Reflections on Red Rocks: Neil Young + Promise of the Real, July 8 & 9, 2015
Photos by thrashette (except as noted)
(Click photo to enlarge)
Here are a few random reflections on just seeing two nights of Neil Young + Promise of the Real at Red Rocks: Morrison, CO, July 8 & 9, 2015.
This was our first time seeing concerts at the legendary venue, which is a geologically natural amphitheater -- that is simply spectacular -- in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. So the real star of every show is the venue itself, which did not disappoint with pristine acoustics and spectacular views. Truly a dream to experience a Neil Young concert in this sort of setting.
And we even saw a rainbow just before the 2nd night show!
The opening act Band of Horses did a nice job warming up each evening and seemed to be thrilled with the opportunity to open for Neil + The Real.
As the sun was setting behind heavy clouds, we could see the sky about to rain, but the weather held off for night #1. The concert opens with two women spreading seeds across the stage and watering flowers. And the the next thing you know is Neil is sitting at the piano playing "After The Gold Rush", the first of five well known and loved solo songs. So right from the beginning of the setlist, Neil takes care of those who came for the "hits".
The solo portion concludes with "Mother Earth" on the pump organ, which sets out the theme of the evening of environmental consciousness. And just to drive the point home on anyone who was missing was about to come, Neil is suddenly enveloped in clouds of "pesticides" by roadies in HAZMAT suits spraying fog all about the stage. A clever piece of theatrics and continuing a long tradition getting the crew in on the fun.
So out come Neil's new band Promise of the Real featuring two of Willie Nelson's sons Lukas Nelson and Micah Nelson on guitar and vocals, Corey McCormick on bass, Anthony Logerfo on drums, and Tato Melgar on congas and percussion. The band is really outstanding and clearly they seem thrilled and honored to play with Neil. Likewise, Neil seems to really enjoy his jams with Promise of the Real pairing off with each individually throughout the night.
One of our highlights was "Out On The Weekend" where Micah Nelson played the late Ben Keith's pedal steel solo with a violin bow on an electric guitar which really was just absolutely breathtakingly poignant.
It wasn't until the 11th song -- about an hour into the show that we heard the 1st new song from the album The Monsanto Years -- "Wolf Moon", a rather pleasant tune which reflects on our big, magical world and our small place in it. We mention this because this was probably the longest time we've been at a Neil Young concert before we heard a new song. Often times, it is well into a Neil Young concert before you hear a familiar song, so these concerts are very unique.
The music did most of the speaking with Neil saying little from the stage. Although on the first night, Neil went into a humorous little diatribe about a critic who wrote in a review of The Monsanto Years about "Wolf Moon" being "yet another song about the moon". So after completing "Wolf Moon", Neil said "Well, here's yet another song about the moon" and "Harvest Moon" was played. It was one of our funnier moments in Neil concert going over the decades, but maybe you just had to be there to appreciate it.
A few more random notes. Promise of the Real seems like a great band for Neil and it's a real joy to watch the craft being handed to the next generation. Lots of fire and energy on the stage. The jams on "Down by the River" and "Love and Only Love" were smokin'. And definitely some sound flavors with conga drums by Tato Melgar. We can't say enough good things about Micah's musical diversity on a variety of guitars and the piano. And Micah totally shreds when jams with a violin bow on several of the songs. We -- and everyone we spoke with -- found the vocal levels of Promise of the Real to be very low, especially Lukas' which is a shame since he has such a great distinguished voice.
Lastly, on paper, these are nearly dream setlists, 25+ songs, new and old songs, solo and a new band, acoustic and electric, nearly 3 hour shows. Rare songs like White Line, Bad Fog of Loneliness, Don't Be Denied, Double EE?! Who would've ever thought we'd hear another Greendale song?
That said, clearly the setlist is in a state of flux. As noted below, 3 songs on the setlist of 7/9 were not even played. The single encore of "If I Don't Know" just did not work and when the lights came up folks were clearly a bit surprised. We would expect continued adjustments. Mixing in rarities and classics in with The Monsanto Years new songs is a better approach, however the overall song flow mix is pretty disjointed.
Lastly, we'll just point out the obvious: Promise of the Real are the REAL deal.
Setlist July 9
Note: Hank to Hendrix, Flying On The Ground is Wrong, Don't Be Denied & Double E were not played
We can really go out on a limb here and say that maybe Neil should try the Greendale approach: play The Monsanto Years songs first, break and then play the hits? That said, riots would ensue.
So that's about it for now. Maybe more later. We hope to see more of the tour and are especially wanting to be in Vermont to see our good friends and radio buddies Tony & Eric. We shall see.
Otherwise, great to see so many Rusties at Red Rocks. Hello again to all we caught up with and sorry we missed some of you. Love to all, you're the best.
peace & love,
thrasher & thrashette
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