The New Yorker Demme & Young Interview: "Hating the Audience"
Much ado over Neil Young's recent quote in an interview in The New Yorker by Nick Paumgarten.
The interview contains part of a chat between Neil Young and Jonathan Demme on Skype. At one point, this exchange takes place which seems to have been grossly misunderstood and taken massively out of context:
N.Y.: Yeah, but generally we hate the fucking audience. They disturb the whole thing. (On the laptop screen, Young waves his arms back and forth in the air, in the manner of an enthusiastic concertgoer.) They’ve got people who do that. They have people who wave their hands back and forth in the background. That’s what they do. It doesn’t matter what the music is. It’s a way to make a living, I guess. (Demme looks up at the clock and exchanges a glance with an assistant.)
I remember we did a tour, and they had these cranes out in the audience, flying around, casting cones of light down on the audience, so that everyone in the audience had these halos on their heads. I walked out onstage and said to myself, “This is fucked up. I might not even play. This is so wrong.” All night long I was thinking, Why do I have to see people? I’ve never seen them before.
I hate looking at them.
This cherry picked quote provoked a backlash in the comments similar to this one by RM:
In the context of making a concert film, I can see the audience being an irritation.
But these statements are broader than that. Neil, if you're out there, seeing these kinds of quotes from you doesn't make me want to buy your next record, or come to your next show. They make me want to kick your teeth down your fucking throat! I have spent approx. $1050 on you in the past three years, if that gives you an idea of how much I enjoy your music. I also enjoyed hearing what you had to say. But this is fucking ridiculous. I'm not missing the point here, I understand that you create the music, from your experience and it's about you alone. But if you hate the audience so much, than stop fucking performing.
Fuck off, and spare us your little rants cursing the people who built your fucking train barn!
Everyone's always saying, Neil Young's so respectable. Other artists, the media. He's a living legend. Well let me tell ya these quotes make you look great.
A real fucking hero.
RM's interpretation was greeted with some vigorous defense. This from Anonymous:
When reading the interview I took this quote to mean 'we' being Demme and Young, hate the audience (shots) in concert films.
I was thinking about it last night while watching the Elvis Costello show with Bono and The Edge.
The shots of the audience were distracting and odd as if they had been edited out of sequence. Even worse were the squirm inducing shots of people laughing, clapping, nodding much too enthusiastically as if they has been coached.
So I agree with Neil and Jonathan I hate seeing the audience too.
All that waving around.
From Peter Dees in Holland:
I'm 100% sure the comments from the NewYorker are real and Neil's right! He's not there for me or for you, he's there to make his music. Anything that disturbs that should not be there.
I've seen the Smell The Horse tour in Rotterdam where Neil played a smoking version of Cortez, he almost reinvented the song there on stage. That song alone lasted more than 20 minutes, the whole show was between 2-3 hours and most of the time Neil was with his back to the audience in a small circle in front of the bass drum with Frank and Billy.
I don't come to concerts to be recognized by him, or spoken to, or to be greeted like so many artists do with something like 'hello Holland' or whatever. That sort of thing makes me puke. If you don't know one town in my country from another, how dare you say 'hello Holland' or whatever country. Shut the f#ck up and play.
So that's what Neil does. I'm happy with that.
I can completely understand this and I swear it is THIS attitude that makes Neil stand out compared to other artists. He really does NOT make music for us, he does it for himself and the music.
That's just the way it is and it's the only right way.
From Darth Malt:
When Neil says he hates the audience, he's not talking about you personally or that he despises the people who buy his records. He's talking about the fact that when he's into making his music he doesn't want to be distracted by spotlights highlighting the audience or people waving their arms trying to get him to make eye contact or the drunken asshole in the front row calling out for Rocking in the Free World between and during every song. I totally get him. Is this something new?
The moment he starts pandering and playing *to* the audience instead of himself is the moment you get the fake choreographed canned performance you get from some many other performance artists. The reason I go into every single Neil Young gig within my reach is that I never know if he's going to walk off the stage, break into an awesome rendition of a familiar song that I've never heard played this way before, or sing 10 songs in a row about his new pet car project. And I cherish every *ing moment of it.
Neil can hate who he wants - I don’t blame him.
He still makes GREAT MUSIC. I've been to some shows where the audience was just brutal! And Neil wants to make music..to play. I don’t blame him for being resentful. A Neil show is not a Dead or a Phish show- it’s not a party. It’s an emotional thing- Neil takes you an emotional rollercoaster that’s quite exhilarating.
Neil wants you to listen- enjoy the music and applaud when the song is over- not yell and scream and call out songs the whole time, especially at a solo acoustic thing. Neil is never one to tip-toe around a subject and this is just him being himself. Right on Neil!
By the way, he never said he hated the audience. I would feel a little uneasy if he was up there singing hating us all. He said he hated looking at the crowd, and the hand waving and whistle blowing too I'd imagine.
During the 07' tour in Boston, at the Orpheum, the crowd was mostly cool and didn't yell out too much while he was playing. That's just a silly thing to do really and it seems to happen quite a bit with these small shows."
Well. Maybe folks will keep this in mind during the upcoming "Twisted Road" Concert Tour?
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." MLK