Neil Young’s concert video stars the singer and the void. Alone against a black background, with barely a glimmse of the audience or the stage, Young appears to be coming to us live from outer space. And no better arena could exist for him to perform the material from Freedom, which ranks as his first great record in a decade.
Songs such as ”Crime in the City” — Young’s most far-reaching narrative since the songs from On the Beach — become even more powerful when stripped of all sound except his brittle voice and a low-strummed guitar.
The most radically redefined number of the seven included is ”This Note’s for You,” a put-down of pop stars who shill for advertisers. In this laconic version, the song is transformed from a smug joke into a dejected moan, the voice of a holdout who feels overwhelmed by what he’s up against.
Just as isolated is Young’s viewpoint on the closing numbers. He dedicates ”Ohio” to the students killed in China. The point is bolstered in ”Rockin’ in the Free World,” which casts what most people call freedom as mere blithe ignorance. Howling out these tunes, the rickety Young offers just the voice in the wilderness we need.