Living With War Today


by Christopher Long
DVD Town
July 28, 2008
    The highlight of "CSNY: Deja Vu" doesn't involve a number performed by the band. A bubbly young reporter for an entertainment TV program kicks off her interview with Neil Young by observing that the band's new tour has generated some controversy, "Especially your new song 'Let's Impeach the President.' So what is the song about?"
    The title of Young's hastily penned screed against George W. Bush reflects the level of subtlety on display in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's 2006 "Freedom of Speech" tour, the subject of the new documentary directed by Neil Young under his pseudonym Bernard Shakey. Of course, subtlety isn't the point. In a landscape saturated with mass media advertisements disguised as news programs, you have to shout in order to get anybody to pay attention. It works, but the attention isn't always good.
    The band's tour goes swimmingly well in the so-called blue states but once they hit Atlanta, the road gets a little bumpier. Everything is hunky-dory until they launch into "Let's Impeach the President" (I hope you can figure out what it's about on your own) which comes complete with a multi-media presentation of a smirking George Bush spewing cheap war rhetoric above a scrolling stock market-style ticker indicating the number of American deaths in Iraq by month (but why no ticker for the vastly higher number of Iraqi deaths?) Most of the audience continues to cheer but a good third of them turn hostile, first flipping the band the bird (and, no, they're not requesting "Freebird") then marching out of the theater in high dudgeon. Documentary cameras wait to capture footage of enraged ticket holders who apparently didn't read a single line of advance publicity regarding the concert before shelling out their money. How dare they criticize the president when we're at war? Who do they think they are to shove their message down our throats? Cram it up your ass, Neil Young! (Apparently, bodily orifices are central to this form of dissent.) I wonder how many of them knew that Neil Young is from Canada and Graham Nash from England. That might have really set the blood a' boiling.
    While political ideology is always at the forefront of the documentary (and the tour), Young is also interested in exploring the artist's role as a social advocate. He isn't willing to just "shut up and sing" and for some inexplicable reason this is actually a hot-button issue for people who feel a performer should simply perform and remain neutral observers of society. Fortunately, CSNY wasn't swayed by this limited and ahistorical view of art when they feverishly wrote and recorded "Ohio" in the immediate aftermath of the Kent State massacre, producing one of the greatest protest songs of all time.
    "Let's Impeach the President" doesn't rise to the level of "Ohio" or "Wooden Ships." This seems to be the year of the sexagenarian rocker on the big screen with the Stones' "Shine A Light" also hitting theaters a few months ago. While the Stones are far from their peak they have at least been performing together constantly for more than four decades. CSNY has broken up and reformed multiple times with various members taking time off for various reasons (I'm being discreet here.) The fire still burns within, but it doesn't translate into the same energy or synergy on stage. Many of the numbers are rather desultory though part of this is attributable to the documentary's surprisingly mediocre sound quality. Crosby, who has aged gracefully into an avuncular walrus, seems particularly detached, and is the member who appears least in the off-screen interviews.
    Reporter and Vietnam Veteran Mike Cerre served as an embedded reporter in the initial Iraq invasion and is invited to embed himself with CSNY for their Freedom tour. He serves as writer/narrator for the film. Presumably his role is intended to give the film a veneer of objectivity, but his presence is never really tangible. Young and company are the unquestioned stars and the whole affair has a distasteful self-congratulatory feel to it. The back-patting appears justified in light of the hostile reaction in Atlanta and clearly stems from Young's passionate belief in his project. However, it also leads to some major lapses in judgment such as when Young claims that he and his bandmates are "just like the people who enlisted" and marvels that "against the odds, we're all still here." Granted, Crosby's stubborn maintenance of his above-ground status is as unlikely as Keith Richards' but playing in a band isn't remotely akin to signing up to get shot at in a foreign country. Spinal Tap drummers aside, the odds of surviving a lifetime of rocking are simply not comparable to surviving an active tour of duty.
    Graham Nash provides a concise abstract for the group's (and the film's) mission. He acknowledges that they may only be preaching to the choir but adds: "I just wish the choir would get off their asses." And that's the point that Young and company are getting at here. It's great to be informed, but that isn't enough. You have to get angry enough to act. Neil Young did. "CSNY: Deja Vu" may not inspire anyone else to follow suit, but it's a relative rarity: a passionate, politically engaged concert documentary. If you're the sort of person who thinks a group should just "shut up and sing" do what the outraged customers in Atlanta should have done: stay home.
    On the DVDTown scale, rate it a 6/10.

by Jeffrey M. Anderson
July 27, 2008
    In May of 1970, Neil Young quickly wrote a song called "Ohio," hotly responding to the Kent State shootings, during which the National Guard killed four students and wounded nine others. He recorded it with David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, who had just come off a hit record from the previous year, and the song peaked at #14 on the pop charts. Over the years, Young has recorded several such protest and/or political songs, including 1967's "For What It's Worth," 1970's "Southern Man" and 1989's "Rockin' in the Free World," which slyly took a stab at then President George H. W. Bush by mentioning his campaign speech staple "a thousand points of light." Young is now in his 60s and once again something pissed him off to the point that he has gone back to the recording studio. This time though, there's no beating around the bush (so to speak). No more messages hidden inside innocuous song titles. This time we get "Let's Impeach the President."
    Like "Ohio," Young's 2006 album "Living with War," which includes the incendiary "Let's Impeach the President," was recorded quickly, fresh as the headlines. Young even made the album available for a free listen on the Internet. When it came time to tour, however, it was only appropriate that he team up once again with the old friends who helped him out on "Ohio." Together they take the stage behind a giant, prop microphone draped with a yellow ribbon and perform in front of photographs of hundreds of fallen soldiers, victims of the Iraq war. Directing the new documentary CSNY: Deja vu under his usual pseudonym, "Bernard Shakey," Young chronicles the tour with as much objectivity as he can manage, allowing negative comments to filter through along with the positive. He includes newspaper reviews of the show (printed on the screen and narrated by actors), which range from glowing to middling; most of them call Young and his gang a bunch of "aging hippies" and "dinosaurs." The movie's main point arrives, however, when the band plays the Deep South: Atlanta, Georgia.
    The Atlanta crowd seems fine when Young plays his oldies and hits, but as soon as he launches into "Let's Impeach the President," the crowd goes ballistic. Half the stadium remains seated, while half storms out. Young's camera captures the exiting crowd's reaction. Interestingly, not one person actually responds to the actual content of Young's song. No one ever mentions the President and whether or not he deserves to be impeached. Rather, the anger is aimed at the fact that Young said anything at all. The angry crowd seems to agree that Young did not have the right to broach such a subject. One man suggests that we shouldn't criticize the government because "they're smarter than us." Another girl sums up Young's performance: "it was too political." One interviewer brings up the Dixie Chicks, to which a concertgoer responds: "if it was the Dixie Chicks we wouldn't be here."
    Both CSNY: Deja vu and the 2006 Dixie Chicks documentary Shut Up and Sing have that in common: that kind of hysterical, instantaneous mob mentality that disregards rhyme or reason. Certainly Natalie Maines' offhand comment during a London concert was far less formal or incendiary than Young's song, so why were the Chicks lynched and Young let off scot free? Not to mention that, in Shut Up and Sing, Maines has even more controversial things to say, all of which have mostly been ignored. This is clearly a case of "freedom of speech, when it's convenient." It's too bad that Young's film doesn't get a little deeper into this mentality. Instead, the band members spend their time "thinking positive" -- Stephen Stills makes several stops to help campaign for forward-thinking local politicians -- and defending their actions, comparing their traveling show to the troubadours of old, spreading messages across the land through song.
    Perhaps ironically, the soldiers who have fought in and returned from Iraq, as well as their families, seem whole-heartedly to support Young and his music. Speaking of that, the music in CSNY: Deja vu is tops. That's the most interesting thing about Young; despite his brand of loose, grungy, quickly-recorded rock, he's very finicky about sound quality and he has lost none of his edge. Young isn't shy about showing the early, rough stages in the show, when the band members are learning the songs and getting their mojo back, but by the end of the tour, the songs really soar, filled with crunchy guitars and crisp drums. You can accuse these guys of being dinosaurs or hippies, but Young has remained relevant as a musician through five decades, inspiring hoards of younger bands and constantly challenging himself. This is the best kind of Iraq war documentary, the kind that sends a message, but does not ignore the medium.

by Aidin Vaziri
San Francisco Chronicle
July 25, 2008
    The scene is Atlanta, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's 2006 "Freedom of Speech" tour has arrived in town the day of a major terrorist threat. A heavy storm outside has delayed the concert for more than an hour, but that's nothing compared with what's brewing inside the Philips Arena. The '60s counterculture icons have reassembled to tour behind Neil Young's hastily recorded new album, "Living With War," which is filled with songs indicting the government over the occupation of Iraq. This is the first stop in a genuine red state. Backstage, Young is dressed in fatigues and is in a typically defiant mood. "I'm happy to walk out on this stage," he says. "I hope it goes well."
    Things do, until near the end of the rambling concert, when the gray-haired quartet digs into "Let's Impeach the President." Suddenly the arena is filled with boos and jeers. Former fans start walking out by the hundreds, waving their middle fingers at the cameras. "Neil Young can stick it up his ass!" says one indignant woman, who looks like somebody's grandmother. Others aren't quite as polite.
    Directed by Young under his filmmaking alter ego Bernard Shakey, "CSNY: Deja Vu" follows the conflict the band faces as it returns to its fervent political roots four decades after emerging during another messy war. What's most incredible is that it shows that David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Young are capable of provoking as strong a reaction now as they did back when they first sang "Ohio," especially with fans who long ago mistook the band's pretty harmonies for political lethargy. Many come to the shows unprepared for the heavy sermonizing. Others call for it.
    The documentary seems equally divisive. Like most of Young's recent work, it's scattered and unsubtle. But he proves a capable director overall, cutting up raw concert footage with flashback reels of CSNY in its heyday along with new tour-bus interviews and news clips following the tour, both good and bad. Then halfway through, everything unexpectedly shifts from a concert film to an episode of "20/20." With the assistance of Vietnam veteran and ABC news correspondent Mike Cerre, fresh from covering the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Young turns the cameras away from the group to examine the stories of servicemen and their families.
    The most intense scene, however, has nothing to do with conflicts in any other foreign land. It comes at a tour stop in Washington, D.C., where the famously acrimonious bandmates, frayed from years of rock excess, are caught in a close backstage huddle. In a rare show of tenderness, Young turns to the three others and says, "Thank you, that's all I can say. I could have never done this without you guys." To which they unanimously reply, "We truly believe in your music." It's galvanizing stuff. If these codgers can put their differences aside for the right cause, there's hope for the rest of the world.
    - Advisory: Strong scenes featuring foulmouthed conservatives going off on Neil Young.

by Gary Goldstein
Los Angeles Times
July 25, 2008
    Though it may be another in a long line of choir-preaching, anti-Iraq war documentaries, "CSNY/Deja Vu," Neil Young's effective hybrid of concert film and political snapshot, is one of the shrewdest and most entertaining of the bunch. The movie, which the veteran rocker directed under the pseudonym Bernard Shakey, chronicles Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's 2006 "Freedom of Speech" reunion tour in which the aging, politically conscious musicians criss-crossed the U.S. and Canada performing Vietnam-era protest hits along with newer songs from Young's Internet-debuted "Living With War" album.
    Audiences' varied, sometimes heated reactions to the concerts' more combative tunes -- particularly the gutsy "Let's Impeach the President" -- provide a vivid reminder of where the blue state-red state divide stood just before that fall's midterm elections.
    To increase the film's heft, Young wisely invited reporter Mike Cerre ("Nightline"), an ex-Marine, to embed with the CSNY tour and help probe the obstacles the band would surely face. The journalist's profiles of notable Iraq war veterans he meets up with along the way also provide keen and moving insight.
    Recent and archival interview, news, war and music footage, which often juxtapose the Vietnam and Iraq conflicts, round out this unflinching, well-constructed picture.

by Ty Burr
Boston Globe
July 25, 2008
    "CSNY Deja Vu" may come as a big, spiky surprise to some fans of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, much as the group's "Freedom of Speech" tour did in 2006. Instead of the warmed-over hippie nostalgia that comes from hearing four men well into their 60s warble "Helplessly Hoping" for the 4,673d time, the film, like the tour it documents, wallops you in the face with politics.
    Well, good for CSNY - let it be duly noted that paying $300 a ticket does not necessarily mean a band has to meet your expectations or complacencies. (In other words, you pays your money and you takes your chances.) But because the film has a lot on its mind - the war in Iraq, the 1960s, modern-day activism, veterans' affairs, screaming guitar solos - "Deja Vu" is as scattershot as it is ornery and cheering. Fittingly, the director is named Bernard Shakey, who any old patchouli head will tell you is really Neil Young.
    Young was always the anarchist sparkplug of the group and probably its brains too - the rise in energy from 1969's "Crosby, Stills, & Nash" to 1970's "Deja Vu" remains electrifying. In 2006, he had just recorded an album called "Living With War" whose first single was an in-your-face jeremiad titled "Let's Impeach the President," just in case you weren't sure where Neil stood on the matter. He then convinced the other three performers to turn the CSNY tour into a piece of rolling agitprop theater.
    "It's a dictatorship, but it's a benevolent dictatorship," David Crosby says in the film. "Neil is in charge. He just thinks about this stuff all the time."
    Young hired journalist Michael Cerre - a Vietnam vet who was embedded in the Iraq invasion for ABC News - to help structure the film and take cameras into the stands during the concerts. The results, especially in the red states, are choice.
    When the band lays into "Let's Impeach the President" in Atlanta, grown men curse and storm the exits while college girls whimper that it's all "too political." The drama and high comedy of "Deja Vu" lies in the collision of CSNY's boomer audience - who only want to be reminded of their youthful activism - with the band's unyielding insistence on the here and now. But why get involved when you can just sing along with "Ohio" again?
    There's an entire movie to be made about such pop-cult hypocrisy (or, at the very least, about some concertgoers' unwillingness to do their homework beforehand), but Young wants more. The last half of "Deja Vu" is largely devoted to those who've fought in Iraq and returned to fight against our presence there: congressional candidates, Gold Star mothers, a folk singer named Josh Hisle seen playing his song "A Traitor's Death" over there and back here.
    These people and their efforts are as admirable as the film surrounding them is unfocused. Young wants to provide positive examples rather than lecture, but the devil in him can't resist poking those who think otherwise for the noisy feedback they provide while ignoring the group's own blind spots. (Where do the tour profits go? Veterans organizations? Crosby's health care?)
    Young has always been a magpie, an intuitive collagist rather than a linear thinker, and it has served him well as a musician. Less so as a filmmaker. "CSNY Deja Vu" is trenchant and inspiring in its broad outlines and sloppy in the details. (Minor point: the Boston Globe music critic, who's quoted in the film, is named Joan Anderman, not Anderson.) The movie makes you glad that CSNY is still out there rocking in the free world. It makes you doubly glad they're not leading it.

by James Verniere
Boston Herald
July 25, 2008
    You've heard of the verb "swiftboated."
    Now, get a load of being "Dixie-Chicked."
    Neil Young's "CSNY Deja Vu" is a road movie about a concert tour by the band known as CSN&Y (average age 62) to its fans. Led by longtime band member and part-time film director/co-writer Young ("Greendale," "Rust Never Sleeps"), David Crosby, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills fire up their custom tour buses and hit the road across the USA on their 2006 Freedom of Speech tour just before the midterm elections.
    The band members have an agenda: to protest the war in Iraq and musically call for the impeachment of George W. Bush.
    Their sets combine such CSN&Y standards as the eponymous "Deja Vu" as well as Young's sing-along "Let's Impeach the President." These guys are not fooling around, and while they are received mostly rapturously in blue states, they're met with a chorus of boos and upraised middle fingers from about 30 percent of the paying audience in Atlanta.
    Whatever happened to protest music in the United States? asks Young, an apparent devotee of filmmaker Michael Moore.
    In the 1960s, protest was a catalyst of the youth movement and integral part of the rock scene. Millions sang along to the Doors' "Unknown Soldier," John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance," Bob Dylan's "Masters of War," Country Joe and the Fish's "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die" and CSN&Y's own unforgettable, Kent-State-massacre-inspired anthem "Ohio."
    Outside of Green Day and the aforementioned Dixie Chicks, who were pilloried by the press and country-music radio in the aftermath of anti-Bush statements, where do the rockers of today stand on the war? Could their silence be one of the many reasons the music industry has become irrelevant?
    Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young could have gone on an oldies tour and racked up millions for their retirement coffers. But these aging artists have bravely taken up the gauntlet. While some of the power, if not the musicality, has gone out of their singing and playing, they still have the fire inside.
    A compilation of concert and archival footage, interviews with band members, veterans and politicians running for office and video from an appearance by Young on "The Colbert Report," the film aspires to be the "Fahrenheit 9/11" of concert movies.
    It's not quite that. But CSN&Y fans and young people interested in how a previous generation responded to an unpopular war might want to, if not need to, see this.

That's 'Deja Vu' all over again
by Dave Hoekstra
Chicago Sun-Times
July 25, 2008
    Some of my best rock 'n' roll memories are courtesy of Neil Young.
    I watched Young and Crazy Horse play through a tornado after the audio and video power went out during the 1997 H.O.R.D.E. Festival at the World Music Theatre in Tinley Park. I watched him rip up the front page of the Tribune before the 2005 Farm Aid concert at the same venue. In 1982, he went from folk to over-the-top techno in his "Trans" tour that took him through the U.I.C. Pavilion.
    Most significantly, Young surpasses Bruce Springsteen in the passion department.
    That's why I had super high expectations for Young's documentary, "CSNY: Deja Vu," which chronicles Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's 2006 "Freedom of Speech" tour. But it is the voices of war veterans, including Tammy Duckworth, Democratic nominee in the 2006 race for Illinois' Sixth Congressional District, that offer the most passionate commentary. Meanwhile, director Bernard Shakey (Young's alias) takes a guarded approach to the legacy of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
    The 96-minute doc has a hard time deciding what it wants to be. It is not a band documentary, and "deja vu" back and forths between the Vietnam and Iraq wars aren't developed, although the blue-tinted archival footage of Young singing "Ohio" is memorable. Young comments on how the band members shelved the protest song in fear that they were treading on nostalgia. But CSNY revived it because, in Young's words, "We're bringing history back -- that's what folk music does."
    The few moments of honesty resonate. All members concede that CSNY is Young's band. Stephen Stills laughs and says, "Neil is Tony Orlando, and we're Dawn." At another point the advancing age of CSNY is brought to light as Stills falls over stage lights during a concert in Toronto. Without Stills, CSNY would be as much fun as Simon and Garfunkel. But if you're looking for a true CSNY band documentary, you will have to wait.
    One thing is certain about Young: he loves contradiction.
    A thread running through "CSNY: Deja Vu" is the band's distaste for major media outlets, and indeed, a snippet of Young's appearance on CNN's "Showbiz Tonight" is surreal. Young includes footage of his personalized "Living With War" Web site, which features a pseudo-USA Today front page and video shot in CNN style. So who does Young hire as the documentary's writer and producer? ABC news correspondent Mike Cerre, a Notre Dame grad who won an Emmy for his work as an embedded journalist in Iraq.
    Young embedded Cerre into the band's 18-city tour, reporting from front lines of Atlanta, where CSNY received a hostile reception. Cerre lets hyperbole get the better of him, as he dramatically announces before the concert that "back stage, the mood was cautiously optimstic." These guys are four multimillionaires going onstage, not a surgeon ready to embark on triple bypass surgery.
    So "CSNY: Deja Vu" is an anti-war documentary inspired by the group's politically themed songbook and the way in which listeners interact with this material. On the tour's off nights, Stills appeared at fund-raisers for congressional candidates. The film's afterword points out that seven of the 10 candidates Stills endorsed won their races. (Duckworth was one of the three who lost.)
    The film's last words are spoken by one of the victorious candidates, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D.-Pa.), the only Iraq war veteran to serve in Congress. In measured tones, he says, "People are feeling a change in the air."
    He was right. "CSNY: Deja Vu" concisely and often fiercely documents the spirit of the struggle. Come January, that struggle should be mission accomplished.

by Sid Smith
Chicago Tribune
July 25, 2008
    Even to those of us who were undergraduates ourselves when protesters died at Kent State University and inspired " Ohio," the quartet headlining "CSNY: Deja Vu" are a bit worse for wear.
    Whether from age, substance affinity or both, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young, subjects of this tuneful documentary, look pretty old. Crosby and Stills are Santa Claus-rotund, their trademark hippie hair frayed and tragicomically flyaway. Nash is rugged and gray, while Young, mastermind behind the documentary and, using the pseudonym Bernard Shakey, its director, is still a mix of the gentle and the vinegary, now glossed with a grandfatherly patina. The gap between now and the counterculture looms wide every time we gaze on any of them.
    After all the breakups and ego battles, the team reunited for a 2006 tour to protest the Iraq war, in conjunction with Young's "Living With War" album. Those sonorous chords are sometimes discordant, and concertgoers at some stops, notably Atlanta, don't take well to the anti-war diatribe.
    But "CSNY: Deja Vu" brings back glimmers of the old glory and touchingly suggests that the body may age, but the spirit of the Woodstock nation endures. You can disagree with the quartet's opposition to Iraq, but 40 years on, you can't call them inconsistent.
    Young's movie is slanted to his take, and, because it's his movie, who's to argue? He does employ veteran TV war correspondent Mike Cerre as an embedded participant, offering some objectivity, and a handful of those angry at the political message get air time too. But Young wants to promote the perspective espoused on the album, and he does so with interviews with the band, their supporters and anti-war activists then running for Congress (including our own Tammy Duckworth). There's also powerfully moving commentary from veterans themselves and family members.
    One such powerful segment involves Iraq veteran Josh Hisle, a Cincinnati songwriter who gets to jam with Young on camera, a dream come true for the younger musician and a moment of uncalculated humility from the older one.
    "CSNY" is by no means a typical concert movie; the selections are played mostly in short takes and snippets. It's more a road movie with music, its war topic treated with earnest seriousness. And there's humor. "Neil's Tony Orlando, and we're Dawn, right?" Stills says of their setup. In a stunning instance of actual media vapidity, a perky TV reporter cites Young's "Let's Impeach the President" and then asks, "What's this song about?"
    The musicians, never known for their letter-perfect live performances, get some early bad reviews, including one from a critic noting their average age of 62 and wondering if, when they huddle onstage, they're comparing prescription drug notes.
    But as tour and movie progress, they manage to reclaim their dignity and purpose, which, if nothing else, has always been direct, transparent and melodic. You yearn to ask the Atlanta concertgoers expressing surprise at the anti-war content if they'd ever listened to the group's albums before. As Young says, the idea is not to make fans "feel fuzzy and warm at the end of the concert. The idea is to make them feel."

by Robert Newton
Edge New England
Friday Jul 25, 2008
    No one ever accused Neil Young of being subtle. In CSNY: Deja Vu, the storied musician again reunites with David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash and takes their heated "Freedom Of Speech Tour" to audiences nationwide. And with songs like "Let's Impeach The President" and "Living With War," there seems to be some indication that Neil Young might not like George Bush or his stinkin' war very much.
    What threatens early on to become a lecture evolves into a figurative and literal sing-along when Young, Crosby, Stills and Nash engage the audience of fans, veterans and regular folks. Whether CSNY (with their combined age of over 250) is prompting walk-outs by fans who feel rooked or talked down to by the overtly political bent or waking others up to the reality of the war in Iraq, indifference is never on the menu.
    While the band's name is on the movie, the show is really Young's. He directs (as Bernard Shakey), creates all the content not provided by journalist and embedded commentator Mike Cerre and writes nearly all the tunes and provides the underscore. His band mates actually refer to him as a "benevolent dictator," and for the most part, seem OK with the moniker. It is Young's straight-ahead, many-hatted approach that gives the tour and the film its focus.
    Young, who was spoofed by Kevin Spacey on "SNL" during this 2006 tour, puts on a face quite different than in the subdued portrait Jonathan Demme's 2006 doc, "Neil Young: Heart Of Gold." He and the band make no bones about what they are doing with the tour -- moving people to action like they did during the Vietnam War with songs like Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" and Young's Kent State eulogy, "Ohio." The film is by no means a wake-up call -- that will come when the draft is reinstated and soldiers return from Iran and are quarantined in the New Mexico desert because they have a half-life -- but consider it a shrill snooze alarm that we will hopefully not hit one time too many before we get up and do something.

Tom Long
Detroit News
July 25, 2008
Grade: B-
    In what is indeed a startling case of deja vu all over again, "CSNY Deja Vu" follows Vietnam-era pop-stars Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young as they go out on the road to protest America's involvement in the war in Iraq.
    Written by Neil Young and Mike Cerre, and directed by Young, the film follows our aging hippie heroes, who've managed to maintain a healthy following over the course of nearly four decades, as they tour the U.S. in 2006 promoting Young's protest album "Living with War."
    And whoa, the whole thing is something of a flashback, man. But that's not necessarily bad.
    Well, it's an undeniable drag that there's a war to protest. But it's kind of cool to know these four activist millionaires can still muster some passion for their cause.
    The callous might say they're just profiting off another generation's misery, but that sort of cynicism is hard to maintain once the film gets rolling.
    Obviously these guys do not look the same after 40 years of rock stardom. Stills and Crosby are humpty dumpy reflections of their former selves, and the perpetually disheveled Young appears to have lived life fully. Nash looks good, carrying his gray mane with aplomb.
    What really matters, though, is how they come off on stage, and they come off quite well as it turns out.
    Unfortunately, this isn't just a concert movie. In fact, it's mostly a movie of political ramblings. You get Stills speaking to a living room of Democrats, Young jamming with an Iraqi vet, and lots of quips from crowd members about how pertinent or impertinent the band's political message is.
    That message is perhaps best summed up by the self-explanatory song "Let's Impeach the President," which is actually kind of a fun tune, although it didn't really catch on.
    Ultimately, "Deja Vu" is a mash of peacenik politics, surprisingly good music and Americana snapshots circa two years ago. It will doubtlessly end up preaching to the choir -- Bush backers beware -- but that choir should enjoy it.

by Rafer Guzman
July 25, 2008
2 Stars
    PLOT Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young launch a politically charged tour, polarizing their longtime fan base.
    BOTTOM LINE Though shot in pedestrian TV news style, the film - and music - is still provocative.
    Remember when Country Joe McDonald sang his anti-Vietnam anthem "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die-Rag" for a cheering crowd of thousands at Woodstock in 1969? These days rock's moral imperative to speak freely - and loudly and angrily - has largely been replaced by a desire to entertain and not offend. When Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines announced she was "ashamed" of George W. Bush at a 2003 concert, it was not exactly a Country Joe moment; she was crucified by conservatives and boycotted by radio stations and fans.
    Undaunted, the graying rockers Crosby, Stills and Nash joined Neil Young on a 2006 tour to support Young's stridently political album "Living With War" (one song is called "Let's Impeach the President"). The tour documentary, "CSNY/Dej ... Vu," also has a clear agenda - Young directed it under the pseudonym Bernard Shakey - but it does attempt to capture the voices of those who criticize the group's stance. Most are disgusted fans: One young fellow storming out of the concert says it's wrong to criticize the government because "they're smarter than you."
    The movie's potentially engaging controversy - should artists afflict or merely comfort? - is sapped by its nightly news approach. Mike Cerre, a war correspondent hired by Young to do the filming, chases too many tangents: local political races, mothers of dead soldiers, Iraqi veteran support groups. As laudable as the idealism may be, the movie sometimes feels like a self-congratulatory victory lap.

by Elizabeth Weitzman
New York Daily News
July 25, 2008
3 stars
    Documentary about an anti-war concert tour organized by Neil Young. At the Angelika (1:36). R: Language, disturbing images.
    "I hate this stinkin' war," Neil Young announces in this chronicle of CSNY's "Freedom of Speech Tour," and the rest of the movie is just as unapologetically blunt.
    In 2006, Young convinced David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash to join him in the kind of mission the bandmates once shared: using music, and their public platform, to express and inspire political passion.
    Young, who directed the movie, compares today's climate with the Vietnam era, and doesn't bother hiding his disappointment in the present. Interspersing concert footage, tragic war images and interviews with disillusioned vets, he appears determined to shake up his audience. He's probably preaching to the choir, but even doubters may find the sermon strikes a chord.

by Neil Genzlinger
New York Times
July 25, 2008
    "CSNY: Deja Vu," Neil Young's film about a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert tour in 2006, has some delicious moments, but you never quite shake the feeling that it's documenting a tempest in a teapot.
    The band was responsible for some of rock's most confrontational songs in the Vietnam era, including "Ohio," about the Kent State shootings in 1970, and two years ago Mr. Young (who directs here under his whimsical alias, Bernard Shakey) went back on the road with Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and David Crosby with some new tunes about Iraq.
    The film tries to play up the mixed reaction engendered by songs like "Let's Impeach the President," and there is one interesting scene of people walking out of a concert in Atlanta because of the show's political tone. But mostly the movie feels like manufactured controversy. In trying to draw parallels to the atmosphere of the 1960s and '70s it only underscores just how long ago it was that music had the power to shape and focus the public debate.
    So that leaves this a film you watch for the small moments. The man-on-the-street comments captured by Mr. Young and Mike Cerre, a journalist who joined the project, are priceless Americana. And one juxtaposition -- the band performs the anthem "For What It's Worth," then the film cuts to a nutty appearance by Mr. Young on "The Colbert Report" -- is particularly sweet.
    "CSNY: Deja Vu" is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has some strong language and brief war images.

by Kevin Renick
Playback St. Louis
Friday, 25 July 2008
    When Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young toured the U.S. in 2006, the country was in the full throes of political debate over the war in Iraq, and you could sense the tide just beginning to turn against the conflict. Democrats won control of Congress (albeit just barely), and the debate intensified on both sides. Against this backdrop, Neil Young rounded up his legendary cronies for a cross-country jaunt that mostly found the foursome playing incendiary songs from Young's then-current album Living With War. How would audiences react to fiery numbers like "Let's Impeach the President," "Lookin' For a Leader," and "Shock and Awe"? The compelling new documentary CSNY: Deja vu provides the answers.
    Young, directing under his cinematic nom de plume Bernard Shakey, did numerous smart things in the planning of this film. One was to hire journalist Mike Cerre to "embed" with the crew for the tour, and interview audience members about their feelings regarding the topical songs and anti-war sentiments the band were expressing onstage. Another was to include commentary from young soldiers and others directly involved in the war, to create a depiction of the siege in Iraq from many different angles. It results in a riveting documentary, easily the best film Young's ever directed (his past efforts included the little-seen Human Highway and experimental Greendale). "You gotta have some fire--you gotta have a reason for being there," Young says on camera at one point, when asked about his motivations. "Fire" is the operative word here...sure, the band were happy to recreate their Vietnam-era consciousness on stage, playing old favorites like "Military Madness," "Wooden Ships" and "For What It's Worth." But they were also UNDER fire by offended conservatives in the audience, who didn't take kindly to Young's "blasphemous" anti-war tunes from his album. The booing can be heard loudly at a date in Atlanta, and several audience members who left the show in anger are shown on camera telling Young and company what they can do with their war-bashing new tunes. It's hard to believe that anyone could show up at a CSNY concert and be surprised when political songs are performed, but that's fodder for a deeper discussion.
    Depth and poignancy are provided by soldiers like Darrell Anderson, who tells us he fled to Canada after one stint in Iraq because he was tired of "killing someone else's mom and sister." And another who survived the war, Josh Hisle, conveys his angst through music--Young, clearly impressed by the young man, joins him in an intimate acoustic run-through of one of his tunes, telling him afterward "what a great song" it is. It's a touching moment. All four members of CSN&Y show their age, of course, and Stills even takes a tumble at one point, but continues to play the guitar lying down. There's little trace of the destructive egoism the band is known for, however. They all agree with the mission of the tour, and David Crosby, though saying the operation is a "benevolent dictatorship" rather than a democracy, yields to Young's leadership by saying "he thinks about this stuff all the time." Indeed, Young shows a level of discipline throughout the movie that is sometimes missing from his albums. There are old clips of CSNY from the Vietnam era, performances from the new tour that effectively cut away to relevant interviews or news footage, and the steady hand of Young with his able assistant Cerre, showing you just how divisive this whole conflict has been, and how difficult the lot of the musician trying to discuss it. CSNY: Deja vu is truly a gripping, memorable documentary--adding yet another triumph to the creative resume of Young, one of today's most deservedly revered long-time rockers.

by Wallace Baine
Santa Cruz Sentinel
July 25, 2008
    The four boomer musical icons known collectively as CSNY want to get three things out of the way before you sit back and enjoy the new documentary "CSNY: Deja Vu."
    First off -- yes, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young are, to borrow the title of one of Neil's greatest hits, old men. And yes, trim and youthful Nash, by wearing his age gently enough to star in a Viagra ad, if he's ever that desperate, is making the others look kinda bad by comparison. The sooner you get past the wrinkle shock, the sooner you can enjoy the film.
    And, secondly, this is not a retrospective of the long career of one of the most durable musical partnerships of popular music history, weaving in and out of the public eye in a variety of alphabet-soup configurations for more than 40 years. Fans wanting the whole story from the heyday of "Almost Cut My Hair" to the present day may be disappointed.
    Lastly, this film couldn't be more political and anti-war if Cindy Sheehan were playing the drums. If that's your bag, Christmas just came early. If not, you might want to consider an evening of Parcheesi instead.
    "Deja Vu," also the name of the group's landmark 1970 album, is a documentary account of CSNY's 2006 "Freedom of Speech" tour across America, in which the four sought to galvanize a nation to halt the Iraq War against the backdrop of a crucial mid-term election year. Unfortunately, a lot of fans who just wanted to sing along with "Teach Your Children" had to deal with "Let's Impeach the President" instead.
    Give the film credit for a kind of bracing honesty. Now only does it acknowledge public furor over the group's political message by giving conservative fans space to vent, it confirms what we've always suspected about these guys: that, despite the hippie egalitarian ethic their strung-together names imply, CSNY is a benign dictatorship and the Dear Leader is indeed the provocative Mr. Young who is, under the pseudonym Bernard Shakey, the film's director.
    Essentially, this is not a concert film, but a bait-and-switch effort to shake American music fans out of their political complacency. Arrogant? You bet it is. When director Young goes off in various digressions, including profiles of a grieving Iraq-war mother, and a serviceman who's writing and performing songs on his feelings about the war, some audiences may resent what they've just been sold. There is some concert footage, but much of that is interspersed with audience reaction, most memorably in Atlanta, where concert-goers not down with Neil Young's politics show a little righteous and occasionally profanity-laced indignation to his cameras.
    On the other hand, the film does carry an inspiring kind of moral conviction. In a sense, a group like CSNY is in a no-win situation. Having embodied the anti-Vietnam flowering of youth culture, for these guys to ignore the Iraq War for fear of upsetting nostalgic baby boomers with disposable income would be a disgrace. Graham Nash gets to the heart of the passion of the group by pointing to the enormous portraits of those killed in Iraq projected behind the band during the old fave "Find the Cost of Freedom" and admits to turning around to gaze at the faces each night, in an effort to connect with the dead.
    For old-school fans of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, perhaps the most moving scene in the film comes near the end when the four old lions engage in a backstage group hug, each chattering about their love and admiration for the other three. Knowing the history of the band's legendary ego battles, the scene, however practiced, sends a signal that there comes a time when some performers outgrow their silly rock-star theatrics and come together as old comrades in one final campaign that means something more than who gets all the credit.

Movie review: The documentary "CSNY: Deja Vu" captures Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's 2006 "Freedom of Speech" tour. Director Neil Young mixes the band's music and his anti-war message without finding much commitment to either, which may be his point.
by Ted Fry
Seattle Times
July 25, 2008
2.5 stars, out of 4
    People who saw a gig on Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's 2006 "Freedom of Speech" tour might not have expected how much baggage the band was carrying. It wasn't just a film crew and an embedded journalist tagging along, it was a 40-year history of political debate.
    As directed by Neil Young (credited under his alter ego, Bernard Shakey), "CSNY: Deja Vu" documents the concerts and hoopla surrounding the iconic group as something of a cross between "Woodstock" and an episode of "20/20." The music is there -- grungy but potbellied and showing lots of gray roots -- and so is the politics, which also seems a little curmudgeonly all these years later.
    David Crosby is smiling when he says Neil Young is their "benevolent dictator," but there's no way the three other guys can generate much interest without him in tow. Young's interest with the tour and the film was solely in showcasing his album "Living With War" and getting his 21st-century anti-war message to the masses -- many of whom couldn't care less about anything important he might have to say.
    There are some segments featuring music from the shows, although this is decidedly not a concert film. It's also not as personal a look at the workings of modern artistic activism as Young may have intended. Along with his own cameras, Young brought along former ABC correspondent Mike Cerre to cover the boys on the tour bus and stops along the road -- much the way Cerre might have done when he reported from Afghanistan and Iraq.
    The results are more like human-interest pieces about the dinosaur eggs of a '60s legacy that aren't getting hatched anymore. People don't seem to be bothered, which Young just can't understand.
    Interspersed with Cerre's updates, Young cuts together talking-head interviews with his band mates and various outsiders who have their own voices on war. He also has fun with many audiences who have settled in for an oldies-heavy CSNY concert, only to be turned off by the overt message of "Living With War." An Atlanta show generates some particularly bad feelings when the band starts singing the happy refrain of "Let's Impeach the President."
    The movie is peppered with Young's sly drollery, and he's careful not to be dogmatic about his music, CSNY's legacy or his frustration about the lack of an activist culture. "CSNY: Deja Vu" might have packed a stronger punch with more commitment to both the music and the message.

Performance pieces intercut with man-on-the-street reactions
by Scott Galupo
Washington Times
July 25, 2008
    "CSNY Deja Vu" had all the fixings of an exercise in boomer vanity and hippie preening: Fat, balding, graying rockers recapture the spirit of the '60s, apply it to a new generation and another foreign war. Gas up the bus. Turn on the cameras. Add water, stir.
    Yet because Neil Young is a genuine populist who has always kept a healthy distance from effete New Left radicalism, the movie, which he directed under his "Bernard Shakey" nom-de-cinema, is more reflective than self-congratulatory, and as amusing as it is provocative.
    For all of its indignation at the Bush administration and the war in Iraq, "CSNY" asks some tough questions about David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Mr. Young as they set out on their 2006 "Freedom of Speech" tour.
    Like: Is it right to make millions from what Mr. Stills calls a "political cartoon" when that money could be going to antiwar candidates' coffers? Can our vaudeville act live up to the nobility of the soldiers and dead soldiers' mothers in whose name we're supposed to be protesting?
    And do we physically still have what it takes to do this?
    Early on, Mr. Stills takes an ignominious tumble onstage in Toronto, pridefully refusing a hand-up from a roadie.
    Come what may, it seems the old boys are going to go down singing.
    The group clearly settles into a musical groove, even as it grapples with the implications of its larger mission. Mr. Young and editor Mark Faulkner happily deviate from standard-issue tour documentation. "CSNY's" performance pieces are intercut with man-on-the-street reactions gathered by journalist Mike Cerre, who had been an embedded television reporter in Iraq.
    After smooth receptions from Canadians and blue-staters, such songs as "Let's Impeach the President" provoke a counterprotest, if you will, from a shut-up-and-sing faction in Atlanta. A few shout expletives and raise their middle fingers. A few others walk out.
    But as long as the set-list cocktail is cut with "Southern Cross" and other CSNY hits, most seem happy; many are plainly moved. When the group begins meeting actual veterans, from Iraq and Vietnam alike, the tour and the movie find their validation.
    "CSNY" has its annoying tics. There's at least one too many bucolic prairie highway scenes, and I still can't figure out why a bottle of Fiji water was blotted out, but Mr. Nash's XM Satellite Radio T-shirt is proudly displayed.
    Worse, the centerpiece of the '06 tour was Mr. Young's "Living With War," which, even in retrospect, is not a very good album.
    But Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young remains one of rock's greatest partnerships, and it's heartening to see them hanging onto a remnant of relevance.

by Steven Rea
Philadelphia Inquirer
July 25, 2008
    It's not the Dixie Chicks, this movie about a popular band spouting off against a president and his war. CSNY: Deja Vu features, as one wag calls 'em, "four balding hippie millionaires" - '60s music icons David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young, on the road in 2006 and railing against George Bush, Dick Cheney, and the U.S.-led invasion into Iraq.
    With Young in the driver's seat (it's "a benevolent dictatorship," explains Crosby, and "Neil is in charge"), the senior citizens of CSN&Y took to the tour bus, singing songs with such subtle titles as "Shock and Awe" and "Let's Impeach the President." The reaction from fans wasn't always supportive. When the Living With War tour rolled into Atlanta and the group kicked in with the Bush-bashing tunes, boos and curses erupted. The camera captures a few of the more disgruntled ticket buyers as they angrily quit the arena. These folks had come for an evening of soothing '60s nostalgia, and got a political sermon instead.
    But Young and company make the point that they were always political, singing songs of protest against the war in Vietnam and the shootings at Kent State.
    CSNY: Deja Vu was directed by Young, using his nom de film Bernard Shakey, and he's no Barbara Kopple (the Oscar-winning director of Shut Up and Sing, the Dixie Chicks documentary). Young's idea to "embed" a former ABC war correspondent, Mike Cerre, on the tour seems like a bad joke at first, particularly as Cerre starts to draw dramatic analogies between a music supergroup's road trip and a U.S. military mission into hostile lands.
    But Cerre finds Iraq war veterans in the concert crowds, and as Young - er, Shakey - shifts the focus from himself and his bandmates to several of these veterans, the film achieves a level of unexpected power and poignancy.
    CSNY: Deja Vu *** (Out of four stars)

CSNY: Deja Vu: B
by Joe Williams
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
July 25, 2008
    Attention, Woodstock generation: If you want to teach your children that they can carry on without getting wasted on the way, introduce them to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
    This documentary, directed by Neil Young under his pseudonym Bernard Shakey, follows the folk-rockers on their 2006 Freedom of Speech Tour, whose explicit anti-war message shocked many fans while awing others.
    Although the presence of a network reporter and interviews with angry walkouts suggest a four-way street of balanced debate, this is ultimately a rallying cry for helplessly hoping peaceniks.
    David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash have solo careers and have performed as a trio since 1969, but Stills says that when Young joins them, he's the benevolent dictator. Young organized this tour to coincide with the midterm elections and to promote his impassioned solo album, "Living With War." His band mates' compliance denies us much insight into their individual personalities or collective place in pop culture.
    This is Young's show, from the video backdrops that include portraits of the American war dead to the "embedding" of former ABC news reporter Mike Cerre as the tour correspondent.
    Like the TV journalists in Iraq, Cerre gives the illusion of hard-news reporting but leaves us needing to know more. In offstage sidebars, we meet many soldiers and politicians who oppose the war, but few who defend it.
    There are entertaining sound bites when angry fans storm out of an Atlanta show during the song "Let's Impeach the President," but we never learn what percentage of the audience they represent. And most importantly, because Cerre doesn't subject Young to tough questioning, we can't assess the level of knowledge and reflection behind his satirical outrage.
    The movie does quote both positive and negative reviews of the pricey concerts, but it might have been more interesting to hear Young debating with disaffected fans about the role of an "oldies" band in times of crisis -- and corporate control.
    Young, of course, would say that it's better to burn out than it is to rust. And for what it's worth, he's still burning like a dark star of hard truth.

"CSNY: Deja Vu" tracks the band
by Ann Hornaday
Washington Post
July 24 2008
    During the Vietnam War, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young created some of the best protest songs of that era, including "Ohio" and "For What It's Worth." As the title "CSNY: Deja Vu" suggests, they have found themselves just as provoked and creatively stoked by the Iraq war, if with perhaps less memorable musical results. This progressively more engaging documentary, directed by Neil Young under the pseudonym Bernard Shakey, chronicles the band's "Freedom of Speech" tour in 2006, when the members reunited to play songs from Young's "Living With War" record, as well as some old standards.
    One of the great strengths of "CSNY" is how skillfully it deflects criticism of "four balding hippie millionaires" taking to the stage to criticize American politics; the film is peppered with excerpts from some of the tour's earliest and nastiest critics. It's an utterly disarming move, so by the time the band reaches Atlanta, headquarters of the anti-Dixie Chicks movement, the viewing audience is completely on its side. (Not so much the concert audience, one-third of which walks out when they start "Let's Impeach the President.")
    Less successful is Young's choice to have newsman Mike Cerre "embed" with the tour and narrate the film as a reporter; the result feels canned and overly fawning. But when the musicians begin to make contact with veterans of the Vietnam and Iraq wars, their abiding emotional connection with veterans of both conflicts is palpable and deeply moving. They might be balding hippies, but CSNY still matter. For what it's worth.

'CSNY' a harmonious mix of music, interviews, history
by Mark Brown
Rocky Mountain News
July 24, 2008
Grade: B+
    Savvy filmgoers know what to expect when a movie is directed by Bernard Shakey (the name used by Neil Young when he dabbles in film). Sometimes it's iconic concert films such as Rust Never Sleeps and Weld. Or else it's quirky, for- the-hard-cores-only exercises like Journey Through the Past and Greendale.
    This is a bit of both. It has plenty of music, but it's not a concert film. It has plenty of interviews and historical footage, but it's not a biopic.
    Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young toured the U.S. in 2006 singing Young's politically charged Living With War songs along with other antiwar tracks from their catalog, including Military Madness and Ohio. Knowing the controversy that awaited them, Young hired Iraq correspondent Mike Cerre to talk to fans on all sides of the issue.
    The film is filled with interviews with pro and con fans, some passionately agreeing with Young's antiwar stance, others using extreme vulgarities to denounce the songs and political slant of the shows. CSNY Live is a snapshot of a nation polarized.
    It all blows up at an Atlanta concert, where CSNY rip into the most politically slanted song of the tour: Let's Impeach the President for Lying. In an instant, the mood turns and the good vibes left by Southern Cross turn to raised middle fingers.
    The politics and war images make it hard at times to simply enjoy the music, but it has transcendent moments. Stephen Stills' live work has had its ups and downs, but in recent years he's honed his guitar licks back to peak form. Young generously gives him far more screen time than he gives himself, laying back and playing rhythm while Stills simply shines. The guitar chemistry between the two is the best it's ever been.
    The film has lighter moments, including lines from reviewers making fun of their ages and footage of Stills falling at a Toronto concert after tripping over a stage light.
    Young digs into the vaults for vintage footage including David Crosby and Graham Nash playing Deju Vu on two guitars in a dressing room in 1970 and other old interview and performance footage.
    A good bit of footage is filmed at the Red Rocks show, with former Daily Camera reviewer Mike Cote's quip included: "Four balding hippie millionaires might not be able to save the world, but their commitment to ideals they first championed during the Vietnam War underscores how a band that made Deju Vu a radio hit doesn't have to settle for nostalgia." That's juxtaposed with a particularly clueless line from a Los Angeles reviewer.
    With interviews with vets and sympathy for the troops and their struggle, the film tries to explain why the band did the tour. Young's talk about the song Ohio is a highlight: "For years I couldn't sing it, because I felt I was kinda taking advantage of something that happened and we were trading on somebody's misfortunes for us to be successful and for us to give the audience a kind of rush of nostalgia or something for this thing. In this period of time, that doesn't apply. What it is now is, it's a history. We're bringing history back. That's what folk music does." It cuts from vintage footage of Ohio to clips from '06, focusing on a woman singing in the audience, her eyes wide and welling with tears.
    For fans it's a rare look into the complex relationships among the four band members, with Young in particular letting down his guard. Toward the end of the tour, he humbly and sincerely thanks CSN for doing the tour and performing his new music, telling them, "I could never do this without you guys."
    "We believe in your music," Crosby replies.
    "We surely believe in your music," Nash says.
    "We got your back, buddy," Stills chimes in.

CSNY's concert film is a potent but oddly focused antiwar documentary that upsets some.
by Jon Bream
Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune
July 24, 2008
** 1/2 out of 4 stars
    I cry at movies. Sappy songs make me cringe, but sentimental movies cause me to tear up. I'd be ideal for a test audience for the Hallmark Channel.
    To my surprise, I pulled out my hankie twice during "CSNY/Deja Vu," the new documentary about Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's 2006 concert tour. I wasn't getting misty-eyed for "Wooden Ships," "Teach Your Children" or other nostalgic songs.
    My eyes got wet when a California single mom talked about losing her son in the Iraq war to friendly fire. Tears of joy ran down my cheek after seeing a young Marine from Ohio play his punkish songs on acoustic guitar for his fellow soliders in Iraq and later perform them in a U.S. hotel room for an audience of one -- Neil Young, who raved about the serviceman's songwriting.
    "Deja Vu" is more an antiwar documentary than a behind-the-scenes rockumentary about an aging quartet of liberal hippies. Using the pseudonym Bernard Shakey, Young directed this 96-minute movie. He also was the instigator of CSNY's scathingly antiwar Freedom of Speech Tour in 2006 that featured his rip-roaring, Bush-bashing "Living With War" album.
    Young is no Michael Moore. This is a powerful but oddly focused film. At first, it takes you backstage and on the bus with the balding boys in the band. Our guide is longtime TV war correspondent Mike Cerre, who is "embedded" with the band, just as he has been embedded five times with U.S. troops in Iraq.
    There is hardly anything revelatory about CSNY. The best stuff is seeing them out of their musical element, such as Stephen Stills campaigning for Democratic congressional candidates during his time off on the road and Young meeting with a group of war veterans.
    As expected, there are some potent musical moments onstage, especially the new and old antiwar songs. The pivotal piece is "Let's Impeach the President," which causes a ruckus in Atlanta. A conservative talk-radio host disses CSNY, and a series of fans express their vitriolic displeasure at being barraged with anti-Bush messages at an entertainment event.
    Watching concertgoers flip the bird at the band and stalk out during the performance of "Impeach" really heightens the tension. Southern men don't need Young around. Interviews with these ticked-off music lovers show just how divided our country is.
    Too bad all this conflict comes too late in the film. It might have seemed manipulative to inject this controversy earlier, but, frankly, it's the only real surprise in "Deja Vu." Otherwise, when you watch the rest of the movie, you probably realize that we have all been here before.

by Jim Harrington
Oakland Tribune
July 24, 2008
    Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's first two reunion tours of the new millennium, in 2000 and 2002, were all about playing the hits and showing fans a good time.
    The vocal quartet took a different approach with its third road show, 2006's Freedom of Speech Tour, which was built on a strong anti-war stance and not-so-subtle political messages like the song "Let's Impeach the President."
    The fascinating, controversial tour, which drew both cheers and jeers from fans, is now the subject of the new documentary "CSNY: Deja Vu." "In this show, we've broken some rules," CSNY's Neil Young says of the tour early in the film. "Our responsibility to the audience is no longer to make the audience feel fuzzy, warm feelings at the end of the show. The responsibility of this show is to make the audience feel -- period."
    The band, which also includes David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, certainly accomplished that during the tour's stop at Concord's Sleep Train Pavilion on July 25, 2006. In my review of that concert I wrote, "(CSNY's) mission was to carry a message, provide some food for thought and, most significantly, make fans feel something. All of those things happened at this show."
    Directed by Young under his film nom de plume, Bernard Shakey, "Deja Vu" contains plenty of concert footage to illustrate the tour's political nature. We see the men singing anti-war anthems, both new and old, and witness the show's more theatrical elements, like the yellow ribbon tied around the giant microphone stand and the video screen showing the faces of American soldiers killed during the Iraq war.
    Some of the band's performances are outstanding -- most notably, the fretboard fireworks by Stills and San Mateo County's Young -- yet the music isn't really the film's main selling point. What's most fascinating is the public's reaction to the music and the message as "Deja Vu" follows the group during its cross-country trip.
    Some people at CSNY's Concord date complained that the political content of the show detracted from their enjoyment of the music. That outcry was but a whisper compared to the ruckus greeting the band during some of its tour stops.
    Footage from a gig in Atlanta shows one concert-goer chiming in "That was the worst concert I've ever been to!" while another tosses a threat in Young's direction: "I'd like to knock his (expletive) teeth out." Those are the kinds of opposing voices heard in "Deja Vu," while those of CSNY's supporters come across as articulate and well-founded.
    Although that disparity detracts from the movie, making "Deja Vu" feel too much like a one-sided argument, it's hardly surprising -- Young didn't make the picture to sway people to Bush's side.
    What the film does right is connecting the band's recent political activism with its storied past and making people understand why CSNY decided to take on the battle.
    "The only time that songwriters should react to stuff that is going on is when they are absolutely moved to do so, when it just smacks them in the face and they've got to react," Crosby says in the film.
    CSNY lived through the Vietnam era and served as the voice of a generation for many. In 2006, the four Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famers looked at what was going on in Iraq and felt the sense of deja vu was too strong to ignore. Fortunately, they knew just what they could do about it -- stand up, sing out and exercise their freedom of speech.

by George Varga
San Diego Union-Tribune
July 24, 2008
    There is a heart-wrenching scene in "CSNY: Deja Vu" that should cause most viewers to choke up, regardless of whether they support or oppose our polarized country's involvement in the war in Iraq.
    It comes as Karen Meredith watches Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY) perform Stills' war-inspired 1970 lament "Find the Cost of Freedom" at a 2006 Bay Area concert during the band's controversial "Freedom of Speech" tour. The graying vocal quartet's stirring singing is accompanied by a series of head shots of each of the several thousand American casualties in Iraq. The photos of the dead are projected, row after row, on a large screen at the rear of the stage.
    The anguish on Meredith's face as she watches for a glimpse of her slain son, U.S. Army Lt. Ken Ballard, is almost unbearable. And that is precisely the point.
    The cost of war, no matter how many billions of dollars fuel it, is ultimately a human one. That's why this film -- part concert documentary, part political commentary, part human drama -- often focuses on the loss of life, along with the shattered psyche of our war-torn nation and (by extension) that of the Iraqi people.
    Directed by Neil Young under the nom de plume Bernard Shakey, "Deja Vu" takes its title from CSNY's 1970 album of the same name, as well as from the tragic echoes of the Vietnam war now reverberating so loudly in Iraq and here at home.
    The tour's impetus was Young's 2006 album, "Living With War," which features such provocative songs as "Let's Impeach the President" and "Shock and Awe." (To ensure his message was heard by a large audience, he made the album available free for downloading on the Internet.)
    But Young doesn't ignore opposing voices, including that of bandmate Stills, who early in the film calls the tour "a political cartoon." Stills then adds: "But listen to the song, perhaps it will change your mind."
    Excerpts are read from scathing newspaper reviews of shows on the 32-city tour, as well as from more favorable write-ups. Some of the concertgoers who appear on camera support CSNY for forcefully speaking out with music, as the band did during the Vietnam war. Others mince no words in conveying their outrage.
    This holds especially true at an Atlanta concert. After enthusiastically singing along to Stills' apolitical 1982 song "Southern Cross," droves of fans storm out during Young's "Let's Impeach the President." Nearly all are outspoken in expressing their anger, some with obscene words and gestures.
    "I want to hear (CSNY's) music, not their political opinions," snaps one swiftly departing man, who apparently never paid attention to the lyrics of "Ohio," "Military Madness," "Long Time Gone," "Chicago" and other vintage classics that CSNY's members have done together or on their own albums. (Young, coming off stage at the Atlanta concert, says: "I thought it went good. We heard a lot of boos, but probably not any more than at Irvine.")
    The film's serious message is offset by periodic humor, not all of it intentional.
    In one especially inane scene, an "interviewer" for TV's "Showbiz Tonight" breathlessly says to Young: "You have one song called 'Let's Impeach the President.' What is this song about?"
    Young's answer (if he even bothered to respond) goes unseen, the better to quickly refocus on the wounded heart and soul of this fractured nation.

by Dan Bennett
North County Times
July 23, 2008
    In an interview with television host Steven Colbert, rocker Neil Young explained why he was motivated to put the old band back together for a traveling show decrying the war in Iraq: "I waited until I was 60, then I just couldn't wait anymore."
    "CSNY Deja Vu," directed by Young under a pseudonym, chronicles a 2006 tour featuring multiple new songs from Young and longtime on-and-off bandmates David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, all of the tunes expressing anger concerning the war, and a plainly spoken call for peace. The deja vu in the title refers not only to the CSNY anthem, but also to the fact that the band expressed similar sentiments almost 40 years ago concerning the war in Vietnam.
    The documentary merges archival footage of the band's heyday with images from the tour, interviews with journalists, military veterans and fans ---- and plenty of commentary. The songs and words repeatedly express outrage at the political machinations of the war, and support and hope for those who are fighting overseas. Most audience members roar with approval ---- others react with seething anger concerning what they hear from the band.
    The result is a spirited and typically fearless self-portrait of the aging rockers, still blending flawless harmonies with plaintive statements.

A rock tour turns into a political statement
by Richard von Busack
Silicon Valley Metro
July 23, 2008
    IF YOU go to see CSNY: Deja Vu, a film by Neil Young done under the pseudonym "Bernard Shakey," you might expect the worst: the self-congratulations and navel-gazing of late-harvest musicians hitting the road. You would be wrong. Made in collaboration with longtime war correspondent Mike Cerre, CSNY: Deja Vu is more concerned with the audience than with performers Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Graham Nash and Young. Interviewees here include Mountain View's Karen Meredith, a Gold Star mother whose continuing story has been covered in Metro; (
    The documentary follows the group on its Freedom of Speech Tour. One of the stops focuses on congressional candidate and wounded vet Tammy Duckworth during her campaign for Henry Hyde's vacant seat in Illinois. And the concert footage is interrupted with a gathering of Iraq veterans in Colorado. Vet and protest singer Josh Hisle performs his Internet hit "A Traitor's Death." One of the most elating bits of music in this documentary is Hisle's on-camera jam with Young and his trusty acoustic guitar.
    CSN&Y court trouble during their "Freedom of Speech 2006" tour in the summer of midterm elections. At this point, a good deal of the United States was still insisting that loose lips encouraged Al Qaeda. What a difference a couple of years makes. As a director, Young had a choice to make between showing his band coalescing, getting stronger along the tour, or else watching how a divided America functioned. I think he made the right choice by following the audience. The musicians are the first to admit that the band is stiff as a board in early dates. Those who loved CSN&Y the first time might not have known the truth behind Stills' joke: "[Neil] is Tony Orlando, and we're Dawn."
    As ringleader, Young leads the tour through a battering by AM radio pundits who are still chortling over the way they had put the screws to the Dixie Chicks. On TV, America's last line of defense, Stephen Colbert, is ready to ask tough questions about this geriatric antiwar racket. Grilling Young, he snaps, "Is it just you, or is it the entire AARP?"
    The richest part of CSNY: Deja Vu comes in the scenes of the Atlanta show, where booing, outraged fans walk away from their $200 seats because the band performs a song called "Let's Impeach the President [for Lying]." The song is pretty bad from a musical point of view. Then again, so is "We Shall Overcome," also written for ease in mass singing.
    In the exit aisle, one furious young Atlanta male makes what he supposes is a sardonic gesture: thanking the band profusely for the show while tearing up his tickets on-camera. Another squinting, wobbly elder rages against CSN&Y daring to speak out from the stage. Sympathy: zero. If I had a couple hundred bucks to spend on a concert, I would know a little about the band I was going to see. And I wouldn't presume that the composers of "Ohio," "Wooden Ships" and "For What It's Worth" to come out and warble "Teach Your Children" when those self-same children were getting shot up overseas.
    By the time the band heads West to the glorious Red Rocks amphitheater in Denver, the members are functioning like the band they once were; they've transcended the hippie narcissism they've always been accused of over the years.

Reviewed: CSNY: Deja Vu
by Tricia Olszewski
Washington City Paper
July 23, 2008
CSNY: Deja Vu
Directed by Neil Young
    Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young are not now, nor have they ever been, the Backstreet Boys. So in Neil Young's documentary CSNY: Deja 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: Deja 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."

by Ed Symkus
GateHouse News Service
July 23, 2008
Boston --
    Film director Bernard Shakey was angry. He was fed up with the Bush administration and its disregard of human rights, the environment, the deficit ... the list goes on. But he was most upset about Iraq, about the immoral, illegal and very deadly folly that was Bush's war in Iraq. He decided to make a film that showed how others felt about the same issues, and he would do it with music at its center. Music, after all, was something that Bernard Shakey knew even more about than filmmaking. Bernard Shakey is better known as Neil Young.
    Yet one of the first things heard -- off-camera -- in Young's documentary about the 2006 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young "Freedom of Speech" concert tour is the sound of people putting him and his fellow protestors down, accusing them of being traitors.
    Talk about offering up a balance of opinions! Young's film works on a variety of levels. There are large chunks of songs being performed at concerts all over the country by Young and his 60-something compatriots -- new songs from his terrific "Living with War" album as well as some good old CSNY staples -- and there are voices, lots of reactionary voices, from members of the audiences. Some of them offer support; others call for Young's head. Young wanted to know what America thought of his opinions of Bush and the war, and by golly, they told him. His songs may speak strongly against the man who will go down as the worst, most harmful president in American history, but his film doesn't take sides.
    He enlisted war correspondent and former soldier Mike Cerre to tag along on the tour and interview all kinds of people, knowing full well that even George Bush supporters love popular music. And CSNY has long been out there creating popular music, so he knew that both sides would be represented at the concerts.
    There's also lots of quality time on the tour bus, where other iconic members of the band get their say; and there's plenty of old footage -- a dressing room rehearsal in 1970, brief clips of CSNY's old bands: Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, the Hollies. But the majority of this is what happens both onstage and in the audience (and after the shows) during the 2006 tour.
    Young reveals at one point that the responsibility of the show is simply to make the audience feel. That's one goal that's accomplished with ease, but it's not always a pretty sight. Cerre notes that concerts in the blue states went pretty well, but that he had some concern about a couple of upcoming red state appearances. Then the tour bus arrives in Atlanta, where the band breaks into the happy-sounding but quite furious "Let's Impeach the President." This is where Young gets that variety of reactions he was hoping for. Some of the folks in that audience sing along, their hands waving happily. Others just get up and walk out, emitting a few loud boos, their middle fingers directed toward the stage as they leave. It's a remarkable sequence, and it shows the awful divide that still plagues our country.
    Amazingly, the film never sits still. There's slightly more music than anything else -- a hot version of Nash's "Military Madness," with Young ripping out a signature solo; a deeply moving performance of Stills' "Find the Cost of Freedom," made even more poignant by the accompanying photos of soldiers who were killed in action behind the singers.
    But there's plenty more, ranging from frightening war footage to clips of Young jockeying with Stephen Colbert during a hilarious appearance on "The Colbert Report." Young also peppers the film with snippets of concert reviews from around the country, showing them on the screen while unseen voices read from them. Again, most are positive, but many are vehemently negative -- about the band's political statements, not the music.
    In fact, the music near the beginning of the tour is quite ragged, but as it goes on, the guitar playing gets better and the vocal harmonies get tighter. And then it comes pouring forth: anti-war, pro-peace songs, some of them of an anthemic nature.
    Of course, between the songs, we're as apt to get interviewees making comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam as we are to hear Graham Nash complaining, "We may be preaching to the choir, but I'd like the choir to get up off their ass and do something."
    "CSNY/Deja Vu" isn't at all like the gentle Neil Young concert film "Heart of Gold," nor is it reminiscent of the similar "Leonard Cohen: I' m Your Man." It's closer in style to the Bush-related Dixie Chicks documentary "Shut Up & Sing" -- but of much wider musical and political scope and substance. It could really make some waves in America. Too bad it didn't come along sooner.

A rock tour turns into a political statement
by Richard von Busack
Silicon Valley Metro
July 23, 2008
    If you go to see CSNY: Deja Vu, a film by Neil Young done under the pseudonym "Bernard Shakey," you might expect the worst: the self-congratulations and navel-gazing of late-harvest musicians hitting the road. You would be wrong. Made in collaboration with longtime war correspondent Mike Cerre, CSNY: Deja Vu is more concerned with the audience than with performers Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Graham Nash and Young. Interviewees here include Mountain View's Karen Meredith, a Gold Star mother whose continuing story has been covered in Metro; (
    The documentary follows the group on its Freedom of Speech Tour. One of the stops focuses on congressional candidate and wounded vet Tammy Duckworth during her campaign for Henry Hyde's vacant seat in Illinois. And the concert footage is interrupted with a gathering of Iraq veterans in Colorado. Vet and protest singer Josh Hisle performs his Internet hit "A Traitor's Death." One of the most elating bits of music in this documentary is Hisle's on-camera jam with Young and his trusty acoustic guitar.
    CSN&Y court trouble during their "Freedom of Speech 2006" tour in the summer of midterm elections. At this point, a good deal of the United States was still insisting that loose lips encouraged Al Qaeda. What a difference a couple of years makes. As a director, Young had a choice to make between showing his band coalescing, getting stronger along the tour, or else watching how a divided America functioned. I think he made the right choice by following the audience. The musicians are the first to admit that the band is stiff as a board in early dates. Those who loved CSN&Y the first time might not have known the truth behind Stills' joke: "[Neil] is Tony Orlando, and we're Dawn."
    As ringleader, Young leads the tour through a battering by AM radio pundits who are still chortling over the way they had put the screws to the Dixie Chicks. On TV, America's last line of defense, Stephen Colbert, is ready to ask tough questions about this geriatric antiwar racket. Grilling Young, he snaps, "Is it just you, or is it the entire AARP?"
    The richest part of CSNY: Deja Vu comes in the scenes of the Atlanta show, where booing, outraged fans walk away from their $200 seats because the band performs a song called "Let's Impeach the President [for Lying]." The song is pretty bad from a musical point of view. Then again, so is "We Shall Overcome," also written for ease in mass singing.
    In the exit aisle, one furious young Atlanta male makes what he supposes is a sardonic gesture: thanking the band profusely for the show while tearing up his tickets on-camera. Another squinting, wobbly elder rages against CSN&Y daring to speak out from the stage. Sympathy: zero. If I had a couple hundred bucks to spend on a concert, I would know a little about the band I was going to see. And I wouldn't presume that the composers of "Ohio," "Wooden Ships" and "For What It's Worth" to come out and warble "Teach Your Children" when those self-same children were getting shot up overseas.
    By the time the band heads West to the glorious Red Rocks amphitheater in Denver, the members are functioning like the band they once were; they've transcended the hippie narcissism they've always been accused of over the years.

by Prairie Miller
News Blaze
July 19, 2008
3 stars
    Not nearly as much about entertainment as conviction, famed anti-war '60s, sixty-ish folk rockers Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young are a rare breed these days. Unlike say, The Stones, who fretfully cultivate a fantasy agelessness in order to stay current, as caught by Martin Scorsese in the music doc, Shine A Light.
    CSNY Deja Vu by contrast, is more interested in focusing on the darkness of our times, and sustained celebrity body image is a concept that band could care less about. In other words, call me stuff like geriatric and bloated - as various malice-minded talking head reporters do in the movie - but whatever you do, don't diss my peace activism.
    Musician/filmmaker Neil Young, alias Bernard Shakey, directs himself and the group unself-consciously and obliviously jamming away with an utterly refreshing, disheveled and paunchy lack of personal vanity, to the tune of their own collective musical nirvana on stage during their 2006 cross-country Freedom Of Speech Tour. The legendary group reassembled for this combo creative and political mission, to respond as performers to the brutal Iraq conflict. Young also mixes and matches this energized collaboration with dynamic and gritty CSNY greatest hits '70's concert footage.
    And that jarring contrast between this tale of two concert sensibilities, becomes all too apparent. While the stinging anti-war rhetoric of CSNY's musical mobilization against the Vietnam War stirred their young followers down emotional and activist paths in passionate unison, to say the least, the response of frequently irate concertgoers nearly four decades later who showed up to be entertained not educated, is verbally nasty enough to have earned this doc an R rating.
    And it's to CSNY's credit that they don't hold back on filming any of it for the sake of cosmetic spin, which correlates completely with the band's homespun honesty, however unwelcoming by some. On the contrary, these hostile incidents in the film spur the group to even more dedicated determination to the difficult task at hand. And Young's reaction to the bitter response to their anti-war message is simply, 'we're not here to make people feel warm, fuzzy feelings, but to feel. Period.'
    Not that CSNY is in any way too stubborn or proud to evolve with the times, though in their own unique way. They've incorporated a resounding chorus of young voices into the mix as accompaniment, as well as former marine and now hugely CSNY-inspired folk/protest musician for his own generation, Josh Hisle. There's also on hand at these concerts to infuse the proceedings with a impassioned verbal eloquence, Gold Star Mother Karen Meredith, a single mom whose son, Ken Ballard, was killed in Iraq. Her grief for her child and by extension a nation, to the musical backdrop of CSNY's rekindled Find The Cost Of Freedom, is not a scene in the film that's easy to ignore, no matter what your political persuasion.
    Urged on to connect to their audiences, however resistant, and 'it should be a cause that smacks you in the face,' CSNY fires up this rousing rockumentary - in contrast to the frivolous obsessions of your basic fame junkie - and the camera's rough cut tendencies not withstanding. And while the movie gets it that the Internet is the magical inter-generational missing link discovery between 'men returned from one war and those going off to another,' CSNY jubilation mounting ever steadily in the film, also clearly lies in the sense of creative rejuvenation that 'made us believe in ourselves again.'
    Neil Young's website Living With War Today serves as an open gathering, performing and listening space for aspiring musicians singing about war and peace. Living With War Today is online at:

by Tom Huddleston
Time Out London
July 10, 2008
Time Out rating ****
    Neil Young took longtime partners-in-protest Crosby, Stills & Nash out on the road before 2006's midterm elections. They performed songs from Young's anti-Bush folk-metal tirade 'Living with War' and other agit-pop classics from their catalogue. The results are detailed in this rough-around-the-edges road doc directed by Young under his regular nom de film, Bernard Shakey.
    To date, Shakey's output has been hit and miss. So it comes as something of a surprise to discover that this is not just competent but, for the first hour at least, one of the finest music documentaries in recent memory. It expertly balances electrifying concert footage and self-mocking backstage (and onstage) mishaps with ABC News correspondent Michael Cerre's 'embedded' reports.The highlight comes as the tour leaves the north-eastern seaboard and ventures into redneck territory, where the lyrics for Young's 'Let's Impeach the President' spark a tirade of verbal reproach and mass walkouts. Young's response is typically laconic - a half smile, a shrug and a sense that this was exactly what he wanted to happen.
    The fun dries up as the focus shifts to explore the lives of people affected by the war. But if, as affable walrus David Crosby asserts, the purpose of good art is to make its audience feel something, anything, then for the majority of its running time this is a resounding success.

by Michael Bonner
February 12, 2008
    There's a moment during CSNY: Deja Vu, Neil Young's document of the supergroup's 2006 Freedom Of Speech tour, when one furious ticket holder outside the Philips Arena, Atlanta spits: "Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young can suck my fucking dick!"
    Atlanta is a Republican heartland, a "red state", and many at the show seem unwilling to accept CSNY as politically engaged firebrands, particularly when the lyrics to "Impeach The President" - "Let's impeach the President for lying and misleading our country into war" - are displayed on giant video screens behind the band.
    As the camera crew attract similarly vitriolic comments from other disgruntled punters - one report suggests almost a third of the audience have walked out - I'm left wondering quite what these people expected from CSNY. They are, after all, a band with a lengthy track record of political activism, caught up in the anti-Vietnam movement (as we're reminded in archive footage dotted throughout the film), while the Freedom Of Speech tour is coming off the back of Young's Living With War album, arguably the most overtly political record in his career.
    But perhaps, to a lot of those people who stormed out of the Philips Arena, CSNY are now no different from a host of other bands on the enormodome circuit. All Greatest Hits packages, an easy, nostalgic stroll down memory lane, folks expecting those intricate harmonies and some choice FM radio cuts to sing along to, the memories of "Ohio" and "Find The Cost Of Freedom" presumably strategically airbrushed from memory.
    Anyway, this section - as the band circle round the American south - seems to me to be the most intriguing part of the film. It's interesting just how far from their counterculture roots people seem to think CSNY have strayed over the years, as if age, expanding waistlines, receding hairlines and multi-millionaire status somehow precludes them from having political opinions anymore. Earlier in the film, we see CSNY play places like New York and other left-leaning, Democratic strongholds where their sentiments are widely supported; but down south, they're on something approximating a front line, raising a shitstorm of controversy.
    Apparently, during those dates in the south, there were bomb-sniffing dogs at the shows and guards outside Young's hotel room (though footage of this, if it was ever filmed, never makes it into the film). "It was the most hair-raising, nerve-wracking, terrible experience," he's said.
    In fact, driven by Young, the whole band seems galvanised by their latest mission, even if Stephen Stills does express doubts about the enterprise early on. We see home movie footage of Young in what looks like his living room, writing and recording the whole Living With War album in nine days. Snippets from chat shows, with a friendly, laid-back Young chatting amiably about bringing down Bush and his opposition to the war in Iraq. We hear from Crosby and Nash, all very on-message with Young; Stills, also, before too long. If I have a fault with the film, I'd like to have seen more of the offstage dynamic between the band. There's some interesting footage of Young, his arm round Stills' shoulders, gently cajoling him, almost like an elder brother affectionately ribbing a younger sibling. When you consider the often-fractious history the two men have had, you want to know a little more about where their relationship is currently at, and by extension the rapport between the four of them when off duty.
    At this point, the film pretty much changes course. CSNY had taken on the road with them a former Vietnam veteran turned ABC news correspondent Michael Cerre, who'd covered the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and was now embedded with the band, out filming the audience responses during the shows and the accompanying backstage footage. He also catches up with some of the servicemen and women he'd met in the field, all of them now firmly opposed to the war, some of them disabled, for what feels like the human interest strand in a current affairs' programme. For instance, we meet Vets For Vets - not, sadly, the animal medical profession offering succour to the good servicemen and women of the US military, but a support group run by Vietnam veterans for soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq as they readjust to life after the horrors of war. It's occasionally pretty moving viewing, Cerre never letting the material slip into sanctimonious tub-thumping.
    Initially, there's something fairly schizophrenic, then, about CSNY: Deja Vu, as it morphs from concert film to human interest documentary. But by dwelling on the lives of the veterans affected by the conflict, Young and Cerre make explicit the connection between the material and its roots in the War on Terror.
    CSNY: Deja Vu opens in the UK this Spring

by Evan Handler
Huffington Post
January 30, 2008
    I've just completed trips to two large-scale American trade shows. The first was CES, the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. The second was the 2008 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Desert heat/mountain snow. Neon lights/moonshadow. Anything you want 24 hours a day/last call before 1 a.m. Sin City/Mormon Utah. About the only thing the two locales have in common is that both have people. Lots and lots of people.
    The U.S. Constitution might say that all men are created equal, but that doesn't mean they all get treated the same way. Five years ago, quite suddenly, my image became familiar to people as a result of appearing on a popular TV show. Since that time, there's been a dazzling transformation in the way people respond to me when I walk the enormous indoor boulevards of CES, or the quaint, steep slope of Main Street in Park City. I now walk the Earth in possession of a very small amount of celebrity status, and I've learned even a small dose can have powerful effects.
    At CES Miss America embraced me and asked if she could have her photograph taken with me. That sure wouldn't have happened before I'd been on Sex and the City. Companies offered to send me free products in exchange for being photographed holding them, or in the hopes I'd be seen using them in public (now that's my idea of a good trip to Vegas: no losses, all gains). At Sundance, I had access to supposedly sold-out screenings, or to seats that had previously been cordoned off as "reserved." I'm not saying anything about it is fair, and I can easily see the caste system it stems from as being reprehensible. That doesn't mean I'm going to make it my mission in life to change it. For 42 years I was on the outside, for the past five I've been (now and then) invited in. I'm not one of those recognizable people who feel conflicted about their fame. My very small degree of it has been almost purely enjoyable, with benefits far outweighing any impositions.
    But at Sundance I got to gaze up at hierarchical ladders that reach much further toward the heavens than I'll ever climb. The closing night film of the Festival was the documentary CSNY/Deja vu, featuring the super group Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. The four sexagenarian lads -- David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young -- were known to be in town, and expected to be in the audience for the screening. To say there was a palpable buzz in the crisp mountain air would be a dramatic understatement.
    Most of the screenings at the Sundance festival feature appearances by the film's director and some of its cast. There are usually question and answer sessions afterward, in which audiences have the opportunity to speak directly to the work's creators. Audience members are almost always respectful, and most often enthusiastic and supportive. Personally, however, I have never seen them reverential.
    Waiting with 1700 others in the Eccles Center Theater to watch the CSNY film I was aware of a completely different dynamic. Everyone's eyes, it seemed, kept drifting over to the house left doors every few seconds. Every time those doors opened, a few hundred people on that side of the auditorium all popped out of their seats and stood to see who would emerge. The rest of the crowd would then either half-rise or crane their necks to catch a glimpse of what turned out to be the badge wearing festival official who'd walked in.
    I leaned over to the friend who was sitting next to me. "We're going to have standing ovations here tonight," I said. "This crowd is ready to flip out already."
    And sure enough, when the four musicians entered the auditorium and took the stage to be introduced, the audience stood and cheered for nearly a minute.
    "We love you, Neil!" women shouted out from the back of the house.
    There you go, I thought. It's like the game "paper, rock, scissors." Movie stardom trumps TV stardom; rock stardom trumps movie stardom; iconic rock stardom trumps everything known to mankind.
    I'd had the chance to briefly meet three of the four guys at a dinner in town the night before (another semi-celebrity perk). They'd seemed relaxed and friendly, without any airs of distance or inapproachability. And that's the way they presented themselves onstage before the film's screening. They were self-deprecating, and seemingly reluctant to do much public speaking. They thanked everyone for coming, and promised to be available to answer questions after the film.
    I feel strange saying it, but CSNY/Deja vu might just be the most important film to come out of the 2008 Sundance festival. Not due to any great filmmaking innovation (though I do think it's a good movie), but due to the simple choice by director Neil Young (working under the pseudonym Bernard Shakey) to make the film's focus not so much his and his bandmates' outspokenness in opposition to the Bush administration and the war in Iraq, but the reactions that outspokenness provoked in their audiences and the press. The film documents the Living With War tour Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young did in 2006. The concerts on the tour featured classic songs from the quartet's various repertoires, but focused primarily on Young's songs from his blisteringly anti-war and anti-Bush album of the same name. Through voiceovers reading excerpts from contradictory reviews of the tour, as well as interviews with audience members either moved or outraged, we see a nation divided not only in terms of support or opposition to the administration and the war, but divided over whether they think musicians who gained exalted status forty years ago by embedding antiwar statements in their music ought to ever make such statements again. The film even shows a number of Americans who don't seem to think freedom of speech itself is such a great notion, who don't seem to crave it themselves, and who don't think it should be tolerated even if it is technically allowed. The film is a candid and canny illustration of a nation completely cracked open and torn apart by vehemently differing philosophies, populated by people who, for the most part, seem utterly unwilling or unable to take forceful action in support of whichever viewpoint they subscribe to. As such (and with such iconic figures featured within it, both as they were in 2006 and circa 1970) the film draws a devastating comparison between the United States of today and the similarly divided nation of forty years ago.
    I found watching the movie to be a complex experience. First, as unfair as it is (and as guilty as I feel for saying it), I found it difficult to reconcile the men today with the youthful figures from my memory -- and from archival footage included in the film. Watching them perform with members of Neil Young's band on the Living With War tour was a bit like watching Bjorn Borg or John McEnroe play tennis on the senior circuit. You know they can still beat the hell out of you, or anyone you know. You know they're phenomenal players. But the power, quickness, and agility you're seeing don't match up to what you've seen from them in the past. I don't know why athletics and rock-and-roll should still be so bound up with expectations of youth and beauty. I know it's a problem with my perception, not with the band's presentation. But as much as I admired what was happening right in front of my eyes, I felt a sense of loss when I compared it with what I remembered, or with the film's images from the past. I don't intend that as a criticism or shortcoming. On the contrary. I found it to be a fascinating component of the film's comparison of two eras.
    In fact, Young chooses not to shy away from those aspects in the film. The men comment on their ages and their frailties, and how poor their playing was at the beginning of the tour. "No one ever accused us of being over-rehearsed," Stephen Stills says at one point, shortly before he's shown tripping over a footlight on the stage and playing flat on his back while he rolls from side to side trying to get himself back up. They don't just tell you they were rusty, they show it. I don't believe I've ever seen anyone do that in his own film before.
    I also found myself tempted to categorize Young's early interview footage in the film as naive. The opening minutes feature him speaking of his mission to concentrate on his songs and music as a way to speak out on behalf of his beliefs. But those feelings were quickly replaced by a genuine sadness that naivety is what had crossed my mind. After all, as the film points out, there was a time when popular music did both excite and incite. There was a time when a cleverly phrased indictment could sear through the nation's consciousness, making continued acceptance of whatever hypocrisy had been exposed impossible. Not only was that once the case, but it was those guys on the screen who were then doing the writing and singing. What seems impossible now is to imagine how any truth -- no matter how brilliantly spoken -- could have a similar effect.
    Some of the pathology behind that phenomenon is visible in the film. The group travels through what they represent as traditionally "blue" states enjoying enthusiastic acceptance. As they approach the "red" state portion of the tour they express apprehension. And, sure enough, toward the end of a concert in Atlanta, when Young and the others launch into his song "Let's Impeach the President," much of the crowd turns on them. Boos are loud and sustained, and a significant portion of the audience storms out of the arena. The cameras capture the exits, as well as the comments of those who've felt offended.
    "I didn't pay $350 to come to a political rally," would be a fairly accurate representation of many of the complaints. "Everything was going along fine, I love their music, and they were being really entertaining. Then they started in with the antiwar stuff, and that's not what I came here for."
    But, according to the film's chronology, these are the same people who'd chanted along delightedly as the group sang "Four dead in Ohio..." They sang along with "For What It's Worth" and "Find the Cost of Freedom." The sudden turn, as represented in the film, begged several questions. Had those people found those politically charged and issue oriented songs offensive when they were new, while the Vietnam war was going on? If so, had they softened their position on them now because, forty or so years later, their views on that military endeavor have changed? Or, have the songs lost all original meaning for them and become only nice tunes that are remembered fondly? Maybe some audience members never had any idea what they were about to begin with. Regardless of the reasoning, there's an astonishing mass psychosis on display during portions of the film. Songs of past dissent are apparently acceptable, and their composers are beloved. But current dissent is despicable, and, if delivered by those same messengers, they are equally reviled. Young makes no attempt to solve these riddles, but he certainly exposes them. The positions of the musicians are on constant display, but the film doesn't really promote their agenda. It shows them promoting it, and the responses that promotion provoked. Concentrating on the responses to what the featured characters in a film are doing is novel. And, because of the specifics of those responses, it's very telling.
    Those same responses bubbled up immediately after the film screened at Sundance. As soon as Neil Young invited the audience to ask questions a man standing in the far left aisle spoke out in a confrontational tone.
    "With all respect to your music, I feel I have to comment on behalf of my brother, Staff Sergeant Brian Nemahy, who was killed in Bagdad on June 19, 2006 (I've invented a name and date, since I don't recall the actual ones). If he were here, he would have told you that you don't know what you're talking about."
    It was an electrifying moment, and the audience seemed to hold its collective breath. Young immediately responded by saying, "You're right. I don't."
    A man in the front row of the theater called out, "On the contrary, I think you know exactly what you're talking about." Not surprisingly, the audience of fans applauded. Young then said, "I agree with you, too."
    I didn't have a recorder and didn't take notes, so I'm relaying these exchanges from memory. I also won't be able to quote Young perfectly (and I hope he'll forgive my paraphrasing). But what he said, essentially, was, "I have a tremendous amount of respect and feeling for your brother and for everyone serving their country over there. I really do think I understand how you feel, and I feel for your loss. That's why I can say I agree with both of you. We're just talking here. That's all we're doing is talking, and saying that people should be talking. There's nothing unpatriotic about talking, and that's all we're doing here."
    What seemed to be exposed by the exchange, and by several scenes within the film, is nothing remarkably new. The film's just distilled it quite vividly. There are two groups of people who see the events happening around us in completely different ways, and who have diametrically opposed ideas about how to deal with them. There are people who believe that the war conceived and executed by neoconservative Americans is the only solution to the problem of militant Islamic terrorism, and that elected leaders aren't ever to be questioned or criticized. A similar number believe that war to be misguided, counterproductive, and abhorrent, and feel it's their right and responsibility to speak out. Meanwhile, it seems that no one from either group can even begin to fathom how anyone on the other side could have come to the conclusions they have.
    The film posits that a tide has begun to turn and that greater numbers of Americans have now decided that the war effort must be halted. The solution, as suggested in the theater, is that people need to vote. "It comes from the top down," it was said.
    Here's where, in spite of my admiration for those men and their film, I don't really agree. I don't think these particular kinds of social change come from the top down, and I don't believe modern political leaders have any track record in instigating them. Changes in the past have come when there has been such disruption of the social fabric that political leaders -- whatever their original stance on an issue -- were forced to adjust their policies. That degree of social unrest was accomplished by non-elected leaders organizing citizens who'd become radicalized in response to their discontent. In the civil rights movement it was Martin Luther King Jr., or Malcolm X, or any number of others, leading citizens who were willing to face fire hoses and dogs and months of hardship enduring bus boycotts and jail. The Vietnam War effort was halted, in part, by college students - inspired by leaders like Abby Hoffman, and David Dellinger, and Bobby Seale -- who were willing to face down the National Guard and absorb clubs or even bullets in protest of government policies. I can't imagine the college campus where students would be willing to take such stands today. I can't imagine a town able to organize, or willing to endure, a boycott of public transportation. It doesn't even require imagination to illustrate the current malaise of the American public. The foot-on-pavement protests during the early days of the Iraq war were several times larger in any number of other nations, in spite of much smaller troop commitments. Now that the tide is supposedly turning against the war here, there are no large-scale protests at all.
    The CSNY film posits that it's the lack of immediate threat in the form of a military draft that keeps many people from forceful resistance. I suspect there's some truth to this theory, though I doubt it's a complete explanation. But, true or untrue, if significant change in policy is what the people want and it's not forthcoming, what -- in the absence of a military draft -- will drive them to the levels of resistance necessary to force such change? I don't know the answer to this. I'm not sure anyone does. I'm not even convinced that most people are as vehemently opposed to the current war -- or to suspension of Habeas Corpus rights, or to state sanctioned torture -- as polls might indicate. (After all, even as polls suggest opposition to the Iraq war is growing, there are indications that the current presidential nominating process is elevating the most pro-war candidates.) If people are truly opposed to current policies, but unwilling to mobilize, there's a serious tactical problem. If they're not really opposed to those policies, or are even ambivalent, then what's required to change their minds would be different tactics altogether.
    If the CSNY film stirs any kind of renewed activism, that would be an astonishing - and currently unprecedented -- occurrence. If it's absorbed into the drone of competing messages currently inundating everyone and goes largely unheard, that would be a statement of even greater profundity. If it settles somewhere in the middle and simply gets people talking, then it will have met the filmmaker's stated aim.
    Neil Young asked three of his friends to join him in singing songs of protest, and in filming the public's reaction to the four of them speaking out, as they have in the past. The reactions to four Americans speaking their minds, as shown in the film, are striking, and often troubling. Reactions to the film itself -- whether vehement or indifferent -- might be even more so.

Bottom Line: A melodious howl of protest against the Iraq War from one of rock's greatest bands.
by Kirk Honeycutt
Hollywood Reporter
January 29, 2008
Sundance Film Festival
    PARK CITY -- Ageless rock bands and musicians play a teasing game of nostalgia with concert audiences, performing their golden oldies while slipping in new songs and trying to recast themselves for younger listeners. "CSNY: Deja Vu," a film record by Bernard Shakey (aka Neil Young) of the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young 2006 Freedom of Speech tour, catches a band headed in the opposite direction. Always one of music's most impassioned political activists, Young first put out his "Living With War" album in reaction to the disastrous conflict in Iraq. He then reformed the band -- again -- to perform those songs, plus a few dating back to its anti-Vietnam period such as "Ohio" and "Find the Cost of Freedom."
    Young took along an "embedded" journalist, Mike Cerre, who has served as a correspondent in Afghanistan and Iraq, to smoke out the reaction of audience members and others to the music and its message in towns across America. So this is anything but a concert film like "U2 3D," which screened at the beginning of the Sundance Film Festival.
    There should be a considerable audience for this film on both the nostalgia and political fronts. Such is the band's popularity that the film will play to folks who do not agree with its political content, as evidenced by the young man who challenged Young at its premiere here, telling him that as far as Iraq is concerned, "You don't know what you're talking about."
    That is a mild comment compared to what audience members, radio talk show hosts and music critics have to say in the movie. Young gives Cerre -- the two share writing credit -- the freedom to report on the tour, seeking out those who praise and condemn CSNY for its activism. The film generously quotes music critics who take dead aim at the sloppiness of early performances -- band members agree some shows were bad -- and others who take umbrage to an anti-war rally masquerading as a rock concert.
    The most interesting reaction in the film comes in Atlanta, a progressive city in a conservative region. Everyone seems to enjoy the concert until the band strikes up Young's anthem "Let's Impeach the President." Boos cascade over the stage, followed by cheers that drown out the boos. The booers rush from the auditorium, where cameras catch their vehement anger.
    By contrast, Iraq vets embrace band members at smaller concerts.
    The film catches a country in conflict with itself. The right to disagree has been brought into dispute by this administration, which has broadly hinted that any disagreement with its war is synonymous with treason. That notion is strongly questioned in Cerre's talks with people in the street.
    If you breathe deeply enough, you might catch a whiff of self-promotion. Young and his mates probably see this film as a means to establish their legacy of commitment to political ideals and anti-war movements. But the band has earned that right: No one intended to earn a dime on this tour or with this movie. And the tour happened just as the country turned against the war and the administration, as evidenced by the 2006 election during which Stills campaigned on behalf of several congressional candidates, the majority of whom won. Young clearly hopes to keep up the pressure with this movie.
    The average age of the band's members is 62. They don't even bother to disguise that fact. These men look like your grandfather, right up until the downbeat. Then the magnificence of their playing sweeps away all concepts of age.
    Rock on.

by John Anderson
January 27, 2008
    A Shangri-La Entertainment presentation of a Shakey Pictures production. Produced by L.A. Johnson. Directed by Bernard Shakey. Writers, Neil Young, Mike Cerre.
    Making music, making fun of themselves and making as much political hay as possible, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young set out to alleviate the public allergy to Iraq War films with "CSNY Deja Vu," a doc that seems quite likely to effect a cure. Helmer Bernard Shakey -- a.k.a. Neil Young -- has constructed a chronicle of his old band's "Freedom of Speech" tour of summer '06 and come up with an aud-friendly, activist musical that seems sure to raise both political ire and major bucks.
    Thanks to his proclivities for grunge, his political instincts and a timeless fashion sense, Young has never been locked into any particular era or demographic. Similarly, his drollery makes him ageless: From the first shot of an open highway, obscured by the band bus's window frame, to the citations from critics assailing the band for its left-leaning decreptitude, nothing is taken too seriously.
    Except the war. Which is front and center.
    The entire movie is a provocation; for one thing, it's not strictly a concert film, which was how it appeared to be advertised, at least at Sundance. There is plenty of music -- the band, whose intonation has always been a crapshoot in live performance, sounds fairly angelic. But digressions abound: history lessons, Iraq war veterans and the contributions of reporter Mike Cerre (who, unfortunately for the film, sounds a bit too much like sports announcer Jim Lampley), keep the war issue in the audience's face.
    And aud's can rebel, as seen during a CSNY stop in Atlanta, where a small uprising breaks out over an anti-Bush song ("Let's impeach the president for lying ... ," the band sings). Some concertgoers react with boos, walkouts, a storm of vitriol and vulgarity. They flip off the camera. "How dare they!" is the reaction by some less-than-articulate Atlantans. Given that this was the "Freedom of Speech" tour -- and was at least partly promoting Young's "Living With War" CD --one wonders what such concertgoers expected when they decided to attend. (Of course, Young would likely say that people who don't know or care what their government is doing probably can't be expected to know what a rock concert is going to be about.)
    Throughout the film, a sense of, yes, deja vu abounds: CSNY provided much of the soundtrack for the antiwar movement of the Vietnam era, and four decades later, they're doing it again. As Stephen Colbert asks Young during a "Colbert Report" appearance, why doesn't he let someone else have this war? "I tried," he says, the very unsubtle point of the film being that this war's generation should grab the baton of resistance and start running with it.
    The music, coincidentally, is a mix of CSNY standards and the newer Young material, with the occasional startling guitar solo from Stephen Stills and cohesive playing by the quartet. They certainly know the material. And so do we.
    Production values, especially Mike Elwell's shooting, are tops.

by David Leitner
Digital Content Producer
January 26th, 2008
    Reality sets in, this last day of Sundance, as 50,000 attendees move on to greener pastures and the glistening snow-covered peaks encircling Park City once again seem a part of the natural landscape instead of a fancy festival backdrop. Down below on Main Street, festival dreams and destinies have intersected. All that remains is for this year's festival to fade to memory.
    Riffing off Barry Levinson's Robert DeNiro-starrer about a harried Hollywood producer which premiered out-of-competition (I quite liked it), The Hollywood Reporter captured the received take on this year's festival with its headline, "Stunned 'dance: What Just Happened?"
    HR bemoans a scarcity of acquisitions, citing WHAT JUST HAPPENED? as an example of how the presence of stars no longer ensures a Sundance film will be picked up. (WJH? also features Bruce Willis, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener, Stanley Tucci, and John Turturro in juicy comedic roles.)
    Hopes were stoked, of course, that Sundance films would conveniently fill distribution pipelines emptying because of the writers' strike.
    Hollywood's hand-wringing misses by a mile, as far as I'm concerned. Independent filmmaking, putatively embodied in the Sundance Film Festival (which once upon a time protested it wasn't a film market), doesn't hold its nose at commercial success--every serious filmmaker deserves to make a living and enjoy the financial rewards of his or her talent and achievement. But to measure the success or significance of Sundance or its programming by the volume and dollar amount of acquisitions is dismissive towards Sundance's sole raison d'etre, the indie filmmaking ethos.
    Can you imagine a headline that read instead, "Stunned 'dance: Hearts and Minds Moved To Tears"?
    Neil Young once famously gave the finger to corporate sponsorship of rock tours and the use of rock stars to sing commercials in his 1988 screed, "This Note's for You," in which he sang, "I don't sing for nobody, makes me look like a joke." (It's a riff on "This Bud's for You.") Who could have imagined back then that even Bob Dylan would someday sing on TV commercials?
    So a tip of my black beret to Sundance's programmers: how fitting that the closing night film is Neil Young's (or Bernard Shakey's, Young's directorial alter ego) CSNY Deja Vue. I saw the film this morning in Sundance's largest venue, the Eccles. Despite the fact it began at an eye-rubbing 9:15 a.m., the Eccles was full.
    I must admit I wasn't expecting much. After all, CSNY Deja Vue is built around CSNY's Freedom of Speech Tour during the run-up to the 2006 Congressional Elections. Could it be much more than four graying 1960's rockers reminiscing on stage to audiences of aging hippies who've traded LSD for Lipitor?
    But you know you're on to something powerful and uncorrupted within the first few minutes. As David Crosby remarks regarding Neil Young's role in the reunion, CSNY these days is a dictatorship, a benevolent one driven by Young's passion and fury at the war in Iraq, which produced an anti-war website and album released free on the Internet (the source of his lightning-rod song, "Let's Impeach the President"). Whether you subscribe to Young's views or not, he airs all viewpoints equally in the film. (More than a few concert-goers in Atlanta tell Young what he can do and where he can go, in language not appropriate here.)
    As the audience shuffled out of the Eccles, I looked around to see what others were feeling. Most were silent, lost in thought or reverie. CBS News' Nancy Giles was typically animated, leading an ad hoc discussion among several women in the aisle. (Will she do commentary on the film next Sunday morning?) There were no faces without moistened or even reddish eyes, including mine. I can't recall the last time I've witnessed such emotional unanimity in an audience.
    That's the true metric Sundance should be measured by, this year or any.
    P.S. Who knew Bernard Shakey was such a terrific director?


by Patrick McDonald
July 30, 2008
Rating: 2.5/5.0
    CHICAGO - David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young (collectively CSNY) have long established their credibility as a rock/folk group of the highest order.
    From their debut in 1970 with the album "Deja Vu" (which is still one of the top-selling albums of all time) to their journey through the 2006 tour that's chronicled in the new concert film "CSNY Deja Vu," CSNY is of a time and place in rock history that represents activism and social change.
    Band member Neil Young is the director of this film. The band travels America from city to city in a "Freedom of Speech Tour" with a basic, anti-Iraq War message. His band mates Crosby, Stills and Nash are along for the ride to help their old friend through the songs defining them and that message.
    Interspersed between the concert footage are stories from the road concerning Iraqi war veterans and activists.
    Stephen Stills even volunteers to play small fundraisers for any anti-war Congressional candidates who have races in the districts along the route of the tour.
    Famous for writing the 1967 song "For What It's Worth" ("Stop, children. What's that sound? Everybody look what's going down."), he trots it out again in context of another war.
    Some places along the concert road provide challenges. Counter protests by talk-show hosts and neo-conservatives greet the quartet in several cities. Undeterred, the band defiantly plays Young's new song "Let's Impeach the President" as a climax to every show.
    The problem with the film isn't what it's communicating. It is the awkward structure and tendency toward redundancy that director Young practices. It is a hodgepodge of songs, old footage of CSNY and stories of the Iraq War that just doesn't come together with any sense of narrative cohesiveness.
    This results in a pacing that softens the anti-war arc by making the film dull and without a proper ending. Despite the large catalog of incredibly memorable songs, there seems to be no fire in the quartet in the umpteenth playing of the hits and the new songs don't have the same reverberation.
    Whether or not you want George W. Bush impeached, Young's plainly titled song isn't distinctive enough to move either side of the argument to action.
    Even the footage of the talk-show hosts blathering on in their anti-CSNY mode smacks more of Republican talking-point payoffs than sincere rhetoric. The man at one show who sincerely desires another four years of Bush might want to balance his medication.
    While Neil Young and the rest of the boys have legendary status as musicians, this doesn't give them an automatic pass as filmmakers and subjects. As in any message in a bottle, the clearer the glass that surrounds it the easier it is to read. Young's nickname is "Shakey," but in this film, it might as well be "Fuzzy".

by Bill White
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
July 24, 2008
DIRECTOR: Bernard Shakey aka Neil Young (documentary)
    The tour wasn't so much a CSNY affair as a showcase for the songs from Young's excellent album "Living with War," with the other three members providing backup vocals, guitar interplay and hits from their collective and individual catalogs. As Stephen Stills puts it, "We were Dawn to Neil's Tony Orlando."
    Rather than keeping the camera aimed at the stage, Young collaborates with television journalist Mile Cerre to fashion several "60 Minutes"-styled episodes on things he wishes to either promote or expose. Among the former is the musical career of Josh Hisle, a war veteran-turned-protest singer whose amateurish "A Traitor's Death" is performed in several settings, including a living room duet with Young. He also plugs Vets4Vets, Rep. Patrick Murphy's campaign for Congress and his own Web site,, which looks a lot better than most of the movie.
    Expose's include an intriguing theory that Bush refuses to reinstate the draft because he is afraid it would unify students against the war, as it did during Vietnam. There may be some truth in that, but other parallels between the two wars are wishful thinking from those who see it as a rematch between the peace movement and the war department.
    The concerts themselves are only exciting when Young is at center stage. Although a balding millionaire in his 60s, he retains the ragged energy of a rock 'n' roll road warrior. Not so with the other members, particularly Stills. If songs could take out restraining orders against their authors, it would be illegal for him to come within singing distance of "For What It's Worth."
    Young uses audience reaction to songs such as "Let's Impeach the President" to support his vision of a divided America. There are the ones who sing along, and others who complain about paying $250 dollars for a concert only to find themselves at a political rally. The displeasure of the latter may be shared by those paying $10 to see a CSNY concert film and getting what amounts to Cerre's audition reel for "60 Minutes."

by Jeff Pizek
Daily Herald
July 23, 2008
    David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young are legendary folk rock musicians. They continue to have an audience because their vocal harmonies, instrumental prowess and politically pointed lyrics belong to good tunes. To Woodstock-era activists whose counterculture efforts were accompanied or inspired by the group, CSNY's emotional appeal is even greater.
    We are now well past Woodstock, a nostalgic peace-and-love pipe dream that was eternally sullied by the rampant commercialism and violent finale of the event's 1999 revival, but some aging hippies deserve credit for tenacity. Neil Young, for instance, whose new documentary "CSNY: Dj Vu" attempts to bridge the turbulent Vietnam era and the now-ubiquitous post-Sept. 11 landscape, using unpopular wars and the quartet's musical endeavors as tentpoles. That's a lot of territory, and though it tries, the film simply can't cover all of it.
    The main problem is that Young presents two related but ultimately very different films in the guise of one. The first is a sort of tour diary, wherein we see CSNY preparing for, promoting and playing dates on their 2006 "Freedom of Speech" jaunt. The second is an examination of the home front environment, mainly snatching glimpses of veterans, families and supporters trying to bring the Iraq war to an end.
    Most of the time, though, "Dj Vu" feels like it's trying too hard to connect its points. The first half leans heavily on the group's tour to provide its narrative, integrating '60s-era archival footage with contemporary performances as if to say, "hey, look, we protested this war stuff four decades ago, but it's still happening today." After enough of this approach, one wonders whether Young is admitting that musicians, or at least he and his associates, can have no effect on government actions, and if he is, why he bothered to make this blatantly anti-war film.
    The second half all but abandons the concert angle to explore the country's mood outside of their tour bus. Sure, the subjects converge at times, such as when Stills hobnobs with Hoffman Estates resident (and then-candidate for Henry Hyde's 6th district seat) Tammy Duckworth, or when Young sits down to strum with a young vet who now plays acoustic punk protest songs. The segments concerning American life during war are so compelling in their own right that whenever CSNY reappear, the musicians seem to be intruding on their own documentary.
    ABC News correspondent Mike Cerre comes off worst. Having served as a Marine in Vietnam and an embedded reporter in Iraq, Cerre tags along on tour, ostensibly to add objectivity or perspective. Instead, his portentous narration and self-important demeanor (come on, a tan photojournalist vest?) comes off like a "Daily Show" parody of zealous TV reporters.
    The film's overall approach is not so reverent. There are plenty of negative quotes from the press who covered this reunion tour, and a segment on its Atlanta stop shows conservative fans streaming out of the concert in protest of Young's song "Let's Impeach the President." It even comes close to synthesizing its dual focus in a scene where the group sings "Find the Cost of Freedom," the camera zeroing in on the mother of a slain soldier who weeps bitterly while surrounded by hooting, beer-waving concertgoers.
    This could be a great documentary, if only Young had stuck with one subject. Instead we get two halves of a so-so one.

by Richard Waters
Financial Times
July 4, 2008
    If you're one of those people who think superannuated rockers from the late 1960s have no business going on tour, you'll get a kick out of Neil Young's new film CSNY: Deja Vu. It's nearly 40 years since the heyday of the folk-rock super-group Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and this documentary charts the reunion of the old gang in 2006 for one more road trip.
    Musically, as Young admits in a voiceover, the early part of the tour was "a bit rough". Then, at the climax of Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" at a show in Toronto, Stephen Stills stumbles and falls over mid-song. Lying among the speakers at the front of the stage and still trying to play, he can't get back to his feet and has to wave off a youthful helping hand. The indignity of it all.
    All this is just fine with Young. At 62 he's angry and out to make a noise; the uglier it all gets, the better he seems to like it. The cause of this anger is the war in Iraq. Young was only in his mid-20s when he wrote "Ohio", a protest song prompted by the killing of four students at an anti-Vietnam war protest at Kent State University. The times and the war may have changed, but in early 2006 Young's simmering discontent over Iraq finally boiled over and he rushed off a new album of protest songs, Living with War. That was followed by a US tour supported by Crosby, Stills & Nash - a group of musicians famous for their feuds, break-ups and reformations. The movie of the tour is Young's attempt to keep fanning the flames, a journey of protest through the American heartland, an act of angry defiance.
    Of course, that word "angry" should come with a large asterisk next to it. A Canadian and a product of the 1960s counterculture, Young doesn't really do anger that well. It is more an urgent reasonableness that sets the tone for Deja Vu, a film that chronicles Young's tour and also features scenes from Iraq and interviews with war veterans and their families. There are also flashbacks to Vietnam-era protests and a younger, hairier CSNY. It may lack the passion of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, but with the pathos of some of its war stories it rises to an elegiac wistfulness. The rasping whine of Young's singing voice and the plaintive urgency of the songs (thankfully, the music gets much better as the tour goes on) are a fitting accompaniment.
    I meet Young in an old roadhouse above the Pacific Ocean, where the golden late afternoon light is filtered through tall redwood trees. His battered 1950s Plymouth saloon is pulled up outside the entrance. The log building is empty apart from Young and two ageing LA music industry minders. It seems the perfect setting; a place left marooned when - to borrow Joan Didion's phrase - the tide of the 1960s went out.
    When I ask him whether all this anti-war work isn't better left to a younger generation, Young agrees. "I was hoping some young person would come along and say this and sing some songs about it," he says, "but I didn't see anybody - so I'm doing it myself. I waited as long as I could."
    Young's involvement provokes inevitable comparisons with the Vietnam protests, but the innocence and anger of that earlier period have been succeeded by the sophisticated cynicism that is the standard reaction to Iraq. Now, asked whether protest music still has a way to touch the emotions of a mass audience, Young doesn't duck the question: "Not really. If it does, it seems to be doing it in a context of history. It's not a real communication."
    The average age of the band members (62 and a half) probably has something to do with it, he allows. But it also reflects changes in the times. "The world is so different and the audience is not unified by a threat," he says. "That's the big difference between the 1960s and now. There's no threat."
    The threat Young has in mind is the threat of the draft. According to this view, President Bush's avoidance of using the draft has been a naked tactic designed to save his own political skin. "That's why people criticise this generation for not being with it, not being alive, not being cognizant of what's going on in the world; it's because they're not affected directly by it," Young says. "This generation is just as sensitive as the 1960s generation, but they just haven't been tickled yet."
    Despite his measured tone, Young's criticism of the Bushies comes across as pure pop-paranoia: "These guys seem to have so many agendas going on - there's so much business, all the connections. You know the story: the oil, Halliburton, the connection with Cheney, the whole thing." The media also takes its hits, blamed for the overkill and trivialisation that have combined to stultify the American public. "It's repeating itself endlessly," he says, "like a giant machine that just spews out the same stuff over and over and over again. 24-hour news really screwed things up."
    But Young's isn't the only anger portrayed in Deja Vu. The other side gets a chance to vent, too. It comes in Atlanta, Georgia, when CSNY break into the jaunty chorus from "Let's impeach the President", a protest song that doesn't pull its punches ("Let's impeach the president for lying/ And leading our country into war/ Abusing all the power that we gave him/ And shipping all our money out the door.") The sentiment doesn't go down well with many members of the crowd, who probably thought they were coming out for a nostalgic evening reliving Four Way Street. The booing grows louder, and people start to leave. "Neil Young can stick it up his [expletive]" shouts one concert-goer, caught at the exit. Another says: "He can suck my [expletive]. I'd like to knock his [expletive] teeth out."
    Young suppresses a chuckle at the memory, then embarks on a rather unpersuasive attempt to argue that his movie was really trying to present both sides of the issue. "It doesn't exclude these people; it tries to respect them," he says. In fact, it was filmed as a series of 10 segments or storylines by broadcast news journalist Mike Cerre, who then handed his work over to Neil Young to be edited. Balance is not the aim.
    At least the music finally touches a nerve. When Crosby gets back to his feet and hits a stirring guitar solo, the tour starts to make sense. "It took a while to get going, but the music on the record is really good," says Young. As a last hurrah, there's a sort of shabby nobility to it all.