(Editors’ Note: Neil Young has been responsible for a couple of “firsts” for our tiny blog. Our own Nanker Phledge cajoled the authorities into giving him a weekend pass, and he used it to good advantage, making Shakey and The Horse the subject of the very first post on this site. You can read Nanker’s review by clicking on Äugust 2012 on the Archive tab above. And now, we take great pleasure in posting the first concert review by one of our loyal followers, Dano M, with his take on Young & Horse’s recent Beantown show. So, how about it, the rest of you? When are you gonna show us your critical writing chops? Drop us a line by way of the Comment tab at the end of the review, with your contact information and the show you’re dying to tell the world about and we promise to get right back to you. And, of course, we’re not above taking bribes; just don’t let Nanker’s probation officer know, OK?)
I take my classic rock concerts pretty seriously. When my favorite bands don’t put Minneapolis/St. Paul on their tour, I have been know to travel great distances to catch a show. The longest such pilgrimage was a memorable trip to The Royal Albert Hall in London, to see Eric Clapton. So, when the current Neil Young tour was announced, I was forced to travel in order to see Neil perform with the beloved Crazy Horse. I easily chose Boston, so I could attend the show with my son who resides there. Finding out that the entire floor would be general admission gave me pause whether the trip would be worth it. At 59 years old, I cannot play that game anymore. I am one of those guys that usually pays top dollar for middle floor seats, within the first 8 rows. If I can’t see beads of sweat, I feel I am in the wrong seats. So, for Neil, I opted to forsake the main floor for the first lateral section, 6 rows up:
I also did my homework for the show. Since the tour was already in progress, I watched setlist.fm for the latest setlists. To my surprise, Neil was staying very close to a standard playlist, only changing a song or two each night. And by bringing my best guess setlist to the show on my phone, I was able to predict which song came next.
We got to our seats just minutes before Neil came on stage. I immediately recognized the enormous faux amplifiers on the stage. They were similar to the ones used in 1978 when I saw Neil and Crazy Horse at the old Civic Center in St. Paul. When Neil hit the stage, they lowered the 20 foot faux microphone and the band swung into “Love and Only Love”. The band was in sync immediately, with Neil firing off half distorted solos. With the crowd already on their feet, I could tell the energy was going to start high and just keep growing. “Powderfinger” kept the crowd standing and the tunes were rocking Bean Town.
Next came a couple cuts off the new album – “Psychedelic Pill,” the folksy “Born in Ontario,” and “Walk Like a Giant.” The latter starts with the familiar guitar rhythm and beat of a Young anthem a la “Like a Hurricane.” You quickly realize that if you plan to stand for the entire song, you are going to be rocking in your shoes along with Neil for a test of stamina during his long, soaring solos. The song on the album lasts close to sixteen and a half minutes. I am positive this rendition lasted far longer, but I was all smiles, playing along with my air guitar and catching glimpses of Neil up close on one of two large video screens. The last four minutes of the album version is a distorted attack on Neil’s guitar. In the live version, it seemed to go on forever… even a little long for my taste. I turned to my son after the rampage finally ended and said, “Our wives would have loved this.” We both laughed. They would have left.
Neil then brought the crowd back to familiar territory with “The Needle and the Damage Done.” This was followed by “Twisted Road” from the new album and “Singer Without a Song,” a never released song featuring Neil on piano (and a girl walking aimlessly about the stage with a guitar case). These were the slowest songs of the evening – ones I endure so that I will be there when CH resumes jamming with Neil. I was really looking forward to “Ramada Inn.” This rocker, with a fabulous love story, did not disappoint. Hearing it live with Neil singing from his soul almost brought tears to my eyes.
Neil’s comical introduction to “Cinnamon Girl” was the longest, uninterrupted vocal connection to the audience I have witnessed in ten or more NY concerts. He was rambling that this old song is for all the “fucking doubters.” Cinnamon Girl is one of those songs that is just waaayyyy tooo short. Like Tom Petty’s “Breakdown,” it leaves you begging for more. Fortunately, Petty recognizes this and extends the song in concert. Neil does not. But not to be disappointed, Neil finishes the show with classics “F*!#in’ Up,” “Mr.Soul,” and “Hey Hey, My My”. In some earlier shows, Neil has snuck in “Cortez the Killer” – one of my favorites. I think he nixed the idea when he said “good evening” to the crowd earlier and commented that the reaction “was a little shorter than he expected” and maybe they would “skip this town on the next tour.” (Maybe this is how MSP got skipped this tour.) The encore of “Farmer John” was unexpected as he usually ends with “Roll Another Number (for the Road).”
I am glad I made the trip to Boston. Neil and CH put on one heck of show. The band obviously idolizes Neil – and it could be no other way. They are happy to pound out a very constant rhythm and background vocals so Neil can weave his story-telling guitar solos in and out of the song and grip each listener with words sung with soul and purpose. As with all recent Neil shows, I wondered out loud if this may be the last one I will have the pleasure to be part of – because seeing Neil live is an assault on my senses. “rock and roll can never die.”