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Thursday, May 05, 2016

36 minutes “Down By The River” - Neil Young & Promise Of The Real @ Beale Street Music Festival, Memphis, TN on April 29, 2016

Here is a 36 minute version of “Down By The River” by Neil Young & Promise Of The Real on April 29 in Memphis,TN at the Beale Street Music Festival.

Quite a slow burn on this version in comparison to the "short" 20 minute version we posted earlier of "Down By the River" at New Braunfels, TX, 2016.04.26.

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At 5/06/2016 06:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Minus the occasional excessive outbursts of noodling from Lukas, this remains one of favourite performances with this band. It's starting to sound like 100% Neil Young again, and Micah contributes some very eery guitar playing. Micah is going under the radar a little bit, but he strikes me as a talented guitarist who understands what he needs to contribute to Neil's music. So far I actually prefer the incomplete video of the same performance that came up a few days ago. It captures the atmosphere and spook better.

Think of your favourite Neil Young electric guitar piece from the last 50 years. Cortez? Hurricane? Powderfinger? No Hidden Path? Ramada Inn? Regardless, they are all songs with the rest of the band providing a bedrock of sound for him to dance around on top of. These songs have no noodling from the band. None whatsoever.

Because one of the key things that has always made Neil's guitar playing so special is the air, the sense of space between the notes. To try and fill in this space, from my perspective, is to take a genius guitarist and surgically extract the very quality that makes him great. The best Neil Young shows are the ones where he stands alone in the spotlight, defiant and vulnerable.

So a few weeks ago I was hoping that someone would lock Lukas in the wardrobe for the duration of the European tour ("Poncho, is that you? We need a good backing guitarist for Neil, we've heard you are pretty good..."). But these last few shows have been good. Videos of Revolution Blues and Powderfinger and Country Home in particular have demonstrated just how remarkably good Neil still is on lead guitar, when the rest of the band decide to let him play, uninterrupted. That's what he does best. Alone and vunerable, he rises to the occasion, time and time again. Poncho Sampedro and David Briggs and Niko Bolas and Rick Rosas and Steve Cropper would have told you exactly the same thing.


At 5/06/2016 11:19:00 AM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

Well, this can't really be considered a 36 minute Down by the River, can it? At most, it's a 24 minute version. The first 6 minutes are a prelude (to be kind) and the last 6-8 minutes is a dissonant mess, which I guess could be considered a coda, but I'm not sure of the appropriate musical term.

The meat of the song is good, but these last few versions and shows are finding Neil reverting back to his recent Crazy Horse shambolic mess that literally had a good number of fans scampering for the exits.

I mean really, I'm largely joking, but I've never picked up a guitar and I'm fairly certain I could do what he did for the first six minutes.

Scots: Please tell me where I'm wrong. I love Neil and enjoyed the "meat" of the performance, but is anything going on at the beginning and end of the song (which accounts for 12-14 minutes)?

Also, it may have been said before, but your description of Neil as "defiant and vulnerable" nails it when he's at his best in any format.

Take my advice
don't listen to me

At 5/06/2016 11:35:00 AM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

Scotsman: Wow, your third paragraph really nails it. Excellent distillation of what Neil has always been as an electric guitarist. Defiant and vulnerable indeed.

At 5/06/2016 12:38:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

36 minutes is far too long. I wont even try. Rev Blues "I wont attack you but I wont back you" quite topical indeed.

At 5/06/2016 01:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Topanga: I'm not a big fan of the modern noise endings either. I think Neil got those right back in 1987-1991, when they were concise and very intense. Back then, Like A Hurricane often had a couple of frenzied minutes of string-ripping, which was quite powerful and entertaining. Nowadays though, the endings tend to be monotonous (BOOM BOOM BOOM) and very long-winded, which in fact is a dull listening experience, if we are being honest. The studio version of Walk Like A Giant in particular would benefit from the last few minutes being edited out.

In the case of this DBTR, I didn't actually hear the ending (the alternate video I mention above cuts off at the end of the song). I did like the intro, however. Combined with the smoky stage and "seed-scattering", it created a surreal and spooky atmosphere.

Over the last few years Neil has tended to open his electric shows with a long jam song (LAOL, LTB, DBTR), which in my opinion is often an example of bad pacing. He tends to peak in the first song and then gradually work down from there. Opening with a few "short and sharp" songs tends to be a more dramatic way to start, in my opinion, with the epics coming later in the show. In 1991 he was a master of this, opening with an urgent "Into The Black" and closing with an outrageously-intense Like A Hurricane. It felt like the music was building up to a real climax.

I haven't heard every song from this current tour, but overall the ones I have heard have been generally enjoyable. Revolution Blues is of course the standout. Overall, Neil is playing well and Lukas is giving him a lot of room to solo unaccompanied on many of the songs, if not all of them. On Powderfinger and Revolution, Neil plays all the solos; Lukas provides a sparse and sympathetic backing. And for many of us, that's the ideal scenario.

I will look forward to hearing how the European tour progresses.

....Thanks Dan Swan!


At 5/07/2016 01:40:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

That'll sure clear the 02, may work in smaller venues but in the vast space of the 02 this I fear is just another overwrought performance. Now 47 years old this song is one of Neil's top 5 songs but here it's just a mess and I miss the Crazy Horse ooh la las! I'm with others here it isn't 36 minutes - no surprises I guess and yes the fire is still burning with Neil. The 02 looks like it will be half empty?

I'm no guitar guru technician but this doesn't hold my attention and I remember in his last show at the 02 people just got out their i phones/pads and chatted amongst themselves.

At 5/07/2016 05:01:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andy: Thanks for your thoughts. I was at the London O2 in 2013 as well, and overall I though the problem was the one I describe above: pacing. The music was very enjoyable, but overall the show felt disjointed and top-heavy, with much of the most intense guitar playing coming in the first 40 minutes or so. And then, just as the show was building up momentum: 10 minutes of BOOM BOOM BOOM. In short, the suspense and mystique and drama (such a vital part of a Neil gig) weren't given proper attention. And so people started checking their watches.

Elliot Roberts, the sort of person who could sell ice to the eskimos (and "has a different story for every set of eyes"), has made some poor management choices over the last few years, and the organisation of that tour was one of them. Due to the late start and inclusion of an opening act, shows would regularly collide with curfews.

NOBODY goes to a Neil Young show to see the opening act; if you want to sell a few extra tickets, there are better ways to do it without pushing the show into the curfew. People remember the tedium of having to stand through an opening act (even if the opening act is great in their own right), patiently waiting for the band they actually paid to see. And when the opening act then causes the main act to hit the curfew, that's a real problem. It makes people less likely to turn up next time around. Poor organisation.


At 5/07/2016 07:24:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

Thanks Scotsman agreed - If I recall the opening act were no slouches LOS LOBOS!

At 5/07/2016 10:25:00 AM, Blogger ANDREW BYROM said...

It's my first gig at the O2 this year. Unfortunately I now can't go to what will probably NY's only gig in my hometown of Leeds, my daughters graduation Art show in Winchester has been put back a day and now clashes! Can't believe it, but my daughter comes before NY. So it's Glasgow and London for me. I'm still looking at the July dates but none of them look good for me.

Anyway back to the O2, is a meet up planned anywhere before the gig? Same goes for Glasgow Scotsman, I'm travelling solo for both shows.

At 5/07/2016 11:11:00 AM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

Getting off topic, but the Neil lyric quoted has always been one of my favorites, but I never thought of it as a reference to Elliot:

Elliot Roberts, the sort of person who could sell ice to the eskimos (and "has a different story for every set of eyes").

As with anything, we can all have different interpretations behind the motivation, but wasn't it considered to be a direct reference to Nixon? Did Neil or anyone mention it was driven by Elliot? Just curious...

Take my advice
don't listen to me

At 5/07/2016 01:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Topanga: I don't think it was ever intended to be about Mr Roberts, but if the cap fits....I remember there's a good story by Nash in Jimmy Mcdonough's Shakey that illustrates this. And yes, a lot of great lyrics in Ambulance Blues.

Andrew: I hope you have a great time. Bad luck about Leeds, but the O2 should be a good one. I won't be at Glasgow, but I'm hoping to be at the O2 again. Probably won't have time for a meet up myself, got a fairly long drive before and after. I don't live particularly close to London but of the UK shows it's the closest one to me.

As I heard someone shout in a Welsh accent at Hammersmith 2008: "do a show in Cardiff on your next tour, please! It's a long way to get to London!".

Enjoy the tour.


At 5/07/2016 01:50:00 PM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

Speaking of off-topic (though still involving live POTR), the latest Neil news:

At 5/07/2016 08:07:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

Finally got time to watch the entire video. Loved every second. Transcendent performance. These kids are living the dream playing with Neil right now. He's creating moments no one else is willing to risk. I'm so grateful he's still rocking' like this. He's fearless. Not all music is melody based, and of course not everyone is open to non linear music, but for me it creates a powerful bookend to one of his greatest songs.

I was also surprised by the picture quality of this as well. Even though the sound isn't perfect, I've seen Neil enough times to know how it feels to be in the room with Ol' Black, so I was able to put myself there. As happy as I am getting to see this performance I wonder about the effects of these devises on the concert experience. Everyone seems to be so focused on filming the event as opposed to being completely present in the moment. When I go to a concert I'm not interested in hearing a replication of the record, I'm there for a unique experience with the artist that will only happen in that moment. That requires me to be fully present, so filming the event would be a distraction for me. But technology has always been a double edged sword.


At 5/08/2016 07:14:00 AM, Blogger Minke said...

A memorable rendition of one of Young's greatest pieces. Great to start a concert like this. It's a statement: this is what we are going to do today, follow us or get lost; so get your harness on and earplugs in. But Down by the River with the Promise is not as good as the Horse could do it. Imho, the Promise is much better in the punkier songs. Revolution Blues f.i. was phenomenal. The fact is, that Promise has a very good, jumpy rhythm duo in Anthony Lofergo and Corey McCormick. See how Neil Young interacts with the bass player. Micah is not a strong player, he injects a playfulness that's new to the game and does not fit well into the heavy guitar sludge. I still don't like Lukas's guitar tone and playing, although he has indeed been domesticated, as Scotsman argued. But I hope they won't pursue this indulgence in epic guitarism. It's spoiling the opportunity this band gives to play those wonderful other gems that fit this band much better. I'll enjoy every single note, but the Neil's real innovation of the last years with Promise is the revisiting and reinterpreting the shorter, more biting songs from his huge reservoir of amazing songs.
There is a great Summer ahead of us.

At 5/08/2016 07:19:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Lots of good comments here on another epic DBTR. Thanks folks.

Yes, Scotsman nails it with "Defiant and vulnerable" to sum up Neil's attitude.

@Minke - Right you are: "There is a great Summer ahead of us." lucky us. enjoy the concerts.

At 5/09/2016 09:57:00 AM, Blogger ANDREW BYROM said...

Finally found time to listen to this, it is very good indeed. I still rate 1987-05-18, Deutsches Museum, München, West Germany as the best Down By The River and also one of the very best CH shows.


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