Comment of the Moment: Memorable Neil Young Concerts
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.