A Look Back Down Neil Young's Very Twisted Road
Neil Young - Worcester, MA, May 21, 2010
Photo by Steve Babineau/Sports Action Images
With another Neil Young solo tour just announced for this Spring it seems like a good time to look back as we look forward.
For many, last year's Twisted Road tour was an exceptional experience. We saw folks writing in review comments after the concerts that they were "amazing", "epic", "brilliant", "primal", and "unforgettable".
Some longtime fans even went as far to say that the concerts were "one of the truly great shows that I have seen, definitely one of the best from Neil Young and maybe, just possibly the best one yet."
Some were even left literally "in tears" by the experience.
A comment by Kimball on the Nashville concerts summed it up this way:
I have no doubt that we're witnessing a tour that will stand up completely in 3 or 4 decades time.
Debuting an incredible seven (7) new songs each night, one can only ask whether any other artist from the '60's or '70's or '80's or '90's that is still touring, plays this many new songs in their setlists?
While the 2010 Twisted Road concert tour provided many musical highlights, there was an unmistakable melancholy hanging over the affairs which seemed to create even more of an edge than the usual for a Neil Young concert -- particularly on the early tour dates.
Photo by Tracy Woodward/TWP
The source of the 2010 tour's sadness was rooted in Neil having to hit the road shortly after the loss of his long time associate LA Johnson (1947-2010). The tour's 2nd leg conclusion was bracketed by the loss of long time musical friend Ben Keith.
Neil seemed to be bearing a very heavy load and he dealt with his grief by paying tribute to L.A. in the new song "You Never Call" (with a mention of his son Ben) as heartbreaking -- yet humorous -- a song he has written in years.
"You Never Call" really encapsulates the mood and tone of the concerts. The ghost of L.A. fills the room and seems to hover over the stage. One can only imagine how hard it must be to sing a song about a dear friend -- who you have known and worked with nearly your entire professional life -- suddenly dies taking your son to a hockey game.
'Cause you take him everywhere
He brain-to-brained me
He told me you are still there."
Photo Gallery by Ed Rode for Rolling Stone
In our review of the 2010 tour -- Expecting to See Neil Young (or Man Without A Net) -- we evoked an image of "Man On A Wire", a documentary film of a trapeze artist who walks a tightrope between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, in New York City in 1974. And somehow that image reminded us of Neil Young up there.
Up on the stage. Alone. Without a net. Trying to stay balanced between the two twin towers. One side acoustic. The other electric. Sometimes leaning left, sometimes to the right. A tension of whether he might slip. And fall.
Which way to go?
It was a nearly perfect balancing act between love and war. Electric and acoustic. Hey Hey My My. My My Hey Hey. Into the blue. Out of the black.
Photo by Steve Babineau/Sports Action Images
A comment by setlistthief :
The trilogy of “You Never Call,” “Peaceful Valley,” and “Love and War” is among the most powerful imagery and singing about loss and death I’ve ever heard from Neil. And unlike TTN, this imagery is fueled by cold stark reality, not tequila and dope.
Neil’s reached an age where the finality of death is informing his work in ways it never has before. Indeed, though he’s been surrounded by death and loss his whole life, it is somehow different now. To watch and hear a man struggling with that so eloquently is extraordinary. A privilege.
And for those of us who aren’t far behind, it will help us navigate that Twisted Road.
So while the Twisted Road Tour may not compare with TTN or TFA or Greendale tours in terms of shattering audience expectations, it has certainly caught many off guard as summed up on the official concert t-shirt "I said solo...they said acoustic".
Photo by Simpson!
We examined the diverse audience reaction we were seeing in our comments threads and asked Does The Twisted Road Tour Compare With TTN or TFA Tours? Or Greendale? It would seem for the die-hard fans, the fact that seven (7) new songs were being debuted was a joy to treasure.
We alluded to the similarities of the TTN & TFA tours and audience backlash and some agree that Twisted Road Tour does compare with the TTN or TFA tours in terms of audacity and audience shock.
A reality check from someone who actually attended some TTN and TFA concerts. Don "Ride My Llama" in Sacramento, CA (between he and his wife Jan have logged over 300+ NY concerts) agreed with our premise that there are similarities with Twisted Road tour and those 1970 tours that left most in the audience completely bewildered by what they experienced.
Photo by Ken Toney Photography
So here's just one of the many reactions to the tour from Dan:
I think the concept and expectation that every show, every tour, every album be great in the same way as the prior one is so clearly not reality, not possible ... Neil's trip is deeper than that, its more real, and its predictable in its unpredictability ... on that basis nobody should be surprised, or frankly disappointed, this is Neil doing what he's always done and what he'll always do and the fans accused of making excuses for Neil aren't so much suggesting they love everything about him and his music as much, I think, as they love him unconditionally and have learned to trust him and let him lead them on this lifetime journey of emotional exploration and the mature person I think realizes that life is not static, homogeneous, constant, the richness comes from contrast, variation, change, it ebbs and flows
Lastly, a parting thought from Michael D. Clark:
I have been to quite a few momentous Young shows in the last 15 years and I always hear one or two of these complainers who totally miss Young's genius while waiting for "Old Man" to be performed.
If this description fits you, let me save you some time: Throw your dream setlist out and go to the Young show without any preconceived notions.
Neil Young - Austin, 6-5-10
Photo by Alberto Martinez / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
walk with us...
For more, see Expecting to See Neil Young (or Man Without A Net) and Does The Twisted Road Tour Compare With TTN or TFA Tours?.
Also, see more Neil Young's "Twisted Road" Concert Tour Reviews.