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.
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