Neil Young Trunk Show (2009)

In recent years, filmmaker Jonathan Demme directed a trilogy of Neil Young concert documentaries. The first film in this trilogy, titled Neil Young: Heart Of Gold (2006), and the third film, Neil Young Journeys (2011), are both currently available on DVD. However, the second film in the trilogy, Neil Young Trunk Show (2009), is curiously absent from the home video market.

The film played in theatres for one-week runs in select cities in March 2010, and was set for a DVD and Blu-ray release later that year. However, for reasons that are unclear, Trunk Show has still not been released in any home video format to this day.

Trunk Show was filmed at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, PA in 2007, during the Chrome Dreams II tour. In the film, Young performs three songs from that album (“Spirit Road”, “No Hidden Path”, “The Believer”), and other songs spanning his entire career, some well-known (“Cinnamon Girl”, “Like A Hurricane”) and others obscure. Three of the songs have never been released on any album (“Sad Movies”, “Kansas”, and “Mexico”), and the final instrumental played during the closing credits – titled “The Sultan” – was originally recorded by Young’s high school surf-rock band The Squires in 1963!

Unlike the other two films in Demme’s trilogy, the 83-minute Trunk Show usually avoids sidelights about Young’s life or about the venue. Aside from a few bits of brief backstage footage, this movie concentrates almost fully on the documented concert. Trunk Show looks less like a feature film than the other two – not that it is grainy or unprofessional, but it feels less like a theatrical movie and more like a show that was intended to be released straight-to-video (except that it has not been released to video). This results in a closer, more intimate feel than Demme’s apparently bigger-budget Young documentaries had.

Although we see a good deal of the gentle acoustic Neil Young here (on “Harvest” and “Oh Lonesome Me”, for example), the high points come during Young’s wild electric jams with his backing band, comprised of multi-instrumentalist Ben Keith, Rick “The Bass Player” Rosas, and drummer Ralph Molina. On the 20-minute-plus “No Hidden Path” and the almost free-form “Like A Hurricane”, Neil and the band dig down deep to generate fierce electric noise. The simple camera technique gives the viewer a virtual front-row-seat view of this glorious chaos.

One particular surprise comes when Young performs a pair of little-known selections from his somber mid-‘70’s period: "Ambulance Blues" and "Mellow My Mind", the latter of which he unexpectedly plays on a six-string banjo.

In many ways, Trunk Show captured a moment that can never be recreated. Two members of the band featured in the film have since passed away: Ben Keith died in July 2010, and Rick Rosas died in November 2014. Also, Young recently split from his wife Pegi, who sings background vocals in the film.

Whatever issues are holding back the release of Neil Young Trunk Show on DVD and Blu-ray, let’s hope they are resolved soon. The film would be an essential addition to any Young fan’s collection, especially those who wish to own the entire Demme-directed trilogy.

Neil Young Trunk Show (2009)

Song list:

1. Sad Movies (previously unreleased)
2. Harvest
3. Cinnamon Girl
4. Oh Lonesome Me
5. Kansas (previously unreleased)
6. Mexico (previously unreleased)
7. Spirit Road
8. No Hidden Path
9. Ambulance Blues
10. Mellow My Mind
11. The Believer
12. Like A Hurricane
13. Cowgirl In The Sand
14. The Sultan