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Friday, April 22, 2011

"He Has Presence": Neil Young Concert Reviews of the Moment -- Boston MA, April 19 & 20, 2011

Neil Young
Boston, MA - April 20, 2011
Photo by Steve Babineau/Sports Action Photography

"He has presence" said the son to the father after the Neil Young concert in Boston, MA, April 19 & 20, 2011.

Here is a rather remarkable story of concert memories of Neil Young in Boston, MA, April 19 & 20, 2011 by the always insightful Mr. Henry.

If you ever want to let someone know what it's like to feel a Neil concert, hand them this review.
Return of the King: Part One

Rusted wire and tilted posts more a symbol of restraint than a fence per se.
--David Foster Wallace from The Pale King

I've thought about it too much to talk; I'm going to do something about it.
--James Stewart in The Man from Laramie

Another stop on the Twisted Road...but not just another stop. Two shows in Boston: same exact set, completely different music. Tuesday night Neil seemed kind of playful and funny ("I think they call it the Kelloggs Corn Flakes Music Hall now...."). Wednesday night a bit more serious and direct, all about the music ("Welcome to The Music Hall"). Both nights performing his own unique tightrope walk, connecting the past to the present and the present to the past. Both nights incredible and unique.

No need to overstate the obvious points...but I will anyway. He's playing the same focused group of songs every night for a reason; he's giving you some hints but it only really counts if you get the answer yourself. Neil has "faith in you" and knows you're up to the task. The emphasis is on the new songs, but not all of them; not necessarily because they're on the new album and maybe not even on the album at all. He's performing a recital and working his magic within a formal construct of his own pure creation. You've heard of "Classic Rock"? Well this is much better -- it's "Classical Rock" where the structure and the flow are in total harmony, where each variation within the structure is an inseparable part of the flow of life.

Past concerts were like the ocean. Sometimes there would be endless beautiful waves that would come curling in on a sun drenched summer's day. Sometimes there were violent crashing waves that pounded mercilessly like a winter Noreaster, washing the beach clean and changing everything around. These concerts are more like a mighty river moving steadily throughout the land. Like the river, you can't separate the flowing water from the banks that barely contain the force and beauty.

Bert Jansch was superb both nights. I believe I used the phrase "quietly amazing" or something like that before to describe what he does -- he is completely one-of-a-kind. I don't think we'll ever again have someone in this world who combines technique, artistry and soul in quite this way. I had great seats for the first night (Orchestra row M almost dead center...perfect acoustics!) and very good ones for night two (Mezzanine row D again in the center). Bert's songs and playing were just so beautiful, and I had chills as he would visit the timeless well of his music. I never thought that I'd be fortunate and privileged enough to hear Bert play once in my I've heard him on four separate occasions! Thank you so much, Bert...the most humble superstar that I'll ever see and hear perform.

Neil Young
Boston, MA - April 20, 2011
Photo by Steve Babineau/Sports Action Photography

Return of the King: Part Two

A wise man was telling stories to me
About the places he had been to
And the things that he had seen

--David Hidalgo & Louie Perez...One Time One Night

Neil came out unannounced both nights. It seems that he totally appreciates the crowd and the love that is directed toward him, happy and thankful to just be there doing what he does best. The set structure is in five groups, each one with three songs that tell a story separately and together, along with a bridge song connecting and reinforcing the segments and an encore that combines them all together in a final farewell and hope-to-see-you-soon moment of sorrow and joy.

Out of the Blue, Tell Me Why and Helpless deal with the great sadness and mystery of life. Trying to make sense of what can often seem senseless. Keeping your candle burning bright even when it would be easier to just give up. Neil played magnificent versions on both nights, and he had the crowd completely, especially on night two when I saw lots of hugging going on during this portion. I especially loved Tell Me can this simple song be so complex and moving? I've heard this for over forty years now (along with many of you out there) and it always seems like it's the first time.

You Never Call, Peaceful Valley Boulevard and Love and War are like siblings to the first three songs, visiting the same thoughts and feelings after many years of the beauty and wonder of living in this world. My favorite on both nights was Neil's performance of You Never Call...the depth and emotion he brings forward is just incredible to watch and be a part of. Same for the other two songs and the guitar playing is sublime. Love and War especially seems different each time that I hear it...might not be "his best song ever" as I stated in my Hanover Theatre review last year, but who knows and who cares -- just amazing stuff!

Down By the River, Hitchhiker and Ohio brought everyone back home, with Neil exploring the twists and turns of his music and art. DBTR was direct on the first night, with more variations and exploring on night two. Each time I hear this live is a different experience; it's like the litmus test for Neil's performance and can be three minutes long or thirty three minutes, whatever is best for that performance. Hitchhiker is always amazing and was the biggest change from night one to night two: a glorious fuckup Tuesday night and then totally nailed and "perfect" the next night. Ohio was also near perfect both nights as Neil poured his heart out once again and then again.

Sign of Love is the bridge portion, where Neil takes a rest and a deep breath to think about all of the best things in life. It sounds old and new at the same time, with echoes of Cinnamon Girl all grown up. Neil's chamber music for the 21st century.

Neil Young
Boston, MA - April 20, 2011
Photo by Steve Babineau/Sports Action Photography

Return of the King: Part Three

I felt the rain as it
Poured from the skies
And it washed away my anger
Took the sadness from my eyes
--Tobin Sprout...Cleansing from the Storm

Leia was the biggest and happiest surprise of both nights. It's like Neil's version of a Haiku, with incredible insight and emotion contained within a very tight construction. Of all the songs, it's the one that says the most by saying the least and it's the bridge between the two thematic segments of Neil's recital. The crowd loved it...again especially on night two -- all the more amazing since it's never been recorded. And Neil seemed to be having a great time playing it "for all the little people...and also for Grandpa; I know you're out there". After The Gold Rush never sounded better and there was lots more hugging going on all around. Nothing in the world sounds quite like that organ! And then I Believe In You with it's simple and profound affirmation of faith and love, no matter what happens.

Rumblin', Cortez the Killer and Cinnamon Girl brought the show to a tremendous peak and left almost everyone satisfied. After playing Ohio on the Falcon, it's so great to hear Rumblin' as the seats literally were shaking and then see Neil shift back to Old Black for Cortez. Versions were different but equally killer (sorry!) both nights; thinking about the J. Mascis version at the Carnegie Tribute and wondering what it would be like to hear Neil and J do this one sometime as a duo! Then Cinnamon Girl closed the show, with an especially cool solo on night two as Neil took the "one note solo" thing to even greater heights.

Walk with Me summed up everything that came before. Sadness but no regrets...well at least not a lot. Moving ever forward but taking some time to look back. Joining what's happened and what is yet to come. And celebrating the mystery and understanding of life and living every moment. Be yourself and be together.

So another couple of great performances from Neil. When I reviewed the Hanover show, I stated that it might have been the best Neil concert that I had ever seen. Maybe it still is; maybe I just tuned in at the right time and in the right mood. Tuesday night was probably "better" in some ways and Wednesday night maybe was "better" in other ways. That's why this is so cool and one-of-a-kind right now. You can see one performance and it will stand on its own; you can see multiple shows and appreciate the differences and the constants.

Return of the King: Part Four

It's funny. Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.

--J. D. Salinger from The Catcher In The Rye

Tuesday night I went with my wife and she loved it. She's seen Neil many times and did say afterwards "well I would have liked a bit more of the old songs". So I completely understand and empathize with those fans who were disappointed by the song selection. At the parking garage elevator, a couple nice women said sheepishly "I liked the acoustic songs the best" and that is completely alright. We all have our preferences and it's fine to not just soak it all in, hoping for your favorites to be played. My feeling is that Neil will come back at some point and do just that...he's just not into that right now. He really does love his fans but he wouldn't be Neil without taking chances and going where he needs to go.

Wednesday night I went with my son and he also really loved it. This was his third time seeing Neil and he thought that both performers were just fabulous. I was especially happy and proud of how much he loved Bert Jansch. There were many, many of the young folks in the crowd and they all seemed to be having an incredible time. One man said to me "my thirteen year old daughter is now a huge fan". I overheard a guy saying to his friend in wonder "How can someone that old play and perform like that" and "Who will we be listening to when we're 50 years old?".

Afterwards talking with my son, I said that I truly believe we're in a golden age of music right now, with more diverse types and more great performers playing than maybe at any other time in history. He said he totally agrees and then went on to say that "Neil has such a presence", boiling down all of my thoughts into five words. I told him how many of the songs were ones that I've listened to over forty years now, and that I hope he'll be listening to them for even longer than that.

Last week I saw two more shows that support my "golden age of music" beliefs. Thursday night was a reunion show for the band Come; Friday night was a piano recital by the legendary Ms. Dubravka Tomsic. You couldn't get two shows much more different and yet both were completely right, so just give the music a chance and almost anything is possible. Sometimes you get exactly what you need when you need it.

Monday morning I was driving through the center of my town when I stopped at a Stop sign before proceeding. Realizing that the woman to my right had completely run her sign while talking on the phone, I jammed on the brakes and cut the wheel sharply left. The other driver saw me just in time and also braked sharply...we missed colliding by maybe an inch or so. I had Lucinda Williams' new CD playing and heard her sing "We were blessed" just as I realized there was no impact.

After both the Tuesday and Wednesday shows, the first song to play was a lovely version of Greensleeves played on acoustic guitar. My daughter grew up playing Classical Guitar, and this was the piece that she played for my dad at his memorial service on Veterans Day, just before the Army bugler played Taps. Thank you so much!

"It eluded us then, but that's no matter -- tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther...."

...F. Scott Fitzgerald from The Great Gatsby

As always, thank you for sharing Mr. Henry. Your ability to tie other artists and literature into Neil's music is without compare. Thank you my friend.

Thanks Steve "Babs" for the shots. Most awesome!

More reviews of Neil Young in Boston, MA, April 19 & 20, 2011.


At 4/22/2011 01:31:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

Takes my breath away...

At 4/22/2011 06:38:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, great writing! Thanks for sharing. Especially captures my feelings about Bert perfectly. long may he run . . .

At 4/23/2011 11:42:00 AM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

There's so many ways
To say I Love You
There's so many ways
To say I Care
So many ways
So many ways
So many ways to say
--Fred Rogers

You're very welcome...and thank you! Yesterday morning I happened to check in at TW and saw my review posted, which made me feel very happy. Then I went to the local Post Office; when I walked in I Got Id was playing on the radio! Got a bit mesmerized listening to Neil's solo -- the nice lady there had to ask me twice if I needed any stamps. So like I said, sometimes with music (and life) you get exactly what you need when you need it.

Happy Earth Day and wishes for a Joyous Passover and a Happy Easter to everyone in Neil Young Nation. In celebration and humble thanks, I offer you this sublime performance of In Christ There Is No East Or West by the late, great John Fahey.

Join hands, have Faith
Forgive your enemy
Surely we all are just part
Of one big family

The story of love is
Hello and Goodbye
Until we meet again
--Jimi Hendrix

Dedicated to the memory of Mom, Dad and Sissy

"When I waltz again with you...."

At 4/23/2011 01:10:00 PM, Blogger Jill said...

Mr Henry, you moved me to tears while I was reading that, thanks so much for your beautiful and heartfelt writing.

You truly have a heart of gold.

At 4/23/2011 09:40:00 PM, Blogger Sandy Horne said...

Mr. Henry I just gave you a virtual hug. I hope you felt it!! You are just so full of love, insight, positivity, and warmth. It is a pleasure to get to read your words. Thank you.


At 4/23/2011 11:47:00 PM, Blogger Greg McGarvey said...

Thank you, Misters Henry and Wheat!

At 4/24/2011 02:26:00 AM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

Pulled over to the corner
And I fell into a dream
--Neil Young

To my friends Jill and Sandy:

Stay as sweet as you are! In the sweet bye and bye, we will sing our beautiful song... Thank you again and again!!

Just got home from a very long and mucho satisfying night. Bruins victorious versus Les Habs...thank you Tim Thomas!! And Dice K pitches a one hitter! Then caught the last set at C Note (on the beach) with the incredible blues guitarist Jeff Pitchell and his band Texas Flood. Walked in right at midnight and they were playing Don't Take Your cool!!! Then an amazing version of You Don't Love Me, trading 4's with James Taylor's sax player.

Happy Birthday to my beautiful, beautiful boy...I Believe In You!!!

At 4/24/2011 09:41:00 AM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

Correction: The song they were playing was One Way Out (not You Don't Love Me)...great version with guitar, sax and keyboard all trading off and playing together!

At 4/24/2011 10:19:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

Mr H - fantastic.

I really loved how you saw the themes in the setlist.


There's been quite a bit of discussion about static setlists but this helps in seeing the set as a cohesive piece. As some have called an opera or play.

At 4/27/2011 08:52:00 AM, Blogger Mr Henry said...


From The Mr Henry Times (All The Print That Fits)

Apparently the person who hacked all the PS3 data has discovered a set list for Neil's next new album. From what the sources that live inside my brain tell me, it has to do with the upcoming election next year. Songs are being finalized, and Neil's band will be Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. At press time, they are still having heated discussions about the name of this group. Possible choices include Spinal Horse, Neil and His Fabulous Folksmen, and GMSY. No news yet on a tour, but many rumors abound...and you know what happens when things start abounding!?

Songs for 2012: Leaving With Warts

(You Are) Like a Huckabee
The Bold Laughin' Palin
Danger Birther
Mitt Mitt, Rom Ney (Out of the Blue and After Barack)
Don Trump Will Bring You Down
Get Barack to the Country
Transformer Man (for Mitt Romney)
I Believe in You/Born in the USA (for Obama)
Last Trip to Nashua
Capture Kennedy (for Scott Brown)
This Newt's For You
El Obam
Poke-A-Rumpus (Trump, DeNiro and Me)
On the Beach/Vampire Blues (for BP)
Smother Earth (Drill Baby Drill)
Let's Elect The President

Not sure if this is the final choice list and is "cast in stoned" or if it's what Michelangelo liked to call "a work in progress" when he was updating The Pope. And if there's anything that I am absolutely sure of, it's that I'm not absolutely sure of anything...except the things that I am absolutely sure of. I'll let you know when I'm more certain.

I'm Mr Henry and I paid for this Ad!!!

Hope that I haven't offended anyone (everyone)...just joshin' y'all..........

At 4/27/2011 09:24:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

Great hack Mr H!

Now if only we can see the NYA#2 track list! ;)


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