For The Turnstiles, Again
Hear the sirens on the shore,
Singin' songs for pimps with tailors
Who charge ten dollars at the door.
It really is deja vu all over again.
Recall last fall's tour set off a somewhat furious reaction among fans dismayed by the price of tickets. Seeing Neil Young in small intimate theaters was going to set back fans some serious $'s and many were none to pleased as this Open Letter To Neil Young On Ticket Prices explained.
Here at Thrasher's Wheat we received over 100 comments on the subject with many rallying to Neil's defense while others accused Neil of "ripping off the people, skimming the top when there's no one around".
It was all really too disheartening to endure and brought us to the point of despairing over what the tour might actually bring.
But this comment on the controversy seemed to sum things up pretty well:
I have long enjoyed this site and I think the "Open Letter" makes good points.
But I am also disturbed by the number of blogs here from people who really seem angry and irrational (one person in particular who seems to vent constantly).
I want to suggest that there is a difference between a cultist, or a hero worshiper, and a fan. The former seems to think he knows the guy personally and that N.Y. owes him something -- the fanatics own a piece of him. It's creepy -- devotion turns to disappointment and even to hate.
A fan, on the other hand, might think this way: I just love this guy. Something about his music goes straight to the heart. I like some things he does better than other things. But ALL of it is interesting and sincere. I like his sensibility and his values. And I admire the sheer variety of the music and the consistent productivity -- very rare. In 4 to five years: Greendale; Prairie Wind; Living with War; and now Crome Dreams. Amazing. Who else in rock-pop-folk has produced so much, esp. in late middle age?
For me Neil Young is a man -- just a man. But what a heart. And look at the number of great and beautiful songs over 40-some years.
I have most of the albums and have seen him in concert three times -- every time he worked his ass off. I have no idea where the concert ticket money goes -- maybe to the Bridge School; maybe to fight for peace; maybe to pay musicians. But I have a certain amount of trust in this guy. He doesn't go on the road unless he has something to give. He doesn't put out an album unless he is saying something new -- even if it is with an old, and reportedly great, song. Anyone who thinks this guy does what he does just for the bucks has missed the musician amid the cultism and gossip. To me it is worth the ticket prices to see what Young is up to now -- to hear the new stuff and some new takes on the old
When Springsteen came through my town a couple years ago doing acoustic folk and charging even more than Young is now I chose not to pay. I admire him, but not that much. Not at those prices. Everyone is free to choose. It's our right.
Make a choice, but don't impugn the man's music or motives.
And if you don't want to hear Peggy Young, don't buy her record; don't go to the opening act. If it bothers you that Neil Young loves his wife -- well, keep that sad pathology to yourself, I say. Too bad more husbands don't love their wives more.
I'm grateful this man is still out here -- working hard; speaking out; creating new art; and letting us hear it live.
So the with the 2008 North American tour, folks have the opportunity to pay $75 for a General Admission ticket that they can use to get on the rail within a few feet of Neil. That's right. The cheapest ticket allows the possibility of having the closest vantage point. And we hear folks complain that they can't stand for hours at a concert. Well think about what you're saying with that statement. That's about you yourself. Not about the hundreds or thousands who can not afford $250+ seats yet will have a better view than those who pay 3 times the price.
And then there was Bob Lefstez going off big time last year:
An act’s worth depends on its fanbase. You have to nurture it, respect people, make them feel they’re along for the ride with you. At these prices, people feel like they’re being held up at gunpoint. And, NOT EVERY NEIL YOUNG FAN RAPED AND PILLAGED AND IS NOW RICH!
Only Neil is rich. But obviously, he needs more.
Yet, after all the wailing and gnashing last time around, we found it very interesting that not a single person wrote us to say they felt as if they did not receive their money's worth.
We hate to feel that somehow it's our "job" to defend Neil. Certainly Neil doesn't need it nor do we feel compelled to rise to his defense over anything he does. But at the same time, we receive these plaintive missives about long time fans who feel they've been wronged.
Certainly, there are many legitimate fans for who this is a hardship and not in line with their perception on what Neil is all about. And that's fine. What troubles us is that this feels eerily similar to the blowback during Greendale, Living With War and Freedom of Speech. We never quite shook the sense that the bitching and moaning was a contrived effort to drive a wedge into Neil's fan base.
This behavior most often manifests itself as concern trolls. These are "life long Neil fans who have bought all his albums and gone to all of his shows" yet charge that Neil is a sellout who's politics have made him lose his way.
We find these comments to be so absurd. Like those who went to the CSNY Freedom of Speech tour in 2006 -- and illustrated in the Deja Vu film -- and were shocked that it was a political concert and not just about music.
So here's a typical rant we received the other day (it's kind of sad actually) on the pre-Sales:
"can someone explain this logicly>>
Durring last years north american tour, we had major duscussions and arguments regarding ticket prices. The main argument for $ 100-200 priced tickets was that he was playing small halls, intimate environment before 1500-2000 people.
So what now ? He's multiplied the seating capacity for this tour by 10-fold to 15,000- 20,000 people
AND THE PRICES ARE HIGHER !!!
$ 135-250 for shittier seats.
Now you tell me that Neils management didnt read all the comments from last years tour and tell Neil : Hey, these morons will defend you no matter what you charge.Screw 'em.Lets charge more and let the brain -dead fans justify it to the complaining fans !"
Now tell us how one can be a life long fan and have that reaction?! It makes no sense whatsoever. Which is why we feel there are these astroturfing sock/meat puppets who submit these straw man comments.
What we did hear was tons of comments along the lines of "Ambulance Blues was worth the price of admission alone" by Hilltop on the Minneapolis, MN, November 8, 2007 concert.
Or this comment:
Man, I don't like paying through the nose for tickets any more than anybody else, but you know what? In the greater scheme of things -- given the way I am willing to bet most of the people who frequent this site spend their money, regardless of their tax bracket -- $157 per seat is not that big a deal.
How much money do you piss away on other stuff? How much do you spend on CDs? How much do you spend for cable or your cell phone or your video games or your DSL? How much do you spend to drive a newer car? How much do you spend on organic food or food, period? To each his own -- spend your money however you please, of course. I'm just saying that, by and large, we're a bunch of fat and happy middle-classers who only get irate about anything when it's expensive. Because we're taught that the point of life is to have everything as cheap as possible. So now we can't have our cake AND cheap seats to Neil, too? Boo fucking hoo.
And for all you noble proletarians grumbling over Neil's "hypocrisy": Gee, at what point did it finally hit you that Neil is an enormously wealthy rock star? He hasn't been an "Ordinary Person" since the 1960s, which is why that song, despite any power it might have, is ultimately a crock. It's Neil getting weepy over the mythical salt-of-the-earth. Good for him. I'd like to see those good ol' sensible, hardworking folk rise up and make things right, too. But they won't, because they don't exist. Or if they do, they are us. But we won't do a damned thing about Iraq, about poverty, about the environment, or antyhing else. We won't Be the Rain because, by and large, we don't want to Be Bothered. We will pay attention only when it becomes too painful to avoid doing so, and by then it will probably be too late.
Still, even if his songs or public pontificating may occasionally ring a little hollow, Neil doesn't require working-class "credibility" to make great good music. Anybody who believes you have to squat in a building and take a vow of poverty to make great art needs to grow up.
See you in the orchestra seats, Ordinary People.
We've got the ambulance blues. All of you critics sit alone. And walk on.