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Saturday, May 07, 2011

Neil Young Concert Reviews: Chicago, IL, May 6 & 7, 2011

Neil Young at Chicago Theatre - May 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.

Got a report? Drop a comment below.

Check Sugar Mountain for setlist updates and Chronological Grid, Recording Summary, Statistics and Extras.

Also, see Neil Young's "Twisted Road" Concert Tour Reviews and the right, middle sidebar for continuous real time RSS feed updates.


At 5/07/2011 03:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but I thought the show absolutely sucked. I have seen him ofetn over the years and I've seen good neil andf bad Neil and this was bad. It seemed like he learned the guitar had a vibrato bar for the first time in his life. In the past I have seen many of his electric shows and they were awesome but thias was basically just noise. Although Cinnamon Girl was great

At 5/07/2011 05:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Le Noise is barely listenable. The idea that it represents some kind of ground-breaking sonic experiment simply because it is just electric guitar is laughable. The concert was lame -- almost everyone around me agreed.

At 5/07/2011 07:34:00 PM, Anonymous Roll Another One said...

If LeNoise is barely listenable, why did you go to the concert? Did you think Neil was a greatest hits guy?

At 5/07/2011 08:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep, Le Noise is unlistenable. That's why all these music reviewers gave it positive reviews:

How to spot a bogus review....

At 5/07/2011 09:04:00 PM, Blogger Greg said...

Barely laughable! You can't recognize that it's the same Neil, just minus bass and drums?? Are the people that are complaining about Le Noise so blindly conditioned to the standard guitar bass drums format that any deviation to it can possibly upset them this much? Really? Think for yourself!

At 5/08/2011 07:52:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't see how anyone could be unimpressed by Le Noise.

Or unmoved by this series of concerts.

But everyone is entitled to his own taste and opinion.

What is laughable, and destroys all credibility, is when someone goes to these concerts and is surprised.

Any Young fan would know pretty much to expect. If you hated Le Noise, why go to the Twisted Road concerts? Talk about thick as a brick.

At 5/08/2011 08:24:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

barely listenable???

So Neil winds his 1st Grammy for a barely listenable release?

You can say whatever about Grammies or Le Noise, but no one has ever called Le Noise barely listenable.

except you. maybe stay home next time.


At 5/08/2011 08:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A P.S. to the nay sayers here:

The Boston concerts were absolutely beautiful and all the people around me felt privileged to be there. I didn't see or hear anyone who thought the show sucked

At 5/08/2011 09:09:00 AM, Anonymous thedonnielama said...

I was at the Chicago Theatre show Friday night. Part of my being a Neil fan is that he continues to grow. I hope that I live until 65, and if I do, I can be creative in whatever it is I am doing. Le Noise took on new greatness as I heard the songs performed live. My only complaint is the set is pretty much the same as last year's. One question: Does anyone know where Larry Cragg was? It was the first show where I didn't see Larry taking care of Old Black.

At 5/08/2011 09:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We all have different opinions, likes and dislikes in the "Neil Young World", but after listening to Neils music and seeing him in concert for 40 years,
I'd have to agree that the Le Noise album is as bad as it gets for Neil and the shows are quite boring.... and I have never been to a NEil show that I thought was boring. I was there for shocking pinks and Trans tours and albums, but I could still find alot more to like in those.
I have always appreciated Neils changes as this has kept him real, relevant and
as a fan, I never know what to expect next.....and this has often translated to great music.
But this time around , I find nothing to realy hold on to with this album and tour. For me, they both realy suck, but thats ok.We cant all like the same stuff alwasy and forever.
I look foward to the next turn in Neils musical life.It may be greater than anything he's ever done !
BUT also, I am no longer gonna pay $ 200-250 a ticket.That is total horseshit.This is welfare for Neils entourage and friends.I understnad that Neils likes to keep everyone employed....but not at my expewnse, sorry Neil.If you cant suppost them with $ 75 tix, then forget it.This is not entitlement.

At 5/08/2011 10:25:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

How To Spot A Bogus Concert Review in 3 Easy Steps

ps - the keyword to look for is the use of the word "suck" or a variation thereof.

At 5/08/2011 11:17:00 AM, Blogger TomCrac said...

Not sure where to, or even if I should, ask about where to find a live recording of the Avery Fisher Hall show, April 25 in particular...Any help is mucho appreciated.

ps...who cares if someone is dissatisfied with Neil and his shows?...I mean really...?...Who gives a sh*t...I couldnt possibly care any less.

pss...Happy Mothers Day!

At 5/08/2011 12:25:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

Thrasher, I'll add to your word list here:


It's not about volume, dummies. It's about how he gets the sound to fill the "room."

Like BigChief says, it's about the journey, not the destination.

To the comment who said, "it seemed like he learned the guitar had a vibrato bar for the first time in his life."

Every musician should feel that new beginning, that new love for their instrument, everytime they pick up it up otherwise they are old and stale.

At 5/08/2011 09:43:00 PM, Blogger Timothy Magaw said...

I was at both shows. Blown away both nights. Worth every penny and the 350 mile drive. The shows were my seventh and eighth time seeing Neil. These are right there at the top. No doubt.


What a performance.


At 5/09/2011 12:04:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

@Anon 9:44 am. (Fan for 40 years)

Isn't that also a sense of entitlement when people drop an insane amount of money to the ticket bastards just to "see" Neil Young and afterward not like what he played?

It sounds like you're just mad at yourself for spending all that money. Did you actually believe he wasn't gonna play from LeNoise?

That's a bummer. Hope tomorrow is better.

At 5/09/2011 03:11:00 AM, Blogger Kimball said...

Thrasher and rust people, I lived the Friday and Saturday night Neil shows. First night was 2nd row balcony, Second night was 6th row from the stage, center aisle. I was also at both Ryman (Nashville) shows last year, and these are just the most recent in a series of Neil experiences much like a passenger train where each individual car is its own space, decorated in the theme of its particular tour, but colored and textured in its own way and ever so uniquely. When I compare what I saw and heard in Nashville to what was presented to me Friday night, all I can say is that Neil has grasped the Le Noise reins and charge the rest of the way into wherever it is that the Le Noise hitchhiker reigns. The thing that struck me over and over and over both nights was this: Neil is 100% dedicated to being at the right place to get this presentation out to us, in its purest form, as it must be inside his head. Its like this, he's workin' like a mad man to get to the place where it can come through him, to us. Simple as that, and if you don't see that when you go to the shows on this leg of the Le Noise tour, I think you're missing the keystone that makes the whole presentation glow, quiver, tremble, flash and erupt. There were several new twists in Neil's performance since I saw it in Nashville (June '10), the most powerful of which are related to Neil introducing a few sonic textures that harken back to the Le Noise record itself. My favorite and the one that really blew me away is where Neil put some staccato breaks into a repeating guitar sequence, and it was 100 times more powerfule with them than it was without them. Down by the River and Cortez, played from the Le Noise tour place where Neil's at right now (leading up to the Massey filmings), are as pure and raw as I can imagine these songs, every note is wrenching, meaningful and emotive, no motion is wasted, its all simply a complex rendering of the art that in its most perfect form in Neil's mind. I really wonder how close he is to showing us exactly what he's trying to. Its making it out so strongly now. If he's ON at Massey, and Demme captures it the way I felt it, THIS film will be the document that will define Neil's artistic mastery for centuries. To everyone going to Massey, especially Doug Tuned4Life, make the most of this opportunity to get close to Neil's muse. Kimball

At 5/09/2011 07:07:00 AM, Blogger tuned4life said...

Well, Tomorrow at this time I will be heading north to Massey Hall. Exactly 145 miles. A lot easier a drive than the 700 mile round trip to Upper Darby(4/30). I had 2nd row PIT for Upper Darby and worth every penny. Neil just keeps getting better. A differant flavor to Cortez and Hitchhiker from when I saw Neil in Buffalo on 5/19/2010. It was a rowdy Saturday Night crowd in Philly. A loud drunk guy directly behind Me and a young lady singing along 2 seats to my right. Made a special trip to Toronto Saturday to up grade My Row B seats. I am sure it will be something special. Doug S. Warsaw N.Y.

At 5/09/2011 08:41:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

Kimball -- Perfect description here:

"... series of Neil experiences much like a passenger train where each individual car is its own space, decorated in the theme of its particular tour, but colored and textured in its own way and ever so uniquely."

I love it. I won't ever plaguerize it but it's going upstair *points to head* here for future reference. Inevitabley, it will spill out, in my dreams or elsewhere.

At 5/09/2011 09:10:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

Thank you for putting into words so cleary what I've been trying to describe about LaNoise:

"Sonic textures that harken back to the Le Noise record itself. My favorite and the one that really blew me away is where Neil put some staccato breaks into a repeating guitar sequence, and it was 100 times more powerfule with them than it was without them."

I do believe music critcs and reviewers know absolutely nothing about music anymore than they did 40 years ago.

LaNoise, for me, was like stumbling upon "Peter and the Wolf" as a kid but instead of all the instruments having a different part, we hear in Neil's music a dynamic and melodic articulation of beautiful sound telling this story about his life.

Birds of feather flock together? I think so. I feel somewhat vindicated reading the comments by this community here.

Thank you, Kimball, Mr. Henry, Marian, Annette, Sony, SH, Gregs, Toms, Timothy, Doug, Jill, PW, Jonathan, Dans, Bigchief, JR., RAO, EM, and all the little Anonymouses that want to be heard but not seen.

Love, love, love this site!!! Off to the garden now!

At 5/09/2011 09:20:00 AM, Anonymous annette said...

saw the chicago may 7th show. Loved him as always. old songs and new ...a beautiful show. but I felt his sadness...losing LA johnson and ben keith, two of his closest artistic soul mates in the past year or two has had to be incredibly destabilizing. fortunately for us, he works things out through his music and i'm glad we can go through this with him. LOVE that he encored with walk with me. says it all. we will, Neil. we'll be with you the whole way through. no matter what.

At 5/10/2011 09:52:00 AM, Blogger Dan1 said...

looks like the trolls are back ... their posts are so shallow and ridiculous they do not warrent a response or to be taken seriously ...

Love seeing the photos of the theatres he's playing in (like the one in Chicago Thrasher's got posted above)... reminds me of the Fillmore photos only 50 years later ... adds to the coolness factor that Neil's still doing the rounds in these historic, landmark theatre's ... you have to pinch yourself sometimes to realize its real and how good we've got it ... pick virtually any other star musician from the 60s they're long gone, if not in person then in spirit ... call it good luck to have been hitched to Neil's star that keeps shining bright!!!

At 5/10/2011 08:50:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry if this is covered elsewhere but I would like to ask what time Neil takes the stage around? I am truly trying to get to Massey Hall around 8pm but if he's not coming out until 9 pm I will have a little bit of a cushion to get there. Any help from anyone who has been at this tours' shows would be appreciated! Thank you!

At 5/11/2011 07:02:00 PM, Blogger Timothy Magaw said...

Bert came on at 8 both nights. I'd suggest trying to see him. Wonderful musician. Neil goes on around 9. I think it was around 9:10 both nights in Chicago. Have fun.


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