InsidePulse DVD Review – Neil Young: Heart of Gold


Directed by
Jonathan Demme

Grant Boatwright …. Himself
Larry Cragg …. Himself
Anthony Crawford …. Himself
Chad Cromwell …. Himself
Diana DeWitt …. Herself
Clinton Gregory …. Himself
Emmylou Harris …. Herself
Karl T. Himmel …. Himself
Wayne Jackson …. Himself
Ben Keith …. Himself
Tom McGinley …. Himself
Spooner Oldham …. Himself
Gary W. Pigg …. Himself
Rick Rosas …. Himself
Jimmy Sharp …. Himself
Neil Young …. Himself
Pegi Young …. Herself

The Movie:

I have to be honest with you, most of the time when I watch Concert films; they bore me to no end. Most of these “films” are nothing more than self serving music videos, and it’s very rare you get an experience of real artistry and love such as Martin Scorcese’s The Last Waltz or Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense. Thankfully, with Demme’s latest effort Neil Young: Heart of Gold, the director was able to make a film that can proudly stand with either of these other examples.

As a group of interviews opening the film reveals, Heart of Gold is a look at Young’s first concert since suffering a near death experience at the hands of a brain aneurism. Held at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, this performance features new material from his latest and very reflective album Prairie Wind as well as old favorites. The result is a very moving experience indeed.

This is a very difficult film to review, as normally I could mention plot or performances, but the only story told here is the one of Neil Young. Through his songs you can see his love for life and song and the hurt of his failings. Seeing and hearing Young sing Old Man now, when the old man in the song is now him, not the 24 year old songwriter, gives you a very profound sense of mortality. Newer songs, such as his ode to his daughter, Here For You, and This Old Guitar, which is about the guitar that he now plays that used to belong to Hank Williams, are all very poignant.

To his credit, Jonathan Demme does a great job of just staying out of the way of the performances. The flow of the concert is quite nice, and Demme is simply there to document the proceedings. It’s wonderful that the director knows that nothing he did could be more powerful than Neil Young standing there, bathed in a ray of light through the surrounding darkness singing The Needle And The Damage Done .

If you don’t like Neil Young, then this really isn’t the movie you should be watching. If you’re even on the fence about him though, this is a rich, heartfelt film about a man’s life done through song. I would have liked have had more interviews with the band and Neil himself, but after watching Heart of Gold, Young and his music speak for themselves.

Score: 8.0 /10

The DVD:

The Video

A gorgeous transfer helps this experience along and giving you a gorgeous visual of the Ryman Auditorium. Hats off to Paramount for this gorgeous disc and print. The film is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with an Aspect Ratio of 1.85:1.

The Audio

The audio track is equally gorgeous with every moment of Heart of Gold sounding nothing less than majestic. The disc has audio track available in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Featurettes, A Bonus Song, Rehearsal Diaries, and a Classic Clip

Rehearsal diaries, narrated by Director Jonathan Demme – This is very interesting as it documents the week to ten days leading up to the concert and the many hours of preparation, not only with the band, but with the film crew.

Fellow Travelers – This is a series of interviews with Young and Demme as they discuss the origins of the film as well as the technical aspects of the production. This goes on a bit long, but it’s still entertaining.

Cruising with Neil – This is the best Featurette on the disc as Demme simply drives around Nashville with Neil Young and the singer discusses life and the city itself. This is a great interview and an interesting look into the mind of a genius artist.

These Old Guitars – This is a cool look at the many instruments used during the concert. It’s awe-inspiring to think of the history behind many of the guitars, especially the one previously owned by Hank Williams.

Cruising with the Players – Similar to both the Neil Young interview and the segments at the beginning of the film, this is a series of interviews with Neil Young’s band mates.

Finishing Touches – This is a small Featurette on the moments right before the concert and preparation still going on right up until the lights come up.

Warming Up With Neil and the Jubilee Singers – This is some behind the scenes footage of Neil and the Jubilee Singer backstage at Farm Aid 2005.

Blast from the past: 1971 Neil Young performance on the Johnny Cash Show – This is pretty awesome to see Johnny Cash surrounded by children and to hear him talk about the future and artists like Neil Young. A very young looking Neil then performs The Needle And The Damage Done

Bonus song: He Was the King

Score: 6.5 /10

InsidePulse’s Ratings for Neil Young: Heart of Gold
(OUT OF 10)