There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young are not now, nor have they ever been, the Backstreet Boys. So in Neil Young’s documentary CSNY: Déjà Vu, it’s bewildering to see ticketholders of the group’s 2006 Freedom of Speech tour walk out in disgust once the folkies’ set gets overtly political. Presumably, the outraged dropped not small amounts of money on these concerts because they were fans of the old hippies known for preaching peace in their late-’60s/early-’70s heyday—but maybe they thought “Ohio” was just an unusually downbeat homage to the state. Regardless, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and the writer-director weather the boos, expletives, and mass exoduses mostly spurred by the performance of Young’s recent “Let’s Impeach the President” (and then jokingly guess at the percentage of cheers to jeers—particularly caustic in Atlanta—noting that closed-roof venues can make unpleasantries seem especially loud). Though it’s focused on the band’s ’06 outings, CSNY: Déjà Vu is less a concert doc than another entry on the ever-lengthening list of anti-war films. The title not only references CSN’s first studio recording with Y, it also nicely sums up the gist of their reemergence: We already spoke out against one mess of a war back in the ’60s, but now here we go again. (Stephen Colbert, shown interviewing Young on The Colbert Report, is more amusingly blunt: “Didn’t you get this all out of your system back during Vietnam?”) The 96-minute movie, co-scripted by journalist Mark Cerre, who joined the group on tour, does feature plenty of music, from the collection of protest songs on Young’s Web site to performances that range from creaky (wince-inducing harmonies, Stills toppling over) to triumphant (Young sure can shred, and the quartet is still capable of transcendent vocals). But even if the opening riff of “Teach Your Children” makes you want to stab an incense stick in your eardrum, there are enough detours to make the doc surprisingly compelling to anyone with an interest in the state of the union, including people-on-the-street debates about whether artists should air their political views and perspectives on Iraq and views of vets themselves. Casualty statistics and teary recollections from a fallen soldier’s mother add gravitas to all the nearly caricatured shut-yer-yaps head-butting, and there’s an especially gut-twisting moment provided by a performance of “Shock and Awe”: As footage from the 2004 presidential debate plays behind him, Young sings, “We had a chance to change our mind.”