Opening 10 Jul 2008
Four grizzled, slightly fried, old melodic rockers took the musical stage again in reunion in 2006, soothing us with their voices yet harmoniously piquing our ire at the state of our nation at war once more. Déjà Vu is the same name as their 1970 album mirroring the mood of anti-Vietnam war sentiment through now familiar titles as Carry On, Teach Your Children, Woodstock, Almost Cut My Hair, and the potent ballad, Helpless. The highlighting parallel of this film is that nothing much has changed in 35 years as USA is once again waging war, now in Iraq. David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and driving force Neil Young have picked up the cause to send out a national awareness platform, touring concert halls and arena shows, delivering tight, rehearsed old material and rambling new rock ballads like Let’s Impeach the President. Yes, these boys are still rocking in the free world, and you can even go online and see Neil Young’s Living With War (LWW) website to underscore your governmental frustration.
Neil Young once again takes up his old alias Bernard Shakey to direct and produce Déjà Vu. The documentary compares old clips of Ohio and Kent State footage with current Iraqi war protests set to the same song. We get the message. Interviews with war vets then and now, both enjoying the rock tunes of CSNY but looking for a purpose from their wheelchairs, are serenaded with Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. OK, we get the message. Again and again there are no surprises as Young hammers the comparison home. Grieving mothers and disgruntled servicemen running off to Canada, Michael Moore would be proud of Bernard Shakey’s efforts. While music is the medium in Déjà Vu, the interviews don’t quite wrench your gut to Moore’s caliber. Many concert fans act annoyed that they have to tolerate a blatant presidential battering, especially in the conservative deep south, but “duh!”, what did these nitwits think CSNY was singing about all those years ago?
The Déjà Vu concert tour and purpose of the reunited band is worthy of my praise and respect, but I wonder at the potency of the message being delivered to an era of ennui and creature comforts. They would rather be singing Our House, (“is a very, very, very fine house, with two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard, now everything is easy..”). The realm of the protester is a battered banner, and I don’t think it carries the stamina to rally a nation to action, again. We may have been here before, but perhaps this generation doesn’t have the attention span to care beyond a two-hour rock concert or 96 minute documentary. (Kirstan Böttger)