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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Concert Report: Neil Young + Promise of the Real on May 1, 2016

Neil Young + Promise of the Real
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Concert Report:
May 1, 2016

Here's a concert report from our buddy Brian "Keys Left Hangin'" from Neil Young + Promise of the Real at Jazz & Heritage festival in New Orleans, LA on May 1, 2016 :
The question in our minds at the New Orleans Jazzfest on Sunday as we walked through rivers of rain and mud was not how good Neil might be with Promise of the Real or which songs they might play, it was whether the set would happen at all.

On Saturday, the Fairgrounds shut down four hours early (washing out Stevie Wonder, Beck, Buddy Guy, Dr. John and others) due to thunderstorms not much worse than what were seeing. As we walked onto the thick mud, I breathed a relieved sigh seeing the stage being set up and poncho-clad fans gathering. There was a ten minute delay from the scheduled start in the steady rain until the two women bearing seeds and water arrived onstage. This part of Neil's Monsanto staging vision seemed a mystery to most around us, but from the moment when those crunchy power chords of Fuckin Up hit us, we were one.

What an opener! Folks knew immediately that this was not going to be a slow walk through the oldies. After the song, Elliot Roberts approached Neil onstage with his hands out. Oh no, I thought, that's it, but Neil waved him off. To follow with the haunting unwinding of Cortez was the ideal complement and hit me deeply as the rain hammered off my hood and my feet swirled in the primordial muck. I tried unsuccessfully to capture the moment with my slippery cellphone. The guitar interplay between Neil and Willie's talented sons was flat-out transcendent. Despite the challenges, I was so glad that I came. Throughout the two hour, eight song (yes, eight ) set, Neil had that indomitable twinkle in his eye that is so inspirational as he does precisely what he wants to do.

It was an atypical NY crowd as there were a number of tourists scrambling back and forth - perhaps deciding if they wanted to see Bonnie Raitt instead at the other end of the Fairgrounds- but the believers like my new friend Todd from Phoenix were fully committed in their waterlogged footwear. That said, Neil can be the eccentric old coot- raising his hands to the skies thanking them for the rain (he was in the 1 percent with that one), talking about having a water handler, or making a weird remark about people drowning on their way to the show (really? in New Orleans?). Another artist might not have played Seed Justice and Monsanto Years after fumigating the stage (funnier when I had last summer's magic seeds jingling in my pocket) or extended a forty minute Love and Only Love to this soaked crowd, but I guess his artistic integrity is one of his more formidable charms. Another is the fantastic chemistry between Neil and the young guns of POTR.

Somehow, it seemed even better than last summer. As he stomped the stage with Ol' Black in his Emilio Zapata shirt, I saw lightning flash above the video screen; I thought it would need to get a lot worse for me to leave. Unfortunately, after an extremely loud lightning strike close by ("Is that part of the show?") , my great compadres Jim and Kathy used better judgement than me and exited the field. They weren't alone as others streamed away during Love and Only Love. After a few sublime false endings, when it concluded, Neil said, "The next one is a much shorter song...its all one song." A crowd-delighting Rockin in the Free World followed, and in the middle of the song, Neil grinned broadly and pointed mysteriously to the middle of the crowd (we were far stage left).

I grinned too although I had no idea what about. I think I know now. I was so pleased that, in a driving rainstorm, Neil and Promise of the Real had delivered on the promise and profoundly saved what had seemed a memorable misfire of the second weekend of Jazzfest 2016.
Thanks for the report Brian "Keys Left Hangin'"! We'll see you soon. Be the rain!

Being the rain down in New Orleans

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At 5/05/2016 08:27:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neil's "drowning" comment was just a innocent, well-meant comment about how wet it was, the sort of thing you might say if it rains heavily anywhere: "It was so wet I almost drowned", that kind of thing. You could see from the youtube video that he only realised after he spoke that it might not have been the best choice of words in New Orleans.

Thanks for the report! Sounds like a day to remember. Neil and Bonnie Raitt both on at the same time. I saw them both in June 2013, and Bonnie made the comment "I don't play that loud: I'm not Neil Young!". And both once again on tour next month in the UK.


At 5/05/2016 09:55:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Great time with good friends and my love... the energy, fire and passion is self evident, these guys are rockin' and it was worth every single cold raindrop that got through my goretex & poncho... and I was soaked to the bone! Jones Beach and JazzFest rank in my top 10 Neil-shows and I am forever grateful. Peace and love.

At 5/05/2016 03:28:00 PM, Blogger Keys Left Hanging said...

Scotsman- We had difficulty hearing some of the stage comments from where we stood. Thanks for clarifying what Neil was saying as it's more understandable this way. Btw, I believe he played I Wont Quit rather than Seed Justice in our show, but I haven't heard any recordings.
Ron- Glad to hear you felt the same way! Has your footwear from Sunday dried yet?

At 5/05/2016 04:12:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Brian, heh, heh, our footwear (Keen watershoes, no socks) was dry on Monday... still have not washed off all the mud that wan't tracked all over NOLA! ;)

At 5/05/2016 05:27:00 PM, Blogger Mike Share said...

Great article, Brian. It gave me a real sense of what it must have been like being there. Sounded like a fun, albeit wet, adventure! -

At 5/05/2016 06:02:00 PM, Blogger Lobstros said...

Neil made a hilarious comment at Jazzfest after taking a big sip out of a Voss water bottle and then handing it to a roadie. Something along the lines of: "I'm just the type of self-absorbed asshole to have my hired help come take my water bottle from me while I'm on stage." Did anyone else catch that? This was a great Neil show, took me right back to the Ragged Glory tour and my first time seeing him live! Attendance was roughly a fourth of what it would have been if it was a sunny day and nice weather and I have to think we would have gotten an entirely different setlist if it was packed with people and nicer weather (more along the lines of his 2009 Jazzfest set, probably). One thing is for sure, Old Black got quite a workout at this show!

At 5/05/2016 08:51:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ flyingscotzman - yes, Neil's "drowning" comment certainly must have been innocent, Like so much else, innocence found, innocence lost...

@ Ron - good to see you our ol friend. Sorry we missed JazzFest. Fun times, although a bit soggy. You & Dancer down in that big ol muddy.

@Suzie - hey good to see you too. No NOJF for you?!

@ Lobstros - now that's an innocence lost comment if we've ever heard one from Neil.

Old Black was the only instrument Neil played that day -- a pretty rare thing given how he's been switching guitars and instruments pretty regularly for sometime now.

At 5/05/2016 08:58:00 PM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

@Brian: "Seed Justice" is the actual name for what we've been calling "I Won't Quit," based on the Pono tracklisting for the upcoming "Earth" album (one of the repeated refrains is "bring back seed justice to the land").

At 5/06/2016 11:28:00 AM, Blogger Pabst said...

The water bottle comments were really funny, especially when Neil said something about how he could have just put the water bottle right back where he picked it up (the drum riser)... but instead, he pays some guy to take it from him... and it feels pretty cool to have someone to take his water bottle and put it away. (All of that was followed by a little chuckle, so Neil knew he how spoiled he is and how silly the entire situation is.)

I'd love to be able to pay someone to throw my empty beer bottles away for me instead of having to walk them to the recycling bin myself. Dare to dream.


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