Concert film 'Déjà Vu' polarizes Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fans
By Anthony Breznican, USA TODAY
PARK CITY, Utah A concert film closes the Sundance Film Festival
tonight, and the subject is the group CSNYY.
That's Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and you.
For CSNY Déjà Vu, Neil Young set his own cameras rolling when his
longtime bandmates joined him for a cross-country tour for his album
Living With War. But what makes the film unusual is that it focuses
less on the band than on the people who come to see them play.
The film captures the visceral, often angry, sometimes jubilant
reactions of ticket buyers, while Young and his colleagues David
Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash reflect on their involvement
in the '60s anti-Vietnam protest movement and how it relates to today.
Turning the lens from the stage to the seats was a way to find out
why people felt the way they did about the fiery new anti-war songs,
whether they liked or hated them.
"They are my own personal songs," Young says. "Even though it was
such a heartfelt thing, and I really believe what I believe, the way
we presented it allowed everybody to say what they felt. The idea of
the whole project was just to stimulate debate."
Often the camera crew roams the corridors and lobbies of the arenas,
capturing on-the-spot interviews with people at the height of their
emotions. At one particularly divisive performance in Atlanta,
one-third of the audience walked out. Many of their on-camera remarks
Young says they shouldn't be condemned for their feelings.
"They feel that way because they believe in it, and you've got to
respect somebody who's expressing their anger or their sorrow. They
feel totally attacked when they see some of these things on the tour.
They felt betrayed because they bought tickets. … 'How could we
spring this on them when we're down in the South where the majority
of the kids that are getting killed are from?' " Young says. "What I
was trying to do with the film was just let it happen, just let it be
and let people say what they felt. We were looking and looking trying
to find more from the other side."
Concertgoers interviewed going in say they know the subject of
Young's latest album but hope he will stick to the oldies. They get
numbers like Let's Impeach the President and the title track (with
lyrics such as, "I join the multitudes / I raise my hand in peace / I
never bow to the laws of the thought police"), and the footage often
captures the audiences' political differences.
Many middle-aged concertgoers who attest to being fans of the band's
1972 anti-war hit, Ohio, about the Kent State shooting of unarmed
protestors, now recoil from Young's criticism of a different war.
Younger fans, in their teens and 20s, also seem to be bigger fans of
the old protest songs, though their generation is the one most
affected by the current conflict.
"People today are just as sensitive and just as idealistic as the
people of the '60s. Young people have got the same feeling. The only
difference is, their lives are not directly threatened by this
thing," Young says. "The big difference between the '60s and now is
there's no draft."
And, he adds, the public is burned out on media. "You become deadened
to it. You think, 'Oh, who am I gonna believe?' because there's so much."
The movie isn't entirely political; many new performances of the
band's vintage hits are showcased. And Young doesn't shy away from
showing the aging rockers struggling with the rigors of the tour,
especially early on. The '60s are over, but their 60s are just beginning.
Young was at Sundance two years ago with Heart of Gold, and this year
he's part of a musical showcase that includes U2 3D, Patti Smith:
Dream of Life and punk-rock-singing senior citizens in Young@Heart.
Young is proud to have the final new film of the 10-day event.
"Sundance is like a farmers market," he says. "Everybody goes there
and brings their wares. Now, to get in there, you've got to have
something good to sell or you can't be in it. So it's a great honor."
CSNY Speak Out and Listen In "Deja Vu"
by Gregg Goldstein
Published on Monday, January 28, 2008 by Reuters
Park City, Utah - Death threats, loud catcalls and walkouts didn't
stop rock legends Crosby Stills Nash & Young from completing their
fiercely anti-Bush reunion tour in 2006.
Two years later, the band has reunited again to unveil its Sundance
Film Festival closing-night film, "CSNY Deja Vu," a documentary that
isn't so much a concert movie as a balanced examination of America's
fiercely divided opinions about the Iraq War.
"We went to war for one reason, then the reason changed every six
months," said the project's main catalyst, Neil Young, an
approachable guy despite his habit of locking eyes with you and not
blinking when he speaks. "America never had a pre-eminent war in
history before this, so we had something to say. But if anyone has
anything else to say, the more the merrier."
"Deja Vu" takes a 360-degree look from inside the eye of a storm the
band set out to create on their Freedom of Speech tour. It profiles
civilians and soldiers both for and against the war between
performances of popular '60s protest songs and newer, less
universally accepted ones, like "Let's Impeach the President" from
Young's 2006 album "Living With War."
And don't get Young started on the war.
"Some people support the troops by saying they're being abused, put
in a situation with no armor, where they can't win, where there's not
enough of them so they're used over and over again," he said. "They
say the American way of life is threatened, and we're at war for our
lives. But if that's true we should've had a draft. These guys didn't
believe that enough to put their own careers on the line. It would be
political suicide for this administration."
BOTH SIDES NOW
But there are plenty of well-articulated, contrary opinions in the
film, and lots of self-criticism. There's footage of fans leaving en
masse with middle fingers raised during "President" though Nash
noted that it came three hours into a 3 1/2-hour show and gripes
about $350 top ticket prices.
The film even includes a review saying the huddled sixtysomethings
look like they're comparing prescriptions onstage. "I didn't get
putting that in for a while because I'm not a masochist, but I came
around," Stephen Stills said with a laugh. "We're all pretty proud of
Neil for including it," David Crosby added. "But don't tell him I said that."
As the band sat in a swank Park City Delta Sky Lounge suite, they had
an easy camaraderie that showed their mutual affection and a love
of giving one another a hard time. When Crosby put his bare feet up
on the table, Stills quickly waved his hand in front of his nose.
But while all members support the film's inclusion of differing
points of view, like the pro-war sentiments some people express
onscreen "We don't want to stand on a mountain and tell everyone
how to do things because we don't know more than everyone else,"
Crosby said they chose not to include the death threats and
bomb-sniffing dogs they faced at each stop on the tour.
"I've never gone into a hotel where everyone else went into the room
before to look behind the curtains. But we did it," Young said.
"We're not going to live like this forever. You don't want to fan
that (by putting it on film) or say, 'Look at poor us, we have death
The band members are famously contentious. "We watch out for each
other like brothers, and we fight like brothers," said Young, who has
drifted in and out of the band for decades.
"We're a damn Jerry Springer show!" said Stills, drawing much laughter.
"Yeah, it's the Jerry Springer Tour!" Crosby added.
But virtually none of that is onscreen, and on further reflection,
the band said this tour might have elicited the least interpersonal
tension of their career.
"We were basically scared sless, so we were hanging together
closely," Young said. "It wasn't comfortable out there, just because
of the subject matter. Positive or negative, we crossed a line."
ENTERING THE DEBATE
Young said he doesn't really care what audience the $500,000-plus
digital-video feature reaches "We're not making it to score
commercially," he said yet the band feels strongly about securing a
theatrical release to help stir debate several months before the
"Deja Vu" is directed by Bernard Shakey, a shadowy figure who has
never been seen in the same place at the same time as Young. His work
includes the quirky 1982 comedy-drama "Neil Young: Human Highway" and
dates back to the trippy 1974 film "Journey Through the Past," which
has never been released on home video. "It'll come out again, and now
it'll live up to its name," said Young, Shakey's unofficial spokesman.
The film could lead to a concert album, another promotional tour or
even an original album, said Nash, depending on its reception.
They're hitting the road soon in different combinations: Crosby
Stills & Nash in July, Crosby and Nash in the fall. Graham Nash is
completing his box set and helping Stills on a box set. CSNY is
prepping an album of demos of their songs dating back to the '60s.
Young insists that his "Archives" project, delayed more than a
half-dozen times, will be released this year on Blu-ray Disc and DVD
(but not CD) "now that technology has caught up to how we want to present it."
But right now their focus is getting "Deja Vu" seen to stir debate.
"I truly believe there are good people on both sides. You can't look
at John McCain and say he's not a good man," Young said of one of
Crosby's friends. "He's not dirty, he has experience, and he believes
he's doing the right thing. How is that different from Barack Obama?
"This movie is not about our opinion, just people willing to stand up
and express what they believe" he said.
Or, as Stills put it, "The Constitution doesn't say you have to
support the liberal blowhards, just freedom of speech."