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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Reflections on Freedom of Speech Tour

Neil Young - 8/12/2006 - Washington, DC
photo by Buzz Person (via

Now that the Freedom of Speech '06 Tour has ended, here are a few thoughts.

I attended the Washington, DC show and like many others, found the 2006 CSNY to be a significant improvement over the 2000 and 2002 tours. It wasn't just that Neil and his songs were front and center. It was more that all four members of CSNY were more into one another's songs than the previous tours where each seemed to drift off during each others songs creating a disconnect.

But even more fascinating has been the reaction to the tour. Thrasher's Wheat received well over 100 comments regarding the tour ranging from pro to con, from unconditional love to raging hate.

Here is an example of a positive fan's comment:
I have been going to concerts for 40 years. All sorts of concerts, from the Beach Boys, to Wynton Marsalis, to the New York Philharmonic. I have never heard such a variety of music, such sustained musicianship on such a high level, such honest emotion, or such a community of passion, both for the music being played and the cause being backed.

I don't think I have ever heard a better concert.

Keith C. Burris

I've seen CSNY 4 times previous:

1. The Santa Barbara, CA Greenpeace benefit in 1987

2. Bridge School benefit 1989, Mountain View, CA (off on this night).

3. The CSNY2K tour in San Jose, CA 2000

4. The 2002 CSNY tour in San Jose, CA

The concert I saw on Tuesday night blew all others away. Powerful material and execution.

I expected greatness from Neil but the big surprise was Stills, he stepped up and gave 200% and it pushed Neil to even higher levels of performance.

Intense show! Neil's new LWW material is better live with CSNY and the full force of his Les Paul CRUNCH.

I was moved to tears by the song Living With War.

I was absolutely awestruck the whole time, it was that good!

But not all comments were positive. Here's a sample:
"I'm not sure if you are the person to send this email to but I had to write something about the CSNY concert we went to Sunday night at the PNC Art Center in New Jersey. The music, harmony and most of the songs were great, but this war crap is getting annoying.

We should not be sujected to their points of view regarding the war. My husband, son and son-in-law are New York City Firefighters and they lost many friends on 9/11. For them to call us the enemy is a disgrace. If their daughter, son, wife etc. died in the World Trade Center Tragedy I believe they might be singing a different tune.

CSNY are a disgrace to this country. Those boys fighting the war are their for a great cause and I believe they are honored to serve this country. Every day they are finding out new plans for another threat to our country by these animals.

I paid to see them perform songs not to here their political views. I can't tell you how many people got up and walked out on them. If I thought I could get reimbursed I would try and give the money to 9/11 victims. I know the eight friends that I went with will never go see them again or buy any of their albums.

I have been going to their concerts for 37 years. Rarely missed seeing them when they were in New York. Slept over at the Filmore East in New York for first row seats all the time. I will miss the CSNY that I once new but I cannot listen to their politics at their concerts any longer.

Please try to get this message to them so they might understand we love the music not the politics."


Keeping with the CSN&Y "Freedom of Speech Tour" theme, I thought I'd write my thoughts. I don't know if you will publish them, as my comments are quite different from any that I'm seeing posted on your website, here. Anyway, here goes.....

Took my hubby to the 7/22/06 concert in South Lake Tahoe. Like any good baby boomers, we have been die-hard fans since the '70s. Concerts aren't cheap these days, as we all know---$300 for 2 mediocre seats, $16-20 for 2 beers, plus $70-80 for 2 T-shirts. But, who cares? What a GREAT place for a concert---a beautiful summer evening, under the stars, excitement in the air!

Well, to cut to the chase---the concert began, they sounded GREAT, USA/Canadian/British flags flying high, etc. But then, the theme of the "concert" seemed to change dramatically. It was suddenly an anti-war, anti-President Bush, anti-EVERYTHING "rally".

*A "concert"---with an Iraq war ticker tape/video going nonstop?

*A song introduced as a "tribute" to the troops/families---with videos of mostly coffins?

*A very mean spirited anti- President Bush song---with no thoughts (or words, whatsoever) to indicate that there are lots of folks with different political points of view in the crowd/country?

*The words of old CLASSIC songs changed---just to bash whatever they felt like bashing?

*A new, anti-commercialism song sung ("The Restless Consumer", I guess) that basically was down on anything "business" related---yet their ticket prices and T-shirts are outrageously high?

None of this made sense to us. And we were certainly not the only ones dismayed---some folks left the concert, some I noticed almost in tears at certain points, and a few threw their drinks at the stage.

And WHY? Are CSN&Y so COMPLETELY out of touch with mainstream fans that they forgot that we all are different? And that we need to be tolerant of each others' different views?

It was all very disheartening. We left the concert feeling very confused.....not the old CSN&Y that we have grown up with over the years. AH---maybe it's just that....some of us have grown up and have good manners, others, well, don't.

So, in conclusion, we are 2 die- hard CSN&Y fans that feel very saddened and ripped off. Debating politics is fine. There is a place for concerts and a place for political rallies. But disguising a mean spirited, expensive political rally as a "concert" seems like BAIT AND SWITCH.... NOT FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

So, there's my FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

Larry and Bunnie

Big CSNY fan going to the show tonight in Sunrise. I am going to hopefully see a great MUSICAL performance, NOT A POLITICAL rally. I live in the UNITED States of America. United we Stand, Divided We Fall. We don't need an over the hill hippie using concerts as a forum to divide this great nation. If Neil Young does not love the USA and suport our leaders he should go back and stay in Canada and take Cindy Sheehan and Jane Fonda with him. Leave the Politics to the Politicians. Just continue to play great music Neil.
Bill in FL

And that's just a small sample of the pro and con of the CSNY 2006 tour.

Oddly, there was a pattern to the anti-tour views. Many stated how much they loved CSNY and Neil's music over the years but yet were surprised, disappointed, and shocked by the politics of the tour. As several have pointed out, it's hard to believe any true fan of CSNY would be surprised by the political tone of the tour.

In addition, there is a pattern of posters insisting that CSNY shut-up and sing, similar to the Dixie Chicks controversary. Which they actually did with very little between song bantering and letting the music speak for itself. One has to suspect whether such comments were written by actual concert attendees? Is this a concerted effort to minimize artists' impact in the political arena?

It seems many commenters felt that you are allowed to speak and sing as long as the attendee agrees with their point of view. Otherwise, shut-up and sing.

And of course this is the ultimate irony of a tour called Freedom of Speech.


At 9/19/2006 08:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thrasher, i think your last line said it all,it was called"Freedom of Speech" and I suppose those who attended the concert should be encouraged to express their opinion. I had purchased the LWW cd and was prepared for the "theme" of the tour prior to attending the concert. It is my hubble opinion that in no way was it the intention of Mr. Young to "put down" the American soldier. It was "for" the American soldier that he wrote the songs he did. If one is to give one's life, then the cause had better be worth it. I think we can all agree that the move into Afganistan was justified in routing out the Taliban forces,however, the move into Irag leaves far too many questions to be answered by those in political power.For those who felt Mr. Young went too far, "fair enough", but I think if you really examined the "message in the music, you may reach a different conclusion.

At 9/19/2006 09:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The tour sounded like it was quite good musically. Unfortunately, I did not attend. I know expenses are high to put on concerts and these guys, even though they've earned a lot over the years, maybe need to assure that they and their families will be well taken care of throughout the years. What I'm getting at is that it is that the ticket prices today are obscene and it becomes way more hypocritcal for a band to tour with a message heavily critical of big business and "the restless consumer" and certainly wanting to get their message out to the "masses" about the need to impeach and change the world and yet charge in many venues as much as 240 dollars with service charges for the entire lower level and 150 dollars w/charges for the most of the upper and just have a 35 dollar section for the peasants, where you can only see on the bigscreen. The "Freedom of Speech" tour was far from free. I just listened to my tape of Neil Young and the Ducks from Santa Cruz 77. Neil charged 3 bucks back then and I've seen him for free, too. So I know these guys are great and have huge hearts. I won't forget that. But, why support and feed the system they agressively criticize? I don't get it. With some more effort, I do believe they could have stayed away from clear Channel and Ticketmaster and charged for instance 90 dollars for lower level and 50 for upstairs and still done alright. As much as I love them, I couldn't support this tour. My boycott, I do believe ironically was in keeping with the message of their protest.

At 9/20/2006 11:15:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not about the music????? They are a concert playing band of musicians! It's called a "CONCERT", not "political rally". I don't have to be "pro-Bush" or "pro-war" (I am neither) to want to hear the great music they can produce. I can't believe there are people naive enough to think that Bush wouldn't want to be remembered as the one who ended this war. What a coup for the Republicans that would be! What the heck is gained by staying in the war unless there is more at stake than we realize. I sure don't need a rock band to tell me what's goin' on, and I'm offended they think I need Neil Young to tell me how to think. Those of you who are wanting to believe this is an anti-war movement need to realize it's just a way for the group to get attention and publicity, which lets the old Hippies rekindle their younger years. They call it an anti-war movement- what? By bashing the very government that gives you the freedom to say what you want? By being able to choose to whom you listen for your political influences? Dammit- I just wanted a CONCERT with good music by talented musicians- it's ALL about the MUSIC! If you want politics, watch CNN or Fox Network or something... CBS is good and liberal. Go there!

At 9/20/2006 11:23:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! It's amazing so many people are so out of touch with reality. If you want politics you say, watch CNN or FOX? What planet are you on anyway? Neil Young is no sell out. If anything he is one of the true musicians who really speaks out about what is going on at the time. The real problem is that so many people are so incredibly complacent that all they worry about is what to eat for supper tonight. Heaven forbid that ‘WE’ the American public look in the mirror. We always want to believe we are so righteous. Some things have been happening in the US for far too long now and we are letting our government spoon feed us. I’ve been to a lot of Neil Young concerts and this is my third CSN concert and first with Neil Young joining them. I will tell you that as much as I love CSN….their concerts don’t compare to what Neil adds to them. AND the fact that they chose to tour after Neil’s ‘Living with War’ album, it is only fitting this peace loving group stand on this platform like they did so many years ago. This concert was AWESOME!!! I’m still reeling from it
Lastly…..yes and they do call it an anti-war movement by bashing our government and I’m thankful we have the freedom so they can put on this concert. But just because you have these freedoms does not mean you have to play along all the time and be good little girls and boys.

At 9/21/2006 02:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it difficult to comprehend that people attended the concert without knowing what was about to happen - obviously, these folks were not following Neil's recent release. My wife (who, frankly is one of the smartest, politically savy persons I've ever met) falls into this category. I mean, she was very non-plussed by the "anti-war" tone (and she is antiwar!) even after listening to my 5 year old son sing "Let's Impeach the President" as he was being wheeled down the aisles of the local supermarket. She came away from the concert with the feeling that she had just been hit in the head over and over again by a large anit everything mallet. How is it that people attend concerts without knowing (at least a bit) what to expect? Concerts should be more than entertainment - they should (hopefully) have more resonance than putting on a CD

At 9/21/2006 05:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and I saw CSNY at Verizon. It was the first concert we'd gone to for years, and we were really looking forward to it. We paid $90 each for the better seats, and $28 for 4 beers. Initially, I was in awe at the four iconic musicians on stage- loved the vocals and guitar/keyboard talents. I didn't care if the harmonies were off, I didn't notice. Musically it was totally entertaining. But, geez- we were SO duped! No one told me that I just paid to have these very rich men tell me that Bush, and only Bush, is solely responsible for the war (as if there isn't a whole ELECTED congress and assorted experts behind choices made, too. I KNOW there is a problem in the middle East- I watch it daily on the news- so I go to a concert to escape some of the stress and enjoy good music. I recognise that Neil has an agenda, okay, put it in one segment, do your thing, then get back to what people paid for! Does he think we are so shallow that we aren't aware there's issues that suck? The 60's are over, been there- done that, and I now expect to be treated like an adult. I will take my stand when I vote responsibly. I resented having unsolicited biases crammed down my throat! If they are SO concerned about the U.S. not helping people at home, why isn't half the earnings from the concert going to the Katrina victims or such??? I thought the actors placing the giant microphone with a yellow ribbon was SO CHEESY! All it made me think about was how childish they must think we are, not about the war. I looked around at the audience when all the anti-Bush crap was happening and although I didn't hear any boos, half of us weren't applauding either. We just stood there disappointed and dumbfounded! When the final song ended with 10 minutes of guitar cacaphony supposedly reaching some sort of crescendic climax, I was most definitely not feeling the love. Was I glad I went, yeah, had a nice dinner and got out of the house. Would I go again- hell no!If they stuck to music and left out the politics, maybe....

At 9/21/2006 09:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

CSNY has been doing the political thing since 1969, so I really can't see how one would be surpirsed by the tone of the show. This is the most devicive our country has been since Vietnam, and Neil's new music is proof of that...and it his his opinion to say this stuff, especiall on the "freedom of speech" tour. Maybe those who just wanted the "music" would be happy if the band just hashed out "ohio" or "rockin in the free world," but if they knew anything about why those songs were written, they would know that the concert's theme was no different than that of the "hits" they came to hear.

At 9/22/2006 07:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoever wants Neil Young to divorce politics from music probably doesn't deserve to listen to Neil Young. What kind of person doesn't acknowledge the overlap between music and politics? What kind of Neil Young fan? An IGNORANT one, that is for sure. The concert was great, and anyone who isn't bright enough to know what they were goig to see, proabbly shoudln't have forked over that kind of cash for a tour supporting Living With War. Get real.

At 9/23/2006 09:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A different angle - I've posted my love of the Camden show & my views on LWW, the reaction of so many to the music, etc. I'd like to engage your first comment about this tour being superior to Y2K & 2002 - you've written about being the end of the boom (1960), me too - unlike you, I wasn't able to get to the Atlantic City show in '74 (you were at Norfolk, right?) - my first live glimpse of Neil was a couple of weeks after turning 16 - Stills-Young Band @ the Spectrum in Philly - I still remember the opening harmonics to FWIW, the crowd reaction to AFTG & the extended jams on Cowgirl & Southern up, the Live Rust tour, etc. My point is this: how do you think Neil's attitude has shifted since "Thrasher" - I always thought Stills's "I Give You Give Blind" on 1977's "CSN" was directed at Neil in the wake of the SYB blow up & "Thrasher" responded - seeing them live on this tour, I can't help but feel a warmth they share - that was the best part of the show for me - the obvious comradeship of friends playing together & speaking their piece (no pun intended.) Anyway, would appreciate a future blog on this theme & the views of others - thanks for keeping the blog going throughout the tour! Now to Farm Aid!

At 9/26/2006 11:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know I went for the music and the personalities of CSNY and Loved the show. I've always been following them since I saw them back in the mid 70s. So I just enjoy being able to reconnect every year or so.

its especially nice to know that they don't just come around to do an oldies reunion tour as I am much more interested in what their projects and ideas are now, not just a bunch of old guys who can still gather round the campfire and sing "Our House". and get all nostalgic for the good old days.
for that I can go see the Eagles

I have to question someone who would call themselves a "Die-Hard" fan when it's obvious they are telling us that it just took hearing CSNY's opinions in a concert to make their "Fanaticism" die.... and not so "Hard" I might add.

and also the idea that if you criticize Bush, then you hate our Troups, Firefighters and other heroes that make this country what it is.....?
I'm very proud of our troops,and their effort in Afghanistan to find those responsible for the invasion on our soil,,, But not the Iraq invasion that our "Man who would be King" had them "accomplish"

But then, thats the amazing right wing spin machine at work isnt it.words lose their meanings. They are very good at it. look what they did to the word "Liberal" . Like its a bad thing to be liberal and want to see all sides of the issues rather than the just what the conservative side wants you to know.
I undertsand them being down on "the Left"... but Liberal? by definition thats the middle of the road!

anyway, I feel CSNY are also very proud of Americas Heroes and showed it to me at that show. It was also obvious that they do not care for how Bush and his regime are using them for.


At 9/27/2006 03:17:00 PM, Blogger JimDC821 said...

Thrasher, I will jump on the bandwagon to say that any "fan" who attended the CSNY "Freedom of Speech" tour expecting to hear 3 and 1/2 hours of "Our House" ought to find their eight track tapes of the Mamas and the Papas, drink their geritol and go to bed a little earlier... Any "fan" would have known what they were in for - and if they didn't agree they could sold their tickets for 3 times the cost on ebay, like any restless consumer might do, and thereby shut out any sense that we are living in a screwed up world --they can then say "No" to examining what is happening, taking responsibility and issuing a clarion call for true leadership to address that which we should truly fear...
I was mostly pleased with the entire show, although I would have opted for few older Neil tunes such as "Long Walk Home" and "Around the World" which appear even more valid than in the time they were released.

At 9/27/2006 08:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sam the show it Pittsburg. Good show. HAven't seen CSNY since AC in '74 when they opened with "Love the One your With" as a reference to Gerry Ford. No chance of that song on this tour.

Great Show, good msic and good jams. I don't understand all the commentary on their political views. They haven't changed much over the years. Neils been using the peace sign/Canadian Flag guitar strap as long as I can remember. Look forward to a Neil Solo tour.

At 9/29/2006 04:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For all you losers who knocked the tour because of the political message that was put forward, have you all forgot what the sixties and seventies were all about? Those days were about expressing your "Freedom of Speech". Some of you say you've been fans since the old days. Have you forgot about "Ohio", "Almost Cut My Hair", and some of the other protest anthems? Have you forgot about Dylan, The Beatles, etc.? That's what those days were all about. All you "holier than thou right wingers" need to shake your selves. If you know anything about Neil or any of those guys, they are in full support of our troops, just not the idiot that has them over there.

At 7/31/2007 12:04:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My god, all this over CSNY. I wished I had the opportunity to see them. Living halfway around the world precludes such an occasion and CSNY sure as hell won't be visiting the Aus shores anytime soon.

About the goons who went to the concert NOT EXPECTING ant-gov't anthems....bullshit. You are liers, just like your president. I have been listening to these guys since the late 60's and you know what, if they didn't take an anti gov't stance I'd feel pissed.


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