Neil Young calls Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Freedom of Speech Tour in 2006 “the most nerve-wracking tour I’ve ever done” — and therefore great fodder for a movie.
Young’s “CSNY: Deja Vu,” which opens Friday (July 25) at the Maple Art Theatre in Bloomfield Township, chronicles the 34-date summer road trek, in which a pre-planned CSNY tour — which played Aug. 31, 2006 at The Palace of Auburn Hills — took on an entirely different flavor after Young released his provocatively political album “Living With War.” Attacking the George W. Bush administration’s foreign policy and openly calling for his impeachment, the album became the focal point for CSNY’s shows and effectively overhauled the repertoire for the tour.
“I just said to the other guys, ‘Listen, this (music) is all I can do. I can’t mix this up with anything else,’” recalls Young, 62, who directed “CSNY: Deja Vu” under his “nom de film” Bernard Shakey. “For us to water it down, and sprinkle in our old romantic ballads to try and soften it ... I said, ‘There’s no reason to soften it. We should just treat it like journalism and go for it and try to do this.’”
To give the film greater emotional weight, Young brought in TV journalist Mike Cerre, who had been embedded with troops in Iraq and served a similar function on Freedom of Speech, talking with concert attendees and military veterans throughout the tour.
“I really had no idea, really, what it was going to be like or how negative or how positive it was gonna be,” Young said. “But I took it on like a journalistic endeavor and tried to be balanced as much as I could with the material we were able to gather.”
Graham Nash recalls Freedom of Speech as “the first tour I was on with bomb-sniffing dogs and FBI agents at the gigs, and “CSNY: Deja Vu” captures both the support the band received from fans and also the backlash — including negative press reviews and some particularly virulent reactions in Atlanta, where Young’s posterior was clearly in some degree of danger.
“I think (Young) was very clever,” with the film, Nash, 66, said. “We did not want this to be a ‘Oh, look at our fans. They love us. They agree with what we say’ film. We wanted to bring into discussion the fact that people would violently disagree with us.”
Besides the theatrical run, “CSNY: Deja Vu” will also be available on DVD this week, while a companion CD documents the performances for the tour and is, in Young’s view, “hands down the most rockin’ record that was ever made by this band.”
It’s no accident Young and company held “CSNY: Deja Vu” for release in a presidential election year. And while Young saw no reason for the group to hit the road again — “We said our piece. We made our point,” he explains — he hopes the film will help provide a bit of additional information to the public discourse.
“I hope it stirs up just feelings, discussion,” he says. “It’s a piece of American history. Just look at it in that context, and I think it speaks for itself.”
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