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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Comment of the Moment: Memorable Neil Young Concerts

Neil Young
Wembley Stadium, London, Endgland - 1974-09-14

We had a lot of reactions to the recent posting on understanding Neil Young's music. One reaction was what we'll call the Comment of the Year by Mr. Henry who shared his life story to a Neil soundtrack.

Which -- of course -- precipitated more reactions. Ahhh, the virtuous web we weave. So here's the Comment of the Moment on Neil Young concert memories:
Mr. Henry, what a ride, thanks. It makes me think of all the concerts I’ve seen, and all the circumstances that surrounded them- nothing as cool as a wife to be, or the birth of children, but still, so many good memories, and so many stand out moments.

Like Big Chief, I saw every concert that came through the Detroit area from the Stray Gators in ’73 to CSNY in ‘07(?), with a bonus Freedom show outside Boston (where I spotted Kevin McHale on the way to the men’s room), and then what unfortunately remains the last show I saw, due to finances and lack of proximity, Greendale at the Rosemont in Chicago.

Highlights I can think of right now? Hmmm… Well, there was RNS where I smoked my first joint, and my friend was pissed at the Woodstock piped in soundtrack (said it was old news), Ten Men Working at The Palace with a stirring Ordinary People, the time he stopped playing his guitar during Heart Of Gold, and nodded in approval as the crowd continued singing the lyric without missing a beat, or stopping mid song during the Rosemont show, and yelling at an idiot screaming for Southern Man: “Fuck you, shut up!”

Geez, I could go on, but it’s just my version of what everyone’s memories are going to be, and Mr. Henry already captured the moment. But, in line with Mr. Henry’s recitation of non Neil concert moments, I have to mention the greatest single concert moment I ever experienced, which was the first and only time I saw Dylan in concert. I showed up at Pine Knob outside Detroit with no ticket, and purchased one from a guy in the parking lot. I remember him being pissed because he wanted a ridiculous amount of money, and I told him I wasn’t going to pay more than the face value, which he had to take just before the concert started. What a turn of luck for me, the ticket turned out to be the best seat I ever had for a concert anywhere- eight rows from the stage, dead center.

I remember focusing on each musician specifically to try to appreciate their talents on an individual basis for several songs (G.E. Smith in particular), and then the unbelievable moment when each instrument melded into one overarching sound coming out of the center. I hate to use the word, sorry, but it was a sustained period of sound that simply transcended the musicians, and I’ll never forget it.

I will say this Big Chief, I was at that Shocking Pinks concert at Pine Knob, and remember it specifically as one of the great guitar performances I ever saw out of anyone. I mean, Neil’s guitar picking was so fluid and straight ahead, no fuzz or distortion, just screaming R&B, it was amazing- complete with fedora and sun glasses (alas, no pink suit or greasy pompadour). I also remember it fondly because I ran into a friend who I hadn’t seen in a while, and the first thing out of his mouth was “I knew you would be here!” Even the friend I was with caught the significance of that.

But, I have to say that what I don’t remember is the concert being particularly short, or being disappointed in any way- not that I wasn’t and just don’t remember it. It must have taken a lot for Neil to be pissed off at a Detroit crowd, though, as he’s always been partial to Detroit.

Ironically enough, it does bring up what for me is the one disappointing thing in general about Neil’s concerts- they were always too short for me. Not that they were any shorter than a normal concert, or that I felt I was deliberately being short changed, I just always wanted them to be just a little bit longer. So much material that never got played, that might have had a chance had the concerts been a little longer.

I know what they say about “always leave them wanting more”, and of course I would always want more no matter what, but… Not really a quibble, just remembering how special each and every concert I saw was, how great the anticipation was, and what a big pay off it was when Neil finally strolled out on stage, usually with the characteristic single greeting arm over head, and not infrequently a drawled “Hello, Detroit”.

More Neil Young concert memories and understanding his music.


At 2/16/2010 10:37:00 AM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

"Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen."
Conan O'Brien
Tonight Show Farewell

Thanks very much for sharing your great concert memories with us! I only wish that I had seen Neil in the early days (as you describe so well) but I'm happy making up for lost time...and he was wearing the pink suit for set #3 the first concert I did that counts for something!

Maybe we're sealed in silence
Or maybe we feel the guidance
Silversun Pickups

My first serious girlfriend was completely in love with Neil and his music. This was the summer when Heart of Gold was playing everywhere. Over the past two years, we'd all lost too many great people in the music world, including Jimi and Janis, Jim Morrison, Duane Allman and Al Wilson. Neil's music, which was both simple and complicated, direct and profound, helped everyone who was looking forward. I had recently lost two close friends in auto accidents, and a very dear relative before that. Neil helped me a lot with trying to find some understanding...and we had a wonderful summer!

So LK, if by some chance you are reading this (or not), I hope that you are doing well, still smiling, laughing and loving life...and thanks for playing HOG for me way back when.

Suffer not
your neighbor's afflictions
Suffer not
your neighbor's paralysis
But extend your hand
Extend your hand
Patti Smith

When I look through the windows
and out on the road
They're bringing me presents
and saying hello
Neil Young

At 2/16/2010 09:04:00 PM, Anonymous Raincheck said...

For me it is still my first Neil Young show - Boarding House in 1978. Made a pilgrimage from So Cal to see the show. Pure Neil, unfettered. Small venue. Neil talking, roving about with wireless, playing, singing. Acoustic. Lots of new material mixed with great classics (Out of My Mind, Birds). Seen a lot of great Neil since then, but that was the one

At 2/18/2010 10:03:00 PM, Anonymous BigChief said...

I have to say that of the dozens of Neil's concerts that I attended,I have to concur that I wish they would all last longer, however,if you refer to the Sugar Mountain site, you will see that the PineKnob show which was billed as a 'Shocking Pinks' show was cut short by seven songs due to the fact that Neil left the stage after his solo acoustic performance & did not return with the Shocking Pinks as he did for every other show during that tour.I also recall that earlier in the same year, he appeared at Cobo Hall in Feb of '83 for the 'Solo Trans Tour'. The Pine Knob show, cut short for reasons that only Neil really knows, was seven months later in Sept 12,1983.I believe that I'm justified in my dissapointment, as I remember it, sinse the show was billed as a 'Shocking Pinks' show although they never materialized. Neil's management had even rented a vintage Cadillac to make their entrance to the stage after the intermission from a local collector. If there is any confusion in regards to my recallection of these events, look it up for yourself on Sugar Mountain and the proof is in the set lists....Don't Be Denied!

At 2/20/2010 11:30:00 PM, Anonymous BigChief said...

Some time between the '73 'Time Fades Away' tour and the '76 'Stills-Young Band' tour, there was a period where Neil completely avoided Michigan as far as touring was concerned.During this time, the winter of '75 and with the newly released 'Zuma', one of the favorite activities for my buddies and myself was to pack in a car and drive all through the night getting stoned and listening to music at a sustained painful volume.Even in these early days,I was doing my part in an attempt to convert these Aerosmith and KISS-nuts into Wheaties.I must say, many sacrifices were made during this period, consuming various substances in an attempt to insure that my cover wouldn't be blown. Many a night I was held captive as a passenger in someone elses car painfully yet bravely enduring Peter Frampton and Ted Nugent, with only the consolation of knowing that it would just be a matter of time that I could control our musical destiney, as we would take turns in who's car we would use on any particular night, although it seemed that I did most of the driving since I was the only one who had a steady job at that time. So there we were,making our way out of the suburbs of Detroit towards some rural destination in the wee hours of the night in my black '72 MonteCarlo with the Muntz 8-track blaring 'Danger Bird' through Jenson speakers as my reluctant passengers would smoke and drink until Neils Voice actually began to sound in the correct pitch(a note to the young'Wheaties' out there ..I do not recommend this activity in this present age - we were highly trained professionals and back in the day, they would just pour out your beer and take your weed. Today there are far greater consequences).I must say that I was instrumental in the conversion of most of my buddies into lifelong fans of Neil Young and as I look back on how those other 'artists' of that day have been relegated to a bye-gone era of nostalgia, Neil has continued to grow as an artist and person as relevant today as he has ever been.

At 2/21/2010 12:32:00 AM, Blogger doc said...

Love that reflection Chief,

Yeah, the early seventies!

My long term memory,especially the 70's, is quite vivid for some reason, probably because I was going through a very strong "Neil" period and my life's timeline is a chronological genre of Neil's music.(f*&K what did I just say?)

Fresh out of Med. school, I was young, semi-dumb and full of com-
forting feelings. I was heavily into "4 way street" especially the Neil sections, last trip to tulsa (I used to love changin the words)EKTIN,ATGR,Harvest,timefades etc..Yep..I was headin' for the "ditch" big time! lol
Then along came the "handbrake"...a wheel in the ditch and a wheel on the track.

She gave me some sort of direction in my life...but I've been trying to "deviate ever since". I look back on those 'days of haze' with fond and sometimes blurry memories.

We move on, we change, we love, we cry, we reminiss... of the Days that used to be! its a lot of fun

Keep those reflections coming Wheaties!

luv doc

At 2/21/2010 02:30:00 PM, Blogger grislydabeah said...

Like Raincheck, the boarding house show has to be number one. Drove all night from Seattle, scored a pair of tickets that included dinner and a seats 10 feet from the stage, and Neil debuted most of what became Comes a Time and Rust Never Sleeps. Hearing him do Thrasher, that first time--incredible.

At 2/22/2010 08:53:00 PM, Anonymous BigChief said...

.... Oh Yeah !!


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