Neil Young Concert Reviews: Chicago, IL, May 6 & 7, 2011
Photo by Erica Gannett - Time Out Chicago
From Turn It Up: Concert review: Neil Young at Chicago Theatre by Greg Kot:
One man, one guitar, one big sound. Neil Young orchestrated his solo concert Friday – the first of two-sold shows at the Chicago Theatre – for maximum impact. He started slow and quiet and built to a rafter-rattling finale.
An early acoustic tune nailed the night’s theme, which focused on contrast and conflict. Instead of blowing out the chorus to sing-along proportion, Young kept “Helpless” shivery and small. Dwarfed against the vastness of an endless Canadian sky described in the song, Young’s tenor conveyed even more vulnerability than usual.
When the guitarist shifted into electric mode, he also amped up the drama. Young brought an orchestral dimension to the arrangements, expanding the approach he used on his latest solo album, the Daniel Lanois-produced “La Noise,” to older songs such as “Ohio” and “Down by the River.”
From Neil Young shows intimacy cuts both ways with Chicago Theatre set - Chicago Sun-Times By Thomas Conner:
Intimacy cuts both ways. Acoustic instruments, soft tones, delicate timbres — the “Unplugged” approach reliably draws us close. But, really, communion occurs just as intimately within an ear-piercing, teeth-rattling cacophony.
Neil Young has spent decades swinging between these extremes. During his measured performance Friday night at the Chicago Theatre, his first of two this weekend, he calmly and ably applied both tactics. He spoke to the hooting, sold-out crowd softly, in gentle and sometimes acoustic songs, but occasionally he carried a big, sonic stick. Nothing new, nothing life-altering, just solid and intense.
Alone on stage, with only an array of instruments and a cigar-store Indian as company, Young, now 65, spent much of the evening shuffling back and forth as if he couldn’t remember where he’d left something. Dressed in jeans, T-shirt, a white blazer and a Panama hat, he looked every bit the kooky Santa Monica beachcomber. He acted it, too — frowning at the floor, pacing the stage restlessly between and during songs, muttering to himself and whispering to the Indian.
Maximum volume, curtains of distortion, a wail of sound. No one orchestrates noise like Young, and it maintains its own weird intimacy — the sound surrounding us, squeezing us, compressing the space and intensifying his simple words.
From Neil Young at Chicago Theatre | Live review | photos - Music + Nightlife - Time Out Chicago by Josh Klein:
Just because Neil Young is a force of nature himself does not mean he’s not subject to similar forces. But if lesser artists get blown whichever way fashion points, and often down paths they’ve followed many times before, the forces that drive Young are much harder to predict, with the artist responding to his elusive, ephemeral muse with equally inspiring and inscrutable results. The man’s got more classic albums to his name than most, and just as many unremarkable ones, but the reason we care is that every once in a while he still releases a great one.
That Young remains as vital as ever was underscored by last year’s solo disc Le Noise, which featured the singer accompanying himself with rumbling walls of weird, reverberating guitars, but Young’s been further emphasizing the point with his current solo tour. Taking a page from the theatricality of fellow eccentric Tom Waits, the atmospherically lit Young stood center stage at the Chicago Theatre surrounded by an array of tantalizing options. There were the pianos. The pump organ. The pair of differently prepared acoustics. And waiting in the wings his souped-up Gretsch White Falcon with the funky output and, of course, his iconic Les Paul, “Old Black.” Throughout the night, Young would wander from instrument to instrument, teasing the crowd with his potential choice. Once or twice Young stood by the life-sized wooden Indian he takes on tour with him and commiserated in pantomime.
Of course, by now Young’s strategy is largely set even if its presentation makes it seem more spontaneous. He placates with crowd with a few familiar standards before apparently leaping off into parts unknown, though of course the singer’s been rigidly drawing from the same small pool of songs for most of this tour. In Friday night’s case, the first of two shows, it meant starting seated and acoustic with renditions of “My, My, Hey, Hey (Out of the Blue),” “Tell Me Why” and “Helpless,” and with those reliable numbers out of the way the “wandering” began. With mock indecision, Young progressed through a setlist that offered the bulk of Le Noise, from the haunting “Peaceful Valley Boulevard” to the harrowing “Hitchhiker,” juicing the night with nods to the past, whether solid solo-electric versions of “Ohio,” Down by the River” and “Cinnamon Girl” or a noodly “Cortez the Killer” and “After the Gold Rush” on the pump organ.
The setlist may be the same from night to night, his presence may be slightly aloof, but when you’re talking one-of-a-kind there’s really no such thing as run of the mill. Given the mediocre meandering of his many erratic peers, the guy’s consistency as a live performer alone deserves deference if it doesn’t always inspire awe.
Neil Young will be performing tonight at Chicago Theatre, Chicago, IL. Special guest Bert Jansch will open concert.
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