Massey Hall Reviews
Orange County Weekly by Oliver Hall:
"There is no need to preach to Young fanatics, who will rush out and buy the thing no matter what. For people who have a casual interest in Neil Young’s music, or those who prefer the Harvest side of his persona, though, this album will be a great source of pleasure and perhaps even a major discovery. For one thing, the set list includes songs a casual fan probably hasn’t heard before: until now, “Journey Through the Past” and “Love in Mind” have only been legitimately available on the out-of-print Time Fades Away;“Bad Fog of Loneliness” has never made it onto a record (“I was gonna do it with Carl Perkins and the Tennessee Three,” Young says of a cancelled appearance on the Johnny Cash Show,speaking in a distracted way that makes him sound weirdly like Kurt Cobain for a moment); and “Dance Dance Dance” has only been released as a cover by the late Danny Whitten’s version of Crazy Horse. Live at Massey Hall is a beautiful recording of Neil Young at one of his creative peaks, making lovely, scary music."
Entertainment Wise by Janne Oinonen:
"If last year's 'Fillmore East' set from 1970 found Young in full hard-rocking pomp, embarking on those electrifying epic jams with Crazy Horse at full gallop that earned him the 'Godfather of Grunge' status, this second release in the long overdue Archives series represents the decibel-dodging flipside of his artistic persona. Not that there's anything soft-focus about these stripped-down proceedings. Armed with just a guitar and piano, Young might sound, ahem, relaxed to the point of keeling over during the mumbled banter that intercepts the performance, but there's no hint of hazy-eyed sluggishness in the intense, often chill-inducingly beautiful music.
Captured at a creative peak when songs were practically pouring out of him, a lot of these tunes were yet to be committed to tape at the time of this show. The unfamiliarity of large chunks of the set doesn't lessen the enthusiasm of the adoring hometown crowd one bit. As it shouldn't with songs as strong as these, many of which were to form the backbone of 'Harvest', the album that turned Young into a bona fide superstar."
Uncut by GAVIN MARTIN:
"Reminiscent of Dylan in his mid-‘60s heat, Young was practically pissing genius.
Consequently, a hail-the-conquering-hero atmosphere was evident in Toronto: the crowd break into applause when he gets to the 'I'm going back to Canada' line in the middle of “Journey Through The Past”. Unknown to them, Young was in a back brace after a sustaining an injury moving timber at his ranch on a Christmas break. Certainly, no signs of any distress are evident in his superlative acoustic guitar and ol’ Mission Hall piano accompaniment. The relaxed, rambling intros suggest that herbal self-medication was on the agenda. And if so, it only seems to have helped him to focus on the music; once into a song, the hangdog hippy is banished and magic takes hold, with Young attaining cinematic scope from minimal instrumental accompaniment."
Pitchfork by Rob Mitchum:
"All this gloom and doom was only going to build for Neil Young over the years following this tour; his new 'The Needle and the Damage Done' foreshadowed the ensuing half-decade of addiction and death that would inspire some of his finest records. Live at Massey Hall catches Young divining that bleak future from the darkness of the crowd, caught alone at the microphone, a chilling example of why he was, in this particular guise, the 70s' best architect of lonesomeness."
BBC by Chris Jones:
"Stripped of either the country garage stylings of Crazy Horse or his more salubrious West Coast chums, these direct readings brim with the energy of a man hitting his songwriting zenith. Not only do we get early versions of classics such as ‘’Heart Of Gold’’ or ‘’Old Man’’ we hear songs that were either shelved for several years (‘’See The Sky About To Rain’’, ‘’Journey Through The Past’’ and ‘’Love In Mind’’) or simply never saw the light of day (‘’Bad Fog Of Loneliness’’).
Peppered with earlier material, even from his days with Buffalo Springfield, it fast becomes clear that this is no ordinary ‘unplugged’ experience. His approach to acoustic troubador chic had, by this point, been tempered by his membership of the West Coast royalty. Every chord and inflection contain the sun-drenched mellowness and harmonic sophistication associated with the period, but remain entirely Young’s due to his own gloomier perspective (‘I live on a ranch now…lucky me.’)."
From Music Box by Douglas Heselgrave:
"Worlds apart from his incendiary 1969 and 1970 performances with Crosby, Stills, and Nash as well as with Crazy Horse, the shows that Young gave during his 1971 tour of Canada played a large part in forming the classic image that today resides so fondly in the public’s imagination. Confident and brimming with creative fire, one moment, fragile, delicate, and unassuming, the next, the songs sound as if they are being delivered around a campfire or in one’s own living room. The playing is sometimes tentative and exploratory; at other moments, it is full of fire and intensity. The delivery is often unsure; the lyrics are like Zen koans — brief and to the point, having not yet achieved their iconic status. The voice is so impossibly pure and, well, so young-sounding, that (to borrow a phrase) it’s not only love that can break your heart. The intimacy and immediacy of these songs, many of them performed here before they even were recorded, brought tears to my eyes more than once. The versions of Old Man and The Needle and the Damage Done that are featured on Live at Massey Hall are set up beautifully by Young, with the back story to each song’s creation adding resonance to those tunes that have become overly familiar as the years have passed. To be given the chance to hear embryonic, classics-in-the-making — like a piano suite of Heart of Gold and A Man Needs a Maid — is nothing short of a revelation."
From Stylus Magazine by Stewart Voegtlin:
"Everything is spent on “Don’t Let It Bring You Down,” as if Young valiantly attempts to answer what that abstract “it” might be for each and every living breathing being that made it to Massey Hall for the show. He gives these lyrics his most impassioned reading of the evening, wholly believable, convincingly convinced in the stupid power of song. Castles burning, red lights flashing, sirens moaning, the dead heaped in confusing piles on roadsides in every town of every nation; these are clichéd and prophetic phrases, strung together out of necessity and relayed by nearly every bright-eyed dumbfuck new to ennui and armed with a pawnshop acoustic. No matter. Young reclaims the piece by singing it as it probably should have been sung from the beginning, as if the “solution” was realizing that there never was one to begin with, deftly making Massey Hall as ageless, remarkable, and as relevant as it could be."
Salon by David Marchese:
"But aside from being a fantastic collection of songs, the album is elevated by its audio vérité feeling: Young's halting, self-deprecating song introductions; his admonition of the cameramen after their clicking shutters throw off his rhythm; the lonesome, cracked beauty of Young's singing voice. They all add up to a portrait of a young man fiercely protective of a gift that allowed him to write such searing, soulful music, and few albums in his vast catalog showcase Young's talent with such simple and forceful clarity."
Also, Bad News Beat: Massey Hall reviews en masse, Sneak Preview of Live at Massey Hall, and 1971 Toronto Massey Hall Concert Next Up in Archives Series.