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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Vancouver Olympics Tribute to Neil Young Reviews

UPDATE 2/28/10: Neil Young News: It is Official! Neil Young Will Play Olympics Closing Ceremonies

Photo by Chris Pizzello

Tribute to Neil Young
Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Twitpic by ncyvr

Concert reviews

Reviews from the concerts were near universally praised.

From The Vancouver Observer - Vancouver Olympics News Blogs Events Reviews | "Vancouver 2010 Games Bring a Mix of Musicians to an Eclectic and Vibrant Neil Young Homage at Queen Elizabeth Theatre" by Insiya Rasiwala:
Canadian music icon Neil Young did not show up on the second night of a tribute concert in his honour, but the sold out crowds at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre didn’t seem to mind. The three and a half hour set-list that contained more obscure than well-known renditions of Young’s prolific song-writing legacy left the audience happily humming, “Only love can break your heart.”

It was a night to remember, one that successfully bridged the gap between the ages – whether you were a die-hard Neil Young fan; or from the generation that tolerated his undeniable significance to North American pop culture, there was something here for you.


Some tweets:

- Twitter / Amanda Mitchell: "EPIC!!"
- Twitter / Village Flowers: "Just saw the tribute to Neil Young concert here in Vancouver. Fantastic!"
- Twitter / Dean Delandreville: "Orchestral metal machine ala Lou Reed;"
- Twitter / hip baby: "neil young project last night was very cool. his work unfolded over 3 hours all interpreted by amazing musicians. elvis costello was great!"

More concert tweets here, here, and here.

Lou Reed

Some blog comments by K.Frazer:
"Highlights for me included tunes by Emily Haines, James Blood Ulmer, Elvis Costello, Lou Reed, Teddy Thompson, Ron Sexsmith, Jenni Muldaur, and Ambrosia Parsley. Lots of great playing, but not always with much cohesion. Overall, it was a bit of a yo-yo affair, slipping from curious to stunning, from mush to captivating with disconcerting ease."

Critics. Lots of mentions that Neil didn't show up. Like that was ever even planned.

From The Canadian Press: Neil Young doesn't show, but spirited Olympic tribute a hit with fans by Nick Patch:
Neil Young didn't didn't show up for his Olympic tribute on Thursday night, but the more than two dozen artists who took the stage captured his spirit closely enough with a show that was heartfelt, stirring and delightfully rambling.

But the evening's highlights were borne from riskier renditions of Young's tunes.

From Spinner: Neil Young Project Honours Canadian Icon With Imaginative, Star-Studded Performance by Jenny Charlesworth:
There were plenty of magical moments throughout the evening, including the rousing cover of 'Don't Let It Bring You Down' by Elizabeth Powell from Land of Talk/Broken Social Scene, which was belted out with jaw-dropping intensity. The impromptu audience-made 'thunderstorm' mid-way through 'Walk On,' which Collett orchestrated with the zeal of a camp counsellor by directing the packed house to snap their fingers and stomp their feet, was another show-stopper.

The highlight of the affair, however, was undoubtedly Costello's hard rocking 'Cinnamon Girl,' which garnered the first standing ovation of the evening. Showcasing his formidable guitar skills, the talented UK expat led the ensemble to a blistering climax, giving the enraptured audience in the majestic theatre ample reason to applaud Costello's addition to the bill after the initial lineup was announced.

From Elvis Costello shines in Neil Young Project | Vancouver, Canada | By Alexander Varty:
But when it came to the one-two punch of “Cowgirl in the Sand” and “Cinnamon Girl”, both from Young’s breakthrough Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere LP of 1969, he simply killed.

Barely in control of a big, blond Gibson guitar that squealed and snarled like it was possessed by old Shakey himself, Costello stalked the stage with a flamenco dancer’s élan. Even a ridiculous leopard-skin trilby didn’t undercut his sinister—and, yes, weirdly sexy—intensity; he’d probably skinned that cat himself.

Elvis Costello

From CHARTattack: Elvis Costello, BSS, Lou Reed Highlight Hal Willner's Neil Young Project In Vancouver by Brian Pascual:
It was like hitting shuffle on an iPod filled with Young's entire catalogue. Collett and Land Of Talk's Elizabeth Powell executed a perfectly down-home version of "Down To The Wire;" Metric's Emily Haines and James Shaw ignored the catcalls and whistles for Haines to offer a pretty faithful (and slightly sinister) "A Man Needs A Maid." When Haines pleaded, "When will I see you again?" it was killer.

Other highlights before the intermission included jazz/blues vocalist/poet Eric Mingus' very menacing and body-shaking "For The Turnstiles," Sun Kill Moon's (and former Red House Painter) Mark Kozelek singing "Albuquerque" and of course, the evening's two crown jewels.

Costello walked on stage to the night's loudest of cheers, and by politely shushing the crowd and immediately picking up his guitar, the message of the night was clear — this was a group, not individual, performance.

With a Burt Bacharach-ian horn section backing him, Costello crooned a lovely "Love In Mind" to the delight of a completely dumbstruck crowd wowed by the fact that they were watching one legend cover another legend.

Speaking of legends, Reed was bathed with a chorus of "Louuuuuuuuuuu" from the crowd before silently setting up and ripping into the great "Helpless." It was so sublime to listen to Reed's powerful yet calm and cool voice ring through the theatre while the full band blasted through the classic.

Leave it to Doiron to say what hadn't already been said — that it was an honour to be on the stage playing the songs of someone who has meant a lot to everyone on stage in some way over the years.

Ron Sexsmith’s versions of “New Mama” and “Bethlehem” stirred the crowd, while Bill Priddle (Treble Charger/Broken Social Scene) sounded like a young Harvest-era Young on “Oh Mr. Soul” – just lovely. Emily Haines from Metric’s “A Man Needs a Maid” was flawless and came equipped with a kind of seething intensity.

And Eric Mingus? Genius. He bopped onto stage, booming: “Someone said we didn’t engage the audience enough last night…they may regret that” and then played and danced through a funky version of “For the Turnstiles”, winding it up with some totally bonkers scat singing. Later, he “destructurized” Young’s “On the Way Home” and turned into beat poetry. Brilliant.

Jason Collett strutted around the stage for a version of “Walk On” with Julie Doiron, Jenni Muldaur and Elizabeth Powell bopping in the background. BSS’s Sam Goldberg and Kevin Drew did a pretty groovy version of “Out on the Weekend” with awesome Hammond organ support by the most excellent ex-Bourbon Chris Brown.

Mark Kozelek from Sun Kil Moon/Red House Painters with Ambrosia Parsley (Shivaree) and Emily Haines doing “Sugar Mountain” sounded sublime.

Oh and Lou Reed? Coming on stage in trademark leathers and scowl, he blasted through a crunchy rock version of “Helpless” then stayed on stage to play back-up guitarman for Julie Doiron as she muddled through “Harvest”.

The winner, undoubtedly, though, was Oh Mr. Gold (sparkling suit-jacket to represent Gold medals), Elvis Costello. How much of a genius is he? *Holds arms wide apart* THIS MUCH.

The crowd swooned and cheered and tapped their toes and grinned like fools through the three tracks he played: “Love in Mind”, then later “Cowgirl in the Sand” and “Cinnamon Girl” with Joan as Policewoman. He was like snowboarder Shaun White – in terms of awesome, Costello was miles apart from anyone else on stage.

From Brunt's blog by Stephen Brunt:
Caught the Hal Willner Neil Young project at the Queen Elizabeth, which was a kind of glorious mess - three and half hours of others singing the music of the great Canadian garage rocker god, with enough highlights to justify the long, long haul.

Personal favourites: hearing Lou Reed sing the words 'There is a town in north Ontario...' in that Lou Reed voice, then hammer out a power chord; Elvis Costello playing an open-bodied electric in Young style and tearing up Cowgirl in the Sand and Cinnamon Girl; and Metric's Emily Haines with a splendid, subtle take on A Man Needs a Maid.

The show grafted Broken Social Scene - yep, all of them - with a core American group that included, among others, the great, and greatly idiosyncratic guitarist James 'Blood' Ulmer. It didn't all work, but no complaints here.

Ron Sexsmith

From The Province: Young does Young best by Stuart Derdeyn:
The concert ventured far too often into mere bar-band mimicry, offering up tame to lifeless versions of classics and more obscure tunes from the massive Young catalogue, with plenty of opportunity to let the guitarists wank. Trouble is, as cool as Apostle of Hustle is, their take of "Mr. Soul" with Julie Doiron was just too spot-on to matter.

Of course, fans were freaking over a track they were really familiar with.

Let's see, "mere bar-band mimicry" but "fans were freaking"? Doesn't seem like a bar band...

From The Globe and Mail: It wasn't just Neil Young that was missing by Marsha Lederman:
The musical mishmash produced some phenomenal moments, but they weren't enough; they failed to fuse to make this the legendary night so many fans had hoped for when they fought their way through jubilant post-hockey crowds and into the theatre.

OK, "some phenomenal moments, but they weren't enough".? Hmm, it seems most folks would be happy with a "phenomenal moment" in a day.

From Vancouver Sun: Neil Young tribute bold, inventive by Francois Marchand:
Interestingly, the show seemed to work especially well when it went completely off the wall: spoken word artist Eric Mingus's reinterpretation of For the Turnstiles, which went from strange, clap-along beat poetry to full-blown, apocalyptic wall of noise, Metric's Emily Haines and James Shaw delivering A Man Needs a Maid with piano and chimes, and Joan as Police Woman sending electric violin bolts through the audience on On the Beach. Wow.

It wasn't always pitch-perfect, but that probably wasn't the point. When dealing with Young's material it's probably a pro more than a con -- you need some real, honest grit to make it feel right, and there was plenty on Thursday night.

Considering the sheer magnitude of the undertaking and the absolute brilliance of the man's work, one couldn't help but be amazed by the whole thing.

From The Music Box, March 2010, Volume 17, #3: Hal Willner - Tribute to Neil Young - Vancouver - February 2010 (Concert Review) by Douglas Heselgrave:
By nature, musical tributes are risky propositions. There are several reasons for this, though the most obvious is that it often is impossible to supplant an original work. Any musician participating in a concert honoring an icon inevitably must find a way of breaking through the wall of listeners’ preconceptions. On occasion, cover versions of songs — Jimi Hendrix’s All along the Watchtower and Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah, for example — become revered and accepted on their own merits. However, this is the exception to the rule. The more idiosyncratic and individualized that a performer’s work is, the more likely it will baffle those who attempt to interpret it. Arguably, Neil Young’s output falls into this category. Though his tunes are relatively easy to play, at least from a technical perspective, very few of those who have recorded his material have succeeded in embodying its spirit.

The recent MusiCares tribute to Young is a good example of a well-intentioned event that went awry. It featured talented musicians but failed to say anything new about Young’s work. Despite some rather wonderful performances, the whole effort fell inexplicably flat. The show should have yielded an incendiary night of music. Instead, it rarely escaped its pedestrian predictability. Perhaps, this was because only the most obvious songs were performed. Or, maybe, it was the selection of artists who were invited to honor Young. With few exceptions, the singers failed to put their own egos and personas aside, and this prevented them from grasping the things that are essential about Young’s material.


Tonight and tomorrow, tribute concerts will be held to celebrate the music of Neil Young as part of the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

The concerts will be at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and will be produced by Hal Willner, a veteran organizer of multi-artist tribute shows.

Artists scheduled to appear include:

Chris Brown
Vashti Bunyan
Robert Burger
Brendan Canning
Fred Cash
Jason Collett
Elvis Costello
Julie Doiron
Kevin Drew
Sam Goldberg
Emily Haines & James Shaw of Metric
Shahzad Ismaily
Colin James
Eric Mingus
Sun Kil Moon
Jenni Muldaur
Ambrosia Parsley
Justin Peroff
Ben Perowsky
Joan as Policewoman
Elizabeth Powell
Bill Priddle
Lou Reed
Alasdair Roberts
Ron Sexsmith
Teddy Thompson
James Blood Ulmer
Andrew Whiteman
Doug Wieselman

For more details, ticket info, etc. see Event Listings : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

Got a report? Drop a comment below. No registration required.


UPDATE 2/28/10: Neil Young News: It is Official! Neil Young Will Play Olympics Closing Ceremonies


At 2/19/2010 09:00:00 AM, Blogger Shamrock said...

Here is a favourable review of the concert. Too bad I´m stuck in the snowstorms in Sweden and couldn't attend the show! ;-)

At 2/19/2010 11:46:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the exception of Lou & Costello, not exactly an inspired bunch.

Too bad Rufus & Martha Wainwright is nowhere on the list.

At 2/19/2010 01:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd Rather Be At A Neil Young Concert

Bumper stickers should be issued!

At 2/19/2010 02:39:00 PM, Blogger Muskie said...

Wow, don't have time to read all that, but I will. I was there. It was a strange show, no pictures from the ushers, no standing or dancing, though eventually there was.

I don't have a top five Neil Young song list, but if I did I think four of the five were played last night. Highlights for me were Eric Mingus who turned one song into a Gospel number (For the Turnstiles) and another into a spoken word poem.

I also was really impressed with Ambrosia Parsley who did Bandit.

I didn't know all the words to every song, which is rare, but I knew more words than probably anyone else in attendance, including all of Bandit.

The most talented musician on stage for my money was from New York, had grey hair and played clarinet, sax, and guitar. He sat by Joan as Police Woman.

Daniel Lapp of Victoria was also part of the strings section and horn section such as it was. I was surprised by his trumpet solo. That was a pleasant surprise and he represent Vic.

During the intermission someone called me a Rustie as I was trying to avoid spilling beer, so I never found out who, I had on my "More Barn" t-shirt.

I'll blog something later.

At 2/19/2010 04:46:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

Muskie, I am sought of getting crossed messages about the success of the night as a justifying tribute to Neils music....I am hoping that it was filmed, so one and all can review it.

Diversity of opinion is a good people perceive Neil in song is another.

I'm just sitting here imagining Elvis costello doin'"Cinnamon Girl"

Geez I never get sick of that song!

I could imagine he would of "nailed ''s anticipating


At 2/19/2010 04:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me what songs Ron Sexsmith performed besides "Star of Bethlehem"???

At 2/19/2010 06:12:00 PM, Blogger Muskie said...

Ron only played two songs and only got to play guitar on one of them. It was written about, but now I can't find it. Star of Bethlehem was definitely better than the first song he did with no guitar, he just seemed more comfortable.

At 2/20/2010 12:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Found it, Sexsmith also played "New Mama"

At 2/20/2010 09:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meanwhile I was watching ice hockey from the Olympics on television. Canada versus Switzerland. Neil Young's Canada. The speaker was saying "Crosby, Nash, Crosby, Nash" all the time. Very funny. Because Sound Matters

At 2/20/2010 07:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

found this on Rust List, quoting from a Stills intv in Record Collector...

Archives Guy - can you COMMENT?

RH. - 'Did you wish that Buffalo Springfield had lasted longer?

S.S. - 'I was completely shocked & devastated when that band finished.We
recorded a lot of material that they've just recently found in a vault at
Atlantic.It's all on eight-track & I'm dying to hear it.So my box set is getting
more & more interesting

At 2/20/2010 08:53:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

Whoa, anonymous if these "lost recordings" in a vault come fruition, uncle Neil will be right on the case1 you'd think.

Soughta like stumbling on an old barn that is filled with pristine vintage cars full of cobwebs!!

here's hoping,


At 2/21/2010 09:32:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

I'm really hangin' to see a clip of any of the tribute show(if not all).
Has anybody got a link or you tube clip from the show yet?


At 2/21/2010 11:30:00 PM, Anonymous Victrola said...

Awesome concert. I caught the last half on Thursday and the whole show on Friday. Thursday night's audience was soooo much more into the music. Rocking in their seats. Friday they were a little more subdued - was it the crowd or the musicians? A highlight - Elizabeth Powell - in the second half. Elvis stole the show and I don't know if that was a good thing.

At 2/21/2010 11:37:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

You guys are so lucky up there!

Neil young, Neil young tribute bands, Neil Young live,Neil young and his new Girl Elton? whats that about?...I hope he hasn't been cheatin on me!!!



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