New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Concert Report: Neil Young + Promise of the Real on 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.Thanks for the report Brian "Keys Left Hangin'"! We'll see you soon. Be the rain!
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.