arena
3/2: Milwaukee, WI, Milwaukee Theater
3/4-5: Rosemont, IL, Rosemont Theater
3/7: Moline, IL, Mark of the Quad Cities
3/9: Detroit, Fox Theater
3/11: Cleveland, CSU Convocation Center
3/12: Hershey, PA, Giant Center
3/14: Camden, NJ, Tweeter Center
3/15: Wallingford, CT, Oakdale Theater
3/17-18: New York, Lincoln Center
3/21 Amherst, MA, Mullins Center


Young and Restless

Source: San Bernardino Sun (CA)
Author: Glenn Whipp, Film Writer
Published: Thursday, February 26, 2004 
Copyright: 2004 MediaNews Group, Inc.
Contact: [email protected]

Neil Young has never exactly cared what anybody thinks. He's going to do what he's going to do, and if you like it, fine, if not ... well, he's going to do it all the same.

That kind of obstinacy has made him - along with contemporary Bob Dylan - one of rock music's most unpredictable, frustrating and essential artists. After all, Young once said of his biggest hit, "Heart of Gold": "That song put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore; so I headed for a ditch. A rougher ride, but I saw more interesting people there."

So when Young brought his longtime backing band, Crazy Horse, to the Greek Theatre last summer and started the show by playing 10 songs from a concept album called "Greendale," a record that hadn't even been released yet, that was just Neil being Neil. None of his hard-core fans were surprised, although there was that guy in the fifth row who kept screaming, "SOUTHERN MAN! SOUTHERN MAN!" 

He'll just have to keep screaming. Young isn't done with "Greendale." The album is a song cycle about a fictional family named the Greens, who live in a California coastal town and must deal with death, despair and invasive television news crews. The set ends on a hopeful note, though, with the teenager, Sun Green, taking an activist stand for Mother Earth, a cause long dear to Young's heart.

"Greendale" has revitalized the 58-year-old Young and spawned something of a cottage industry. The album, in its first incarnation, came with a DVD of Young performing "Greendale" in a solo, acoustic setting, elaborating, between songs, on the characters and events. The stage show has Young and Crazy Horse sharing the stage with actors in a minimalist "Our Town" staging of the story. The actors do their thing while the band plays the music.

Now comes "Greendale" the movie. It's the same story and the same songs, but seen from yet another angle, with a new set of actors (mostly Young's family and friends) lip-syncing to the tracks. Young calls it a "song you can look at." 

And, if that isn't enough, the "Greendale" CD has just been issued in a second edition that features a different DVD, this time showing Young and Crazy Horse recording the music with images of the "Greendale" film in the background.

"It's insane," says Larry Johnson, a longtime collaborator who produced both the album and the movie. "We all moved to Greendale. We've lived there for the past year. When this tour ends, I'm going to get my first and last month's rent back along with my cleaning deposit."

Guitarist Ben Keith, who first worked with Young recording his 1972 classic, "Harvest," says it's just business as usual with his longtime friend.

"It's off-the-wall, but that's Neil," says Keith, who plays Grandpa, the Green family's elder statesman, in the film. "It's something that no one has really done before, but that's what Neil does best."

Here, we talk with Young, who was in Los Angeles at the Shrine Auditorium with the "Greendale" show Tuesday night, about the delights that come with dumbfounding people, his favorite movies and whether we'll be hearing from the Greens any time in the near future.

Q: You're back on the road with "Greendale." Now that people know the songs, are you getting a different vibe from the audience?

A: It's great that people know the songs, although it was really exciting when they didn't know anything. That was fantastic. They didn't know what to expect. And the crowd would be totally dumbfounded at first and then, after about three or four songs, you could tell people were getting into it.

Q: You love to dumbfound people, don't you?

A: I like to see what you can do and give people things where they don't know what's going on. And that upsets some people. Early on when we were doing "Greendale," some people were saying this is worse than "Trans" (Young's 1983 album that featured him singing through a vocal-effects machine). And they didn't mean that in a good way.

Q: But aren't folks used to this from you by now?

A: There's a real clash of the cultures now of what music is really about and what performing is really about and what people expect in this entertainment era. They really think you need to do certain things, like all your hits. And people have gotten so lulled into this feeling of knowing what to expect and believing that's what they're supposed to get. For me, it's just a great feeling to do something different and have it work.

Q: You seem more excited about "Greendale" than anything you've done in a long time.

A: I'm living what I'm doing right now. I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's such a good feeling.

Q: There aren't many other musicians your age living off what they're doing right now.

A: I just felt like I needed to re-establish what I do. If you've got a lot of hits and been around for a lot of time, you've got to overcome that. You can't just go out like you did the first time and play your songs and just rock and play whatever came to mind because they were all new and only your fans knew what was going on. It's like a huge overcoat I've had to drag around. And I'm getting rid of it now. I can't worry about it anymore.

Q: The "Greendale" movie is very much in sync with the music. It's not polished, but there's a real beauty at its center, a continuity to the story and a power to its message.

A: It looks like it sounds. It's got that distorted and fuzzy look, but it's got nice colors and nice movement. I don't care much about technology, but I like a good frame. Knowing the music as well as I know it gave me a huge advantage.

Q: And it gave you a foundation that you didn't have with your other movies like "Human Highway."

A: That was the gift. This time I had the key. The other times I was just banging on the building, trying to get through the window. "Human Highway" ... that was about a bunch of dorks. And the world ends. And that was the script. (Laughs)

Now I know if I do this again, if I give myself enough room to write all the songs and record them, I'll be able to make another movie. Because I cannot sit and write down dialogue that people are going to say and scenes and stories like that. For me, it has to unfold through the music.

Q: Larry Johnson says you might be revisiting the Green family in the future.

A: We may go on. I haven't decided yet. I need to get some room in front of me. There's a lot of things that people want me to do, and I've said no to everything and I'm just going to wait. I've got to get a breath of air and see what's happening.

Q: People actually think they can tell you what to do?

A: (Laughs) They suggest strongly.

Q: What about that "Archives" box-set project that's been in the works for, like, forever?

A: We've got the first part of that done. It's a matter of release time, it's a matter of technology changing. We figured out all the content and then the DVD-Audio thing came along and now there's just many other ways to go with it. Now we're thinking about just putting it out as a DVD set and not CDs. That's an idea. It's probably a bad idea, but you'd have the DVD-Audio sound.

Q: You say you love to shoot movies. Do you like to go to them?

A: Oh, yeah. The last one I saw I really liked was "In This World" (Michael Winterbottom's film about two Afghan refugees trying to escape to Great Britain). What a film! Very powerful story.

Q: What about rock movies?

A: "The Kids Are Alright" is my favorite. It's so real. And the Who is great.

Q: What about "This Is Spinal Tap"?

A: That's funnier than hell. That's my life! I like "A Mighty Wind," too. That's hilarious. And the dog one ("Best in Show"). Christopher Guest is a genius.

Q: Maybe you can turn the "Greendale" cast into your own Guest-like troupe.

A: I might. I'm just glad people are into what it's about. It's not like it's easy for me to do that with my records now. It's not like it was before. It's a whole new culture and it's not what I'm doing. I'm not a part of it, but with film, I've found I can express myself and people will actually understand what I'm trying to say. And they want to talk about that instead of what it's like to be 58 years old and rocking. You know what I mean? It's a lot of fun. 





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