REVIEW: Red Rocks: Neil Young + Promise of the Real, July 8 & 9, 2015
Red Rocks, CO, July 9, 2015
Photos by Michael Golden
(Click photo to enlarge)
Here's an excellent review by Michael Golden a long time Neil fan. Thanks Michael! (& Tom!)
It had been pouring rain all day long. The parking lot was red mud as we trudged up to the south entrance of the amphitheater. The woman at the gate told us that the show was barely half sold that evening. In the steady rain, we watched Band of Horses perform. As Band of Horses closed out their set, the skies parted. A beautiful rainbow appeared in the eastern sky, and then, two women came out onto the stage. Tossing seeds and watering sunflowers, they seemed intent to let it grow. Only a distraction to me, and everyone else, as after a few minutes watching these two women, somebody had snuck out onto the stage behind the old upright. Our spiritual leader had arrived. If Red Rocks was only half sold out that evening, someone might want to explain why as Neil started performing After the Goldrush the entire place was on their feet, clear up to the back row. The venue was packed to capacity.
Neil set out on a tremendous solo acoustic set, later to be joined by Willie's kids and the Promise of the Real. There was something for everyone at these shows. From longstanding hits to songs pulled from the dustbins of history, nobody, and I mean nobody could have been disappointed by Neil's performance Wednesday night. When was the last time you heard Hold Back the Tears and Peace of Mind in one show? How about Bad Fog of Loneliness and Flying on the Ground is Wrong? For goodness sakes, even after better than a couple hundred Neil performances over the past 35 years, I was blown away. For the hardcore fan, Neil pulled out songs like Words (Between the Lines of Age), Don't Be Denied (1st song of the encore Wednesday evening) and Double E (2nd song of the encore Wednesday evening).
The Monsanto Years was certainly heavily promoted in the show, as those of us who know Neil would anticipate. We weren't there to see him perform Heart of Gold or Old Man (although he did!). We were there for the obscure and the new. We got everything we bargained for, and then some. Wolf Moon is an absolutely beautiful song, and Neil pulled it off impeccably. While the new album is focused on corporate farming practices, this is nothing new coming from Neil. He has stayed the course over virtually his entire career. Just listen to After the Goldrush, Field of Opportunity, or Mother Earth as examples. This thread is nothing new to Neil, and we as his fans largely support it.
The setlist was incredible, spanning from the Buffalo Springfield to the present day. I for one was stunned at the number of Stray Gators songs Neil performed, considering that all members of the Stray Gators have sadly passed away. There is no replacing the soul of the Stray Gators, Ben Keith, but Lukas & Micah Nelson sure tried on slide guitar and using a bow on the guitar. Also surprising was the number of Crazy Horse songs performed. With only one exception, they all came off incredibly well. That exception was Cowgirl in the Sand. It just seemed like the band didn't have the sound balanced properly during the jams in between verses. Perhaps that was just my perception. But White Line, Love & Only Love, and Double E came off just great. In any event, seeing Neil do Cowgirl in the Sand cannot be easily discounted. It WAS fantastic, thank you Neil!
After nearly 3 hours, the show ended with Don't Be Denied followed by Double E. If there was anyone disappointed with this show, perhaps they should consider never leaving their house again, as it's been a long time since I have seen a Neil performance this moving and energized.
The second night was equally exciting. This time however, the weather decided to be a bit less cooperative. While the day was gorgeous, Neil's performance was rained on. Actually, it poured. And candidly, it didn't matter. Thursday evening was packed to the rafters. Fortunately, the real fans knew to bring their rain gear, and we needed it. Neil came out of the box a little rough on his vocals with After the Goldrush, but he quickly gained his composure. His set while shorter than Wednesday evening, had some incredible highlights. As Neil broke into Winterlong, the emotions of the second day were overwhelming. It is a song that is so moving and personal that I felt as if he performed it in my honor. I have lived the storyline of Winterlong, and it is painful. It was a great version, very moving, and just phenomenal. Again, hearing Words performed was just unbelievable, not to mention one of the best Down by the River's I have heard in years, possibly decades. Neil didn't do Cowgirl the 2nd night, but the Down By The River had 10,000 plus people in the pouring rain cheering as he pulled off one of the most incredible solos I have ever heard him do. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere was late in the show, which is odd as he often performs that song early in the performance when I have heard it on prior occasions. The encore Thursday night wasn't a real barn burner, but we had almost 2 1/2 hours of Neil, non-stop in the pouring rain with lightning illuminating the night sky around Red Rocks. No complaints whatsoever.
"Well all you critics sit alone..." I read a review by a fellow named Matt Miller. He must have been at a different Red Rocks this week and seen a different Neil Young. When 10,000+ people are on their feet getting pelted by heavy rain, cheering at the top of their lungs during virtually the entire show, sorry Matt, but I'd say you might reconsider your statement "...the fans lost interest from the long concert and the new, preachy songs toward the end from the new album." Judging from what I saw, nothing could be further from the truth. Consider the following - there are 12 shows on this tour, 2 were at Red Rocks, and nobody walked away disappointed. A woman next to me Thursday night broke down into tears. It was her very first Neil show, she flew to Denver from Sausalito, and she couldn't believe how good he was. Sadly, she didn't bring her rain gear - typical Bay Area concert goer. There were fans in attendance from coast to coast. I met people from the midwest, the east coast, the west coast, and points in between. The real Neil fans knew this was going to be a special week at Red Rocks, and Neil let nobody down.
For those of us musicians, Neil used the old upright (you know the old beat up upright), the foot pump pipe organ, the old Martin D-28, the White Gretsch, and Old Black. I don't recall him using any other guitars.
As for the Stray Gators portion of the show, it was great. The Stray Gators were one of the best bands Neil ever recorded and performed with in my opinion. We were fortunate that they came back together 20+ years ago for a stint. Let them all rest in peace.
With regards to the Crazy Horse songs, they were good. But Neil, this is to you personally - it's time to let the Horse out of the barn. I have a hard time seeing Love & Only Love, White Line, Down By The River, Cowgirl in the Sand, and Everybody Knows This is Nowhere performed by some other band when Poncho, Ralph and perhaps Billy are ready, willing and able to rock n roll. There is no substitute for Crazy Horse, especially when the guys can pull it off.
Finally, for those concerned with Neil's wrist, it was wrapped the 2nd night, but not the first night. Obviously it's causing him some pain. Maybe that's why the 2nd show was a bit shorter than Wednesday evening. Regardless, show me a musician who can captivate an audience for close to 3 hours, with no intermission, have them engaged and on their feet, cheering, singing, crying and totally into every word and note. The greatest singer/songwriter/musician we have ever seen is thankfully still with us, and he continues to bring us timeless music in a relevant manner. Nobody can do what Neil does, nobody ever will.
Long May You Run Neil.
Nice review Michael. Thanks for sharing.
More reviews, photos, videos and more on Red Rocks: Neil Young + Promise of the Real, July 9, 2015.
Also, commentary, discussion and analysis on last night's Thrasher's Wheat Radio on Wbkm Dot Org. Download podcast at Thrasher's Wheat Radio Hour - 7/11/15 - Episode #138.
Don't be denied!
Tune in details and podcast info @ Thrashers Wheat Radio Hour.
Thrasher's Wheat Radio
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peace & love. stay calm. no fear. use discernment. recognize the illusion. question authority. prepare for the big shift. be the wheat and keep on rockin' in the free world.