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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Philadelphia, PA Concert Reviews: 12/9 & 10/07


Still recovering from the 2 Philly shows and having trouble figuring out where to start. These were our 3rd and 4th shows of the tour and in the immediate afterglow of a Neil concert it's difficult to make the inevitable comparisons because every Neil show is so unique and special in its own way. Generally, I would say Neil was more intense and focused at the 2 Washington, DC shows whereas he was much more loose and spirited in Philly.

As with DC, the 2nd night was the better experience. In DC on night #2, Neil dropped a verse from "Try"'s debut, digressed about energy and power grids, went crazy on "No Hidden Path" knocking over mic stands and practically climbing on the piano during "Tonight's The Night" he was so possessed. In Philly night #2, Neil told wonderful stories about his Granny and gave a truly remarkable introduction to "After The Goldrush" with comments on the Nobel Peace prize, Al Gore, and global warming. He was truly warm, funny and engaging.


So what else? 1st night we got "Mexico", another rarity! And 2nd night, "Kansas", "Try" and show closing "Sultan". It's hard to imagine it being better.

Then there was "Ambulance Blues". For some veteran concert goers this performance has been called one of Neil's all time best. On the first night, after the line "Pissin' in the wind", there's usually cheering. But not Philly. The first verse was greeted by reverant silence and only on the repeat of "Pissin' in the wind" were there a few whistles and whoops. Upon completion, Thrashette turned to me, exhaled and said "I forgot to breathe". It was that mesmerizing.

Clearly, Neil was quite happy to be in Philadelphia. Comments about W.C. Fields, the Tower Theater, a "great audience" all indicated that we were for a real treat.

At the first DC show, I was so focused on Neil that I missed many aspects of the staging such as the equipment, lighting and artwork. Last night, I was able to take in many more details, particularly the lighting. This may have been because the shows were being filmed by Jonathan Demme. It seemed as if each song had it's own color pallet. At one point during "No Hidden Path", during the solo meltdown, it seemed that every light in the grid, stage, backwall, and alphabet letters lit up just as Neil peaked. It was truly an un-worldy experience visually and sonically.

Also, not enough can be said about how the crafting of the setlists is similar to the artist drawing the song's title cards. Just as each song is selected and it's sequencing conveys its own message, so do the artist's renderings of the songs. It's really all too cool.


So many other highlights that I'll just hit on a few more. Sunday's "A Man Needs A Maid" was played without the organ and just the grand piano. It was amazing how the very last note seemed to sustain and hang in the air until the audience applause began. And thank God for an audience that wasn't yelling out at all the wrong moments during the acoustic set. Way to go Philly!

Also on Sunday, Neil knocked over one of his guitars during "Cowgirl in the Sand" and made a funny comment like " it wants to be played" or something. When the music stopped Larry Cragg rushed out to see what was going on and seemed quite startled that something went wrong.

The second night's "Hurricane" was much more focused and tight. On the first night, there were at least three different concluding codas before it settled into the feedback finale. It seemed Neil couldn't get everyone on the same page. Not so on the second night when he was facing drummer Ralph for much on the song's conclusion.


We feel incredibly fortunate to be present for 2 nights of filming. While it won't result in something as beautifully gorgeous as the Heart of Gold film, it'll be cool to someday be able to say "Hey, we were there at the Philly shows!"


When Neil did the encore bow, he was drenched in sweat and exhausted but was smiling the biggest smile I have ever seen on him. The band stood arm in arm for what seemed like a minute soaking in the standing ovation. They looked like they had all had the time of their life. And so had we. Lucky us. Thanks Neil & Pegi & friends.

Besides the music, it was tremendous to renew long friendships and make new Neil buddies. Thanks Dee and Tim for putting together the Rust-fest. Nice to catch up with Mark "Powderfinger" and Tish again through the years. Being with Frank Z for his 106th Neil show!!! Ed "Wheel In The Ditch" thanks so much for hooking me up with the Sunday show - sounds great! Bill "Tired Eyes" it was cool hanging out by the totem pole and doing post show analysis over Belgian ales. Nice meeting you Lou "more to the picture". Loved the poster stories! And it was great meeting everyone else.


Neil Young will be performing tonight at Tower Theatre, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Got a report? Drop a comment below.

Check Sugar Mountain for setlist updates.

Also, see Neil Young 2007 Tour and Concert Reviews and the right, middle sidebar for updates.


At 12/10/2007 09:56:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As most folks noted in prior posts the show started on time. Pegi opened but for me she was kind of mediocre. She played for about an hour. The crowd was patient. After a short intermission Neil arrived. He looked good. His older appearance did not match his fire. During both his accoustic and electric sets he was fabulous. The sound in the Tower was awesome. He too enjoyed playing here. He didn't interact much with the audience during either sets but did mention how he loved playing the smaller venues and took a short moment to reflect on how wonderful the Tower Threater was. During Cowgirl he knocked over one of his 7 guitars that surrounded him and had to stop playing. He took it in stride while showing his dry humor gently struming the guitar he accidently knocked over as he played. It was very funny and the audience laughed. What blew me away was the nearly 25 minute "No Hidden Path"(I think???). Like me, the crowd was in awe! For what amounted to a bunch of older men on stage they played like teenagers. We could especially tell since we were 6 ft away from him. Such fire! Before he's gone I hope I get to see him again!
Mat, Lionville, PA

At 12/10/2007 11:08:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good review!

At 12/10/2007 11:51:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

also when the guitar fell on him durring cowgirl he had to stop playing to put the guitar back on its stand... he sat thinking for a second before saying, "he just wanted to jam." What a great moment! Overall it was a fantastic show and I'm glad I got to see him in such a small venue! I love that he requested the audience to remain as quiet as possible during the acoustic set. I felt like I was there with about 20 people listening to him play! I got choked up when he played after the gold rush. It was a very special night...
Paul, Philly, PA

At 12/10/2007 11:59:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

About two months ago, my dad got tickets to last nights show and asked if I wanted to go with him. To be honest, I didn't care either way, I've never been a huge fan of Neil but I respect his music and old greats like him. All I have to say is that it was one of the most mesmerizing experiences of my life. My dad is a passionate Neil fan and throughout my life, Neil's music always reminds me of him. During the first set, the passion and intensity made me tear up a little. The nostalgia and love that I share with my dad was being captured by Neil and the music. After the first hour of greatness, Neil rocked the mic the second set. The man is 62 and jammed out like he was 22 especially during "No Hidden Path," he just didn't want the song to end. I'm 20 myself and I was in awe. Seeing him live was awesome and I hope to see him again. Thank you Mr. Young.

At 12/10/2007 12:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been to many shows in my life and to many venues. But last night's Neil show had to be one of the best I have ever seen. I have been into Neil for a long time but his recent releases have moved me in a way I haven't been moved by music in years. Last night was like being at two separate concerts. His acoustic genius in the first set with emotion just emanating from his strings and keys. Followed up by a a balls out Rock and Roll2nd set that left me dieing for more. I'm 43 but I hope one day I can be a Dirty Old Man like Neil. Keep doing it for the PEOPLE Neil, we love you.

At 12/10/2007 01:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just like every night on his current two-month tour, the first words sang by Neil Young at the Tower Theatre Sunday night were, "From Hank to Hendrix, I walk these streets with you," a lyrical nod not only to Hank Williams and Jimi Hendrix, but to the framework of what would be a career-spanning 2-1/2 concert.

Surrounded by a tight circle of seven guitars and a banjo while sitting on a folding in a frumpy paint-stained suit, a slimmed-down Young spent the first hour of the show alone, jumping moving from guitar and banjo ("Mellow My Mind") to a white piano splashed with pink and yellow ("A Man Needs A Maid") and a faded wooden organ ("Journey Through the Past.") His harp was never far behind with Young accompanying himself on nearly every song.

For the second half of the show, he was joined by a three-piece band for an electric set. More on that later.

With a Martin guitar once owned by Hank Williams cradled in his arms, Young's second song of the night, the sprawling ballad "Ambulance Blues" from 1974's "On the Beach," set the bar high for the rest of the show as he adeptly made his way through the 12-verse mind tease. "It's easy to get buried in the past," he sang, foreshadowing the rest of the evening.

While Young gave the sold-out crowd gentle versions of his most well-known songs ("Harvest," "After the Goldrush,") his decision to include a trio of older, unreleased songs is what has given this tour, which continues tonight at the Tower, a special aura. Young put himself in the velvet balcony seats of an old movie house for "Sad Movies," singing that he was "lookin' for someone to squeeze for a while." Also included was the much-bootlegged "Love Art Blues" and "Mexico," which was to be on the aborted "Chrome Dreams" album. It was the second time Young had ever played the 35-year-old song, which he debuted a few days earlier in Boston.

The unreleased gems can only fuel fan hopes that the first volume of Young's oft-delayed "Archives" box set is actually ready for its scheduled release this February. (The first volume will include eight CDs of rare and unreleased material from 1963 to 1972, along with two DVDs of never-before-seen film footage and a 150-page book.)

Young left his caustic "Living With War" album at home and his only reference to politics was his introduction for "Campaigner," saying, "It's going to be election time pretty soon. Everyone is tuning up their act." After the song, in which he sang that even Richard Nixon has soul, he added this sly caveat: "I don't know what that song has to do with anything, really."

Later, he spoke of Upper Darby's Tower Theatre, saying, "This is a real good place isn't it?" An audience member, playing the role of the loud, obnoxious Philadelphia rock fan, shouted, "It's better with you here!" Young deadpanned, "It wouldn't be much without you here, either."

Young also seemingly referenced the high ticket prices for the show, which had many fans shelling out $160. He told a story about seeing Roy Orbison and Gene Pitney at 1,000-seat convention center, marveling at the size of the venue at the time. "It's just a struggle to get back to these places that I wanted be at in the first place," he said, failing to add, "and make the same amount of money."

Young brought his solo acoustic set to a close with a majestic version of "Cowgirl in the Sand," which left the giddy audience silent...until one of the guitars that circled Young fell from it's stand, crashing into him as he was lost in the song's guitar solo. The crowd gasped, then laughed as Young said, "I just wanted to jam," before going back into the solo and jokingly flicking the strings of the tipped guitar.

After a 15-minute break, Young returned with a band of longtime collaborators: Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina, bassist Rick Rosas and pedal-steel guitarist Ben Keith, who has been with Young ever since they recorded "Harvest" together in 1971.

The 75-minute electric set was a buffet of countrified rock, not the grunge that Young revels in with Crazy Horse.

But there was one prolonged exception.

Young and the band tackled "No Hidden Path," the 14-minute song on Young's latest album, "Chrome Dreams II," which he only dipped into during the second set.

Young and the band stretched the already too-long song into a 20-minute squeal, with more than half of the time eaten by a pair of sprawling, ground-shaking guitar solos. It was a treat to the few younger fans in attendance who love the Godfather of Grunge more than the acoustic storyteller. Young seemed to shed 20 years as he jumped, stomped and thrashed with his wispy hair floating above.

Of the "Chrome Dreams II" songs, the jaunty soul of "The Believer" and crunchy rocker "Dirty Old Man" were the best of the lot. Other highlights included a version of the "Winterlong" complete with sleigh bells, which would have brought a smile to the face of Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson. And there was the wonderful re-creation of the Don Gibson-penned "Oh, Lonesome Me" with angelic harmonies from Keith, Molina and Young. And a version of "Bad Fog of Loneliness" drowned in Keith's patented pedal-steel.

After leaving the stage, Young returned to give the fans a double dip of hits with a by-the-books version of "Cinnamon Girl" and an extended "Like a Hurricane," which was punctuated by Molina's splintering drumsticks. One shard even flew about five rows into the crowd.

The crowd rose to their feet for the final two songs, clapping above their heads in as Young and the band joking stumbled through their group bow. Young had an ear-to-ear grin on his face as he walked off the stage, as the audience and an expansive film crew looked on.

Throughout the theater, there were cameramen filming the entire show for a future "Chrome Dreams" concert film. A film that will be a treasure not only for those who were there, but for all Young fans who have followed their unlikely hero through his unconventional 40-year career.

The setlist:
1. From Hank To Hendrix
2. Ambulance Blues
3. Sad Movies
4. A Man Needs A Maid
5. Mexico
6. No One Seems To Know
7. Harvest
8. Journey Through The Past
9. After The Gold Rush
10. Mellow My Mind
11. Love Art Blues
12. Campaigner
13. Cowgirl In The Sand
14. The Loner
15. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
16. Dirty Old Man
17. Spirit Road
18. Bad Fog Of Loneliness
19. Winterlong
20. Oh, Lonesome Me
21. The Believer
22. No Hidden Path
23. Cinnamon Girl
24. Like A Hurricane

At 12/10/2007 01:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The proper link.

At 12/10/2007 02:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article and information! Learned a few things. Thank you.
Mat, Lionville, PA

At 12/10/2007 03:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hank to Hendrix references Hank Marvin of 'The Shadows', who was Neil's first guitar hero. That's what 'The Sultan's style was based on.

At 12/10/2007 06:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Down here in Florida and we thank you very much PA for your details of the show. We saw Neil in Detroit and Boston and Philly sounds just as great. The shows continue to remind me that we are so lucky to have Neil Young such a master that loves his fans too!

At 12/10/2007 07:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

one of the best shows i've ever been to. this was the perfect venue to see neil. the small theater really made the acoustic set amazing. the second song "Ambulance Blues" is an excellent song that some people may have never heard. neil also threw in some gems like "Harvest" and "After the Gold Rush." i've seen neil with crazy horse before which is great, but splitting up the show into two parts is a great idea. the acoustic/piano set was very personal/intimate, and the second set neil just tore the house down, opening it up with "The Loner" and encoring with "Cinnamon Girl" and "Like a Hurricane." this show was worth every penny, so tell your kid they can't see Hannah Montana this year, and go see one of the best songwriter's ever. thanks neil

At 12/10/2007 10:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here are the best clips I could find on YouTube of the '07 tour thus far(17 in total). Copy and paste each one into your browser. Thanks to all who shared these treasures. ENJOY! See ya in NY! Bob in CT

Check these out! (Chevy Theater 12/7/07) Cinnamon Girl (Spokane 07) Heart Of Gold (Spokane 07) Tonight's The Night (Boston 12/07, Part 1) (Pretty Funny!) (Boston 12/07, Part 2) (same guys!) (Massey Hall 11/26/07) Hank To Hendrix (Massey Hall 11/27/07)Cowgirl In The Sand (Chicago Theater 07) Old Man (Shea's Buffalo Ctr11/30/07)Love Art Blues (Shea's Buffalo Ctr 11/07)Mellow My Mind (Shea's Buffalo Ctr 11/07) Ambulance Blues (Massey Hall 11/26/07) Harvest (Portland 10/22/07) Love Is A Rose (Massey Hall 11/07) A Man Needs A Maid (Orpheum, Boston 12/6/07) Dirty Old Man (Orpheum,Boston12/6/07) Cortez The Killer (WaMuTheater10/07)NoHiddenPath(great!)


At 12/11/2007 08:31:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dont drop SAD MOVIES from the set list now ! We wanna hear it in NYC.especialy since the place you're playing is an old movie theatre from way back......

At 12/11/2007 10:04:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spoke to a cameraman at the show last night (Monday night) at the Tower Theater in Philly (12/10/07).

Both shows at the Tower Theater in Philly (actually Upper Darby, PA) were filmed in High Definition by Jonathan Demme (director of "Silence of the Lambs"). I was told these are the only shows being filmed on the tour.

There were probably 6 people in and around the stage with hand held digital cameras. And several more cameras in the audience.

A DVD release will likely be coming.

Here's what the Philadelphia Inquirer said about Sunday night's show (which can pretty much apply to Monday's show as well):

"Young's show was half acoustic, but full of electricity
By Dan DeLuca

Inquirer Music Critic

Ferocious hippie that he (still) is, Neil Young spent his first hour on stage at the Tower Theater on Sunday singing acoustic songs of fragile beauty that sought spiritual calm and longed for lost innocence. Then, for the next hour and a half, he stood up, plugged in, and tore it all to shreds.
At 62, Young remains a legendary iconoclast, a restless tinkerer who's literally always in motion, even when sitting down. His loose-limbed swaying knocked over one of five guitars arranged on a stage that resembled your grandmother's attic, during a terrific "Cowgirl in the Sand" that closed the first half of the highly entertaining evening.

"It just wants to jam," he said, unflummoxed as always. When he resumed the song, he strummed the guitar's neck to grant its wish.

For decades, Young has been talking about putting out an epic multi-disc compendium of his unreleased material. Who knows when that'll happen, but the Canadian child of the '60s has clearly been perusing his back pages.

His uneven new album, Chrome Dreams II, from which he did four songs - including a 19-minute, endurance-test fuzz-rock version of "No Hidden Path" that didn't quite justify its length - is a sequel to a 1970s LP that never came out. And the guiding principle of the tour, which was scheduled to bring him back for another sold-out Tower show last night, was to mix trademark tracks like "After the Gold Rush" (performed on piano) and "Like a Hurricane" (a hellacious encore) with forgotten rarities.

On the opening "From Hank to Hendrix," he laid out the pitfalls of his artistic strategy: "Sometimes it's distorted, not clear to you / Sometimes the beauty of love comes ringin' through." He then pulled out oddities like "Campaigner" - revered by Neil know-it-alls for its "even Richard Nixon has got soul" hook line - and "Sad Movies," which before this tour, had not been performed live since 1976.

The acoustic portion of the show was prefaced by an announcement that prohibited cell phone use of any kind, the calling out of song requests, or the consumption of any food or beverages in the theater during the acoustic set, so Young could "concentrate on the music." That was a hard edict to swallow for the rowdy, multigenerational crowd, but it paid off with a committed, engaged performance, and a cheerful and thankful Young.

"I find myself thinking of W.C. Fields for some reason," he said, thinking, presumably, of the comic's proposed epitaph, "I would rather be living in Philadelphia." Added Young, "He was a funny guy."

When he went electric, Young was backed by bass player Rick Rosas, multi-instrumentalist Ben Keith, and Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina, and on backup vocals, Anthony Crawford and Young's wife, Pegi, who opened the show with a pleasant set of laid-back country-rock.

The second set delivered no shortage of theatrical weirdness. Before each song, the Panama hat-wearing tour manager Eric Johnson set a work-in-progress painting on an easel, illustrating the song's title, be it a powerfully stomping "The Loner" or gloriously self-pitying "Oh, Lonesome Me." A disco ball hung beneath a paint-smeared grand piano, and a wooden Indian observed the performance, which was being filmed by Jonathan Demme, who directed the 2006 Young concert film Heart of Gold.

Through it all, Young's keening, high-pitched vocals and convulsive guitar attack were every bit as feral and impassioned as his loyal fans, who plunked down as much as $150 for tickets, have come to count on. After more than four decades of music-making, Young's risk-taking studio albums are understandably inconsistent. But on stage, he never disappoints."

At 12/11/2007 10:58:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! Monday's show was great(we had killer 11th row seats and were on the far right aisle which let us stand while many had to sit--what is with all the sitting during the electric set) and not much to add as a lot has already been said. Show was again being filmed by Jonathan Demme. Neil told a whole story about his "granny" and how she used to get drunk and play the piano in Winnipeg and how he channels her when he plays piano. Said how she'd come to his shows and he'd have to take her back and forth to see his parents who'd be in separate dressing rooms because they hated each other. Did a whole Al Gore rant before Gold Rush about how Al found his calling not in politics but saving the earth which drew a few boos and Neil said "hey, just because you don't like democrats doesn't mean you can't believe in global warming" which made the crowd go nuts. Jed Green's paintings during the show were remarkable--anyone know how I can score the one for Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere which was just a very basic painting of a horse? definitely liked the second set much more than the first being a Horsehead and all. Don't get me wrong though, it was beautiful, especially Ambulance Blues which was some of the best guitar playing I've ever seen live. Second set was amazing, (Loner into Everybody Knows was real tight) love those new tunes live, especially Spirit Road and the beautiful No Hidden Path which clocked in at about 22 mins and had Neil going off on Old Black and just repeating over and over again: "ocean sky/sea of blue/let the sand wash over you" which really works far better live than on disc. Oh Lonesome Me was magnificent with Ralphie just keeping the time beautifully while singing back-up. Cinnamon Girl crushed and then for Hurricane, a keyboard built in the shape of a dove with a peace symbol came down from the sky and Ben Keith played it. Finally, after all the bows and such, the Sultan came back on stage--here's the description of the Sultan from the Boston show which was dead on accurate (although it does not clearly indicate how rocking the playing was during the song):
He played "The Sultan," a surf-rock instrumental he wrote in the early '60s with his high school band, the Squires. As Young played, a bearded man in a turban - apparently playing the title character - stood sternly near the front of the stage, arms crossed, until the time came to hit a large gong. Song over, Young and his band retreated. The "sultan" remained, took a bow, and left, signaling the end of the night.
Come back to Philly soon Neil!

At 12/11/2007 11:25:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking to the camera folks comments I too can confirm many, many were there. Nice group of guys. They were not a distraction at all and did not harm my 3rd row center stage seat views. They were all over the place throughout the evening. There were notices taped to the walls throughout the theater noting that attending the show provided consent to be filmed. Very standard 'corporate' language for public distribution of video at events. And yes, it was serious equipment for mass production in HD format. However, can anyone corroborate comments of DVD forthcoming focusing on the Tower Theater shows? Being the skeptical soul I am I'm compelled to feel it's "camera man fodder" in the heat of the moment(s) being 3 feet away from Neil.(No disrespect to the poster). Any additional information would be great! If it is true that would be awesome since the Tower Theater crowd behaved like they were a guest at Neil's place for dinner. Mat, Exton, PA

At 12/11/2007 12:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt from Exton -- I was 4 rows behind you last night. Other than the cameraman himself that I spoke with, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the delcotimes articles note that the Philly shows were being filmed by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs director) - -who also directed Neil Young's Heart of Gold concert DVD/documentary.

So Demme certainly is up to something. I assume if they like the footage/sound, a DVD will be released.

At 12/11/2007 12:12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mat: And further proof of the Demme/Young project on Chrome Dreams, someone apparently took a photo of a release form that was on the wall at the Tower Theater on Sunday night, check it out:

At 12/11/2007 01:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks to all for the feedback!
Mat, Lionville, PA

At 12/11/2007 01:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too thought the concert was very good. Not the best NY show I've seen but nice to hear songs live I never heard live before. I can't stand the idiots yelling to the stage though, please. Here is a link about the paintings displayed during the concert:

John, Philly PA

At 12/11/2007 06:49:00 PM, Blogger Greg McGarvey said...

Uhh... where do I start? The audience was ecstatic to see him, yet respectful between songs. Neil's voice was strong and beautiful, and the sound in the theater was outstanding. Neil was wandering around the stage like it was 1954 and he suddenly arrived in a dream in which his local movie theater had been stocked with every instrument in the downtown music shop (as well as a Fender amp that mysteriously came from five years into the future), and the whole town came down to watch him play them.

He was fairly talkative, going on about his Granny, thanking us for being such cool Philadelphians (we'll pretend I'm a Philadelphian for a moment), and generally seemed very relaxed and inspired. He even hung out on-stage between the acoustic and electric sets (albeit behind a large column, and then behind Ralph's drum riser), watching Satan paint, and talking to Ben Keith, Pegi, etc.

Partway through the acoustic set, a woman with a little girl came down the aisle on the way to her front row seat. Several people groaned as, I assume, their imaginations ran wild with images of the girl throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of the quietest acoustic song of the evening, or, well, you know, stinking up the Semi-Circle of Acousticness. But the only thing we heard from the little girl - and I believe she said it twice - was "I love you, Neil Young." Now, I'm a manly man (aside from being built like Kurt Cobain and not being remarkably, well, manly), but that is fucking sweet! Neil seemed to hear her and be taken aback at the innocence and sweetness of her comment.

Indeed, there were lots of professional camera people, including Jonathan Demme, scurrying around like Road-Eyes. There was a gentleman seated almost directly behind me who told me they had also recorded the night before. All of them were using handheld cameras (including the one that was on-stage pointing at Neil the whole time), so they've probably captured some damn cool footage. Of course, there's an outside chance that I messed up the Row FF guy's footage by dancing almost all night. Sorry.

Dancing. Ya know, when I was six years old, I knew it was OK - and fun - to dance at rock concerts. The crowd leapt to its feet as Neil returned with Double-D-Tuned Old Black, but as soon as he started digging into the megachords (it's a music theory word, look it up) of opening of "The Loner," almost everyone sat down. Only a few Front Row Soldiers (it's concert industry terminology, look it up), various hot chicks, and myself felt the need to boogie down during this, and EKTIN. Somebody yelled "SIT DOWN." I yelled "OK!" and then... forgot to sit down. Good times.

By the time "Dirty Old Man" started, which, of course, is even more faster and energetic than "The Loner," my fellow dancing brethren and sistren (it's Middle English terminology, look it up) and I succumbed to outside pressure to sit down, fold our hands, practice writing our names in cursive, and the like. I had been approached by a woman who claimed that her husband is handicapped and needed me to sit down. I didn't believe her. But I have to admit, if you're gonna try to make someone not dance, that's probably the
best thing to say. Neil is up there rocking his head off, shouting, sweating, at 62. And he's been doing this like, four times a week. How come all these people in their 40s and 50s have to sit around like... like... oh, I want to use Rustie Karen's "Lawrence Welk Show audience" line, because it's really good. lol. But anyway, maybe Neil should have included a gym membership in the cost of the tickets.

Potato power. I just wanted to throw that in, in honor of the Front Row Bob reports from 2004. Potato power.

If you live in the Philadelphia area, it's hard to miss WMMR's Pierre Robert. I had a better seat than Pierre. Sorry.

"After The Gold Rush" was preceded by his thoughts on Al Gore, having just read his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on his computer that morning. He praised Gore, and subtly hinted that he should jump into the presidential race. Perhaps noticing some audience members who were not thrilled at the adulation being showered upon Gore, he tried to empathize with the conservative (I was going to put that word in quotes, but I don't want to suggest that Neil actually said it) bunch, who think that "because Al Gore is a democrat, Global Warming is not real." Most of us laughed, but only after spending a second or two thinking about how true - and sad - it is that some people really "think" that way.

The pot smoke didn't roll out until well into the electric set. Next time faster, guys, OK?

"No Hidden Path" on the Continental Tour is like watching God testing the prototypes of the first tornado, earthquake and volcano simultaneously. I wasn't up dancing, but I was not sitting still. I was Seat-Grooving (it's not a real word, don't look it up) and dodging the sparks and burning embers that were flying off of Old Black, that sacred, sacred instrument.

"Cinnamon Girl." FINALLY, we're back on our feet (and to make up for lost ass-shaking time, we have flooded the aisles and made our way up as close to the stage as possible). Now it was time for God to test his first hurricane.

And what a hurricane it was. Neil has played LAH with the "wrong" band (i.e. not Crazy Horse) before. Trans Tour, Friends And Relatives Tour, Pearl Jam... and sometimes it's OK (unless Joe Lala is playing wind chimes, which is NOT acceptable). This Hurricane was more than "OK." Clearly, before Neil goes on-stage, he takes the middle finger on his left hand, places it in front of his right hand, says, "ehhh, fuck me? No, fuck YOU" to his carpal tunnel pain, and then pledges to play even more intently and intensely than he ever did before. It was passionate, it was noisy, it had the loose, experimental feel that almost seems to have been been stepped up a notch in the versions since the Greendale tour. In fact, at one point, Neil went straight from a verse to a solo, completely skipping the chorus that the other five instrumentalists/vocalists on-stage expected and, in fact, started to play and sing. I looked at his face, and it almost seemed like he thought he'd made a mistake, but if he cared, it was only for about a fifteenth of a second. He had some work to do with that fuckin' guitar, and he did it.

Between NHP and LAH, he almost seemed noisier than he does with Crazy Horse. Yes, Virginia, I'm saying that he was going into Lost Dogs territory. He was loving the sound of the octave divider as it seemingly shook that whole block of 69th Street for the last few minutes of NHP. He was loving the string-pinching glass-breaking tones his reverb units were giving him... He was loving all the feedback jumping out of Black's pickups, and wiggling the hell out of them with his Bigsby.

Then a guy with a gong came out, and most of the audience was probably a little confused.

A staggering show, and coming after Yo La Tengo's 3rd-night-of-Hanukkah concert at Maxwell's in Hoboken (featuring a set
by The dBs, and a guest spot by My Morning Jacket's Jim James), and, of course, a LED ZEPPELIN concert that occurred somewhere across the sea, it was a pretty solid extended weekend of music!

At 12/11/2007 06:50:00 PM, Blogger Greg McGarvey said...

Also, thanks for your review, and for having and maintaining the best Neil Young news site.

At 12/11/2007 07:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantastic reviews everyone! I'm from around Pittsburgh and wanted to see Neil more than anything on this tour, especially after I saw "Like A Hurricane" was on some of the set lists. I begged and pleaded my parents to let me go...but I'm only 16 and they wouldn't let me go myself and they weren't gonna take I ended up working and thinking about how all of you guys were having a good time rocking out with the man!

Reading all these reviews made me feel like I was there and hearing about Demme filming the Philly shows is amazing! I'm so excited! I hope the new Demme/Young film goes to theaters like "Heart Of Gold" did! The set lists at Philly look better than the D.C. shows and if we get a new official live version of "Hurricane" on DVD I'll be so happy! Thanks to everyone for letting us know about the good time and Thrasher keep up with the best site on the web!

At 12/11/2007 11:57:00 PM, Blogger Greg McGarvey said...

Simpson, let me know if you want an extra copy of the show that I burned to CD... my gmail name is gregmcgarvey.

At 12/12/2007 10:16:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was listening to "Cortez" from the 12/9 Philly show on the way home from work last night and if I didn't know better, it sounded like it could have been from the '78 "Rust" tour.

After nearly 30 years, 30 FUCKING YEARS, Neil has not lost a step.


At 12/12/2007 03:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I won’t talk about the songs, just some of my experiences, laughs I got from this show. Playlists exist for this concert; it is not a whole lot different than other venues they played at. If you don't want to read the whole blog just know the show was great, Neil still has it... and has it all!
Being a guest ticket holder (I was unable to get tickets but a business supplier, knowing how much I wanted to go, talked with a colleague of hers, somehow obtained 4 tickets and there I was at the show…..with 3 others, 2 virgin Neil Young concert goers) I had to go with the flow of the group and missed all but one of Pegi’s songs. I was a bit bummed that I didn’t get to hear more. The song I heard seemed kind of weak but since others had given her good reviews from past concerts, I’m sure she was good, I just wasn’t there to hear her.
We were told before the show started that Neil had a playlist and please refrain from shouting during the show so the artist could concentrate on playing. In reality, this shouting stems from the 70’s when you could actually shout out songs and artists, being new to the concert scene, would consider playing them. Some people are still stuck in the 70’s. Personally, I think the promoters would have been better off saying…”No one wants to hear you yell “Down By the River” and if you think by yelling your favorite song Neil is going to say to himself “Hey, what a great idea. Why didn’t I think of playing that song?” then you are probably too stupid to be here…. or something to that effect, maybe not use the word stupid :). In any event, yelling was at a minimum although I have never been to a NY concert and had to deal with more than 1-2 buttheads yelling what they want to hear. Neil seemed to deal with it better this time (one Greendale concert I was at Neil lost it while trying to tell the story and yelled, “Why don’t you shut the f*%^ up?”. The crowd cheered since the oblivious, obnoxious guy wouldn’t stop shouting out the names of songs when Neil was in the middle of telling one of the Greendale stories.) and had a couple of restrained responses when people yelled songs out: “who you calling old man?” and “wouldn’t you rather wait for that one?” when someone suggested Old Man and Cinnamon Girl, respectively.
Our seats was great, dead center, 20 something row back (glad I didn’t pay the scalpers for this ticket but was bummed that someone (their business) was supporting scalping). Four seats in front of us were empty and no sooner did the guy next to me say something about them being empty than 4 rather stoned guys sat down… they pretty much reeked as if the had sprayed themselves with eau de cannabis. I think the guy next to me leaned forward and told them he was getting stoned off of them. And then the concert started. Neil began with the typical Hank to Hendrix that he seemed to open the CD shows with. About 90 seconds into the show, at no special time in the song (i.e., Neil didn’t pick up a harmonica….. he-he) the stoned guy in front of me yelled “YEAH!”. I turned to my neighbor and remarked that the guy probably just realized the concert started…. chuckle, chuckle.
So, there was the acoustic set on the stage: guitars, pianos, harmonica, organ, banjo….. ah, Neil Young- a true and very talented artist. Neil’s acoustic set was unlike any other I have heard before. While I prefer his electric music over acoustic this set was phenomenal. He moved easily from guitar to guitar/harmonica to piano to organ to another piano to banjo….. his talent and abilities are unbelievable and makes you realize how much he has grown as a musician over the years. Neil seemed kind of nervous and fidgety, looking down often, legs moving constantly, probably just plain uncomfortable with musical instruments and no others on stage, in front of an audience. He seemed to have moments of hesitation as to what to do next (maybe he was toying with us), and at one point told a story of his granny that worked at the coal mines in Canada. She would give out the mine badges to the men and collect them at the end of the day. And, Granny liked to play piano….. and party but could never figure out why Neil’s mom and dad couldn’t get along after they split up (read Shakey for some introspect on the personalities of his parents). So the next song was dedicated to Granny. My friend asked me if his concerts were typically like this. Well no, I had never quite seen a concert of Neil’s like this before but then again, that is Neil. Only his concerts on a given tour are similar but never the same from year to year.
Since the venue was small, and a really cool place, the electric stage was packed. Instruments were everywhere; there was an odd painter’s easel in the back, plastic letters and numbers hanging above the stage in random order. I never quite figured out the numbers/letters until one of the last songs when the N-E-I-L was lit up… guess I’m slow. Meanwhile the paintings… an artist was in the back painting, someone would go to the back, take a painting and put it on a stand at the front of the stage. The next song to be played was written on the painting… most of the paintings were quite good and I am assuming were themes of the song. At one point someone figured out they were putting up the paintings just a few moments before the song started … ah, foopah! I had to chortle. Eventually they held the paintings back until the song started; can’t blow the surprise.
No one was dancing unless they were off to the side and even then it was more like swaying to the music. Since my seat was so good I couldn’t justify moving off to the side to dance but it just kills me…. On stage Neil and others are on their feet dancing and grooving to the music (they could play sitting down if they really wanted to but sitting isn’t conducive to rock concerts… only symphonies, z-z-z-z-z). Anyone who knows anyone who has been in a band knows that one of the biggest compliments bands receive is having the fans dance to their music. Perhaps due to the expansion of the American waistline and sedentary lifestyle no one can get up the energy to dance any more. The only time the crowd stood up was during the encores and once everyone stood up you could see Neil and the others play. Let the controversy continue but folks, it won’t kill you to stand on your feet for 2 hours, sway a little, STILL BE ABLE TO SEE NEIL PLAY, and who knows you might lose a few pounds. Maybe us dancers need a special reserved dancing section…. right in front of the stage ;)
Anyway, Neil rocked as did the rest of the band. His music from CD II as well as the older stuff was done so well. At one point during Hidden Path the 3 string players got into a major jam session- absolutely phenomenal… they just jammed on and on. Hopefully they were remembering why, 40+ years ago, they had set their goals and dreams of playing in a rock and roll band, the sheer pleasure of it all, jamming in front of an audience. My “virgin” friends thought it was too over the top, the long time fan thought the jamming should have been saved for Hurricane. Oh well, I loved it. Neil and the others just seemed to get into playing together so much, in their own little world, and me in mine- for the moment, isn’t that what music is supposed to do for you? And, Hurricane was played as an encore on the familiar peace bird organ (forgotten about the organ). I was able to get close to the stage for that song. Thankfully the Tower police weren’t there telling us to get out of the aisle and I was able to dance, finally, to one of my favorite NY songs. One guy even let me get in front of him so I could get a few feet closer; that was true unselfishness. Being that close I was able to see that Neil and the others were looking pretty old but then again, so am I.

At 12/12/2007 04:44:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the notes, Thrasher. We get a good sense of the differences between the shows and the audiences. Philly fans sound like good'uns.
Sandy, Huntsville/Lake of Bays

At 12/21/2007 09:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thrasher, this site is the BEST!!
I was at the 12/9 Philly show and was told by a 30-Something fellow behind me, "Mam, could you please sit down." And this was BEFORE Neil even appeared on stage! What's up with that? NOBODY was even performing yet. And yes, people were reluctant to stand and/or dance during the electric set. I agree with those of you who asked, "How can ANYONE sit still during all of those amazing jams?" I'm nearly 61 and found it hard to remain in my seat. So I stood up and grooved to the beat, despite that younger fellow's objections. But what's with all of these 'youngsters' who preferred to sit like couch potatoes instead of standing and really enjoying themselves? I don't get it.


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