Concert Review of the Moment: Neil Young in Worcester, MA, May 21, 2010
Photo by Steve Babineau/Sports Action Images
The Neil Young Concert Review of the Moment is from Worcester, MA, May 21, 2010 by Mr Henry:
Force Equals Mass Times Acceleration: Neil Young Charges On
Just as long as the guitar plays
Let it steal your heart away.
- Jagger/Richards Torn and Frayed
Where to begin?
One of the truly great shows that I have seen, definitely one of the best from Neil and maybe, just possibly the best one yet. I'll need to let the glow fade a bit and then get back to you on that one.
Hanover Theater is a wonderful place for music and performances. The size is just right, the sound is incredible and the people who work there and run the place could not be nicer if they tried. My seat was twenty three rows back, dead center with the sound board behind me. Would have been nice to be a few rows closer, but totally worth it for the sound quality (and that's what opera glasses are for). I consider myself very fortunate indeed to have attended this show.
Burt Jansch played a gorgeous set. His guitar playing is breathtaking at times and very moving, the epitome of "quietly majestic". Neil would later give the crowd a friendly reminder of just how lucky we all were to be seeing Burt, echoing a thought which I was already having. I honestly was torn in my desires, knowing that Neil was coming up next but not wanting this great experience to end, hoping that it won't be the only time I see Burt Jansch perform. He's like a separated-at-birth twin of the late, great John Fahey, one who decided to use more traditional tunings to explore the same new and uncharted territories.
Thank you so much Burt for giving us the chance to appreciate you live and up close.
In the lobby before Neil's set, I struck up a conversation with a couple who told me it was their first Neil Young concert. After chatting a bit, we were both surprised to find we live in the same town...and then that we live only a couple blocks from each other! They had only recently moved and I've been here for a couple decades. We talked a bit more and then said we'd see each other around town. Amazing things can happen, especially at a Neil Young show.
Scampered back to my seat just in time as the lights were going down. Neil came out and everyone was happy as kids on Christmas morning. If you are reading this, then most likely you're already familiar with the set list on this tour...so I won't go through the concert song-by-song. What I especially loved was how he would group the songs into meaningful segments and allow the songs enough breathing room for the music and poetry to build an intensity that would ebb and flow in just the right way. The first three got everyone's attention...and the crowd to me seemed very well behaved and respectful -- great job Neil fans! Next segment had two songs and both were new.
You Never Call is touching, poignant, funny, moving and beautiful, all in about equal measures. LA must be really loving this one from his dear friend. Peaceful Valley continues in this emotional vein, grabbing you without really trying. Then comes the masterpieces.
It's way too soon to say for sure, but right now I think that Love and War might be the best song that Neil has ever written.
Somehow he can write music that is very simple and also incredibly complex beneath the surface. It's a verse chorus song but not really; it's an old modal drone number, but not really either. The guy sitting next to me put it best when he said "it's really an ancient song". I replied yes, it certainly is. Makes me think of Robbie Robertson's comments about The Basement Tapes when he wondered if Dylan had written the songs or just found them under a rock somewhere. I know that Neil wrote this one, and I'm sure thankful that he did.
Down By The River was next and the perfect song to follow with. Hearing Neil playing this alone but with the electric guitar harmonics adding to his performance, I heard the song in a new and different way. I've seen solo acoustic versions and a thirty minute epic version but never one quite like this. Talk about your ancient songs...it's hard to imagine that this hasn't always been there.
Then came Hitchhiker. Everything that's been said so far is true...it's that good. How does Neil keep coming up with these? And how does he do this solo and make it even more powerful? Once again, I'm just thankful that he can and he does.
This four song segment ended with Ohio and it was a moving and towering version. I'm sure Neil was thinking of the 40th anniversary which recently passed, but made no mention of this -- if you have to ask, then he can't tell you.
A couple new love songs were next. Sign of Love and Leia both very pleasant and songs that will grow on you more and more. Then a couple old favorites, with After The Gold Rush and I Believe In You coming back-to-back. The woman sitting next to me was moved to tears during these and it added to my appreciation of these great songs.
The last segment of the regular set was three songs. Rumblin' is another good new one and then Cortez. After hearing many versions of this, it never gets old. This version gives it room to breathe, and that seems to be a large part of what Neil is doing with this tour, discovering the space between the notes. Wonderful version and then another great version of Cinnamon Girl, performed in just the right way for where Neil is at right now.
Walk With Me was a great first encore. Neil has really tightened this one up since the Albany version (way, way back 72 hours before!?) and it's a real keeper. Then Heart of Gold to end the show. I was happy for all the people who would have been disappointed without hearing this and it was a great version. Hoping for a third song and would have been great to hear an electric Out of the Blue to finish off with, but Neil was thinking something different and that was just fine.
So for anyone who is going to the upcoming shows, you're in for a real special performance. I'd like to see another one but this will be it for me, at least this part of the tour...it would be great if he continues on with this or returns to the solo acoustic/electric format again in the future. The record should be great when it comes out, and I bet that it will be his biggest seller in years. And if you haven't seen this version of Neil 2010, you really don't know what you're missing.
Thanks to Thrasher and the crew for making the show even more fun in all phases. Enjoyed speaking with you all and hope to see you again. Thanks for Andrew, a fellow fan of Sonic Youth, for the stories about Barcelona and the 1:30 a.m. show...I can just imagine. And thanks to Burt and Neil for doing what you do.
ps- Apologies to Bert for misspelling his name...oops! Long night, short sleep.......but a great performance!!!
Thank you Mr Henry! Excellent. A pleasure meeting you last night. Reading your review was almost as fun as speaking with you about the days of Neil... ;)
Photo by Steve Babineau/Sports Action Images
More concert reviews of Neil Young in Worcester, MA, May 21, 2010. Also, see more "Twisted Road" Concert Tour Reviews.