By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Forever Young

Yesterday we — my son, Tim, his friend Jay, and Jay’s father, Steve — went to see the new Neil Young concert film, “Heart of Gold,” in Kendall Square. It was well worth it. The first half of the movie focuses on Young’s most recent CD, “Prairie Wind,” the latest in his occasional series of mostly acoustic albums, including “Harvest” (1971) and “Harvest Moon” (1992).

Despite the poignancy of the moment — Young’s father had recently died, and Young himself was recovering from surgery for a brain aneurysm — “Prairie Wind” is not quite prime Neil. But the performance, at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, is warm and moving. And the second half of the film is even better, featuring Young classics such as “I Am a Child,” “Heart of Gold,” “Old Man” and “Comes a Time.” (Somehow he was allowed to get away with not doing “After the Gold Rush.”)

Filmmaker Jonathan Demme is unobstrusive, although his extreme close-up shots do get to be wearying after a while. Yes, Young is old and jowly; we get it. We’ll all be there soon enough. Thankfully, though, “Heart of Gold” is mainly about the music.

The movie also prompted me to reflect on what a varied career Young has had. That he was able to build a lengthy concert around his acoustic material without even a hint that he is also the original proto-punk rocker is remarkable.

I’ve always been a middling Neil Young fan. The only Young album I’ve got in digital is “Freedom” (1989). The vinyl versions of “Harvest,” “Decade” (1977) and “Rust Never Sleeps” (1978) are sitting on shelf, waiting someday to be ripped.

But there’s no doubt that he’s always been a musician of great integrity, always willing to experiment and leave past successes behind. Along with Bob Dylan and very few others, he’s a 1960s veterans who’s still got something to say. Long may he run.

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  1. Paddy

    KEEP ON ROCKING IN THE FREE WORLDFor all the reasons you cite, Mr. Young is, for me, a rock & roll hero.Dittos on “long me he run”

  2. Rick

    It’s not just what Young says but who he is. Family health issues that would have buried lesser men have left him unbowed. He is a quiet man of character.

  3. tony schinella

    I would agree. I’m not a huge fan of his music; I am of his character. Strangely, I’ve always liked the albums other folks didn’t like – like “Everybody’s Rockin'” by Neil Young & the Shocking Pinks and “Arc,” the feedback CD – even if I grew up on most of his CSNY stuff.

  4. Wes

    Several surveys I recall from a few decades ago – mostly marketing – indicated that the music people listen to during the ages of 16-22 is the music they’ll prefer all their lives. Often wonder whether that still holds true, if it was true at all.It’s remarkable to me that recorded music has been around relatively short period of time, yet the earliest recordings always seem to surface as the “greatest.”

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