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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

An Eyewitness Report From Neil Young's "Somewhere In Canada" Concert by Sharry (Up in Omemee keepin’ jive alive)

Welcome to Omemee, Ontario, Canada
Photos by Sharry Wilson
(Click photo to enlarge)

There's very little doubt that December 1st will go down in the history books as one Neil Young's more momentous moments.

While Neil Young's "Somewhere In Canada" concert -- really a love letter to his hometown of Omemee, Ontario, Canada -- was only one of the day's accomplishments (along with Archives Going Online + The Visitor Arriving + Video Release of "Great Again", it was the warmth of the hometown audience captured by the brilliantly intimate production of Director Daryl Hannah that melted hearts around the world.

And it can not be denied that December 1st was a huge, huge success with the Neil Young Archives Going Online + The Visitor Arriving + "Somewhere In Canada" Concert blowing minds.

So here's An Eyewitness Report From Neil Young's "Somewhere In Canada" Concert by Sharry (Up in Omemee keepin’ jive alive) Wilson. Sharry -- as many TW readers know -- is the author of the highly acclaimed "Young Neil: The Sugar Mountain Years", cited as "the definitive source of Neil Young's formative childhood years in Canada."

Legion Hall outdoor live streaming

I was there, watching the show projected on an outside wall of the Legion Hall, standing in 4C temps with thin gloves on, no hat and numb feet from the cold, hard ground. It was a very Canadian experience. A number of individuals brought lawn chairs and there were plenty of kids in the viewing crowd as well. Remember, we’re talking early December weather in Canada.

They were also live streaming the show inside the Legion Hall, but on a smallish screen in the small front room with just half-a-dozen tables. There was no screen in the larger back hall area.

The Omemee Curling Centre was another option but that involved crossing a muddy parking lot and viewing it in a Curling rink with bus loads of fans converging on the facility. Also a very Canadian experience re: Curling. In the end we chose to go with the outdoor option.

Outside Coronation Hall, Omemee
(left to right: Ron Warne, Sharry Wilson, Glenn Gillespie)

There was another option but that involved lining up hours beforehand to gain access to a “viewing garden” that was set up with bales of hay to sit on while watching small retro-looking screens that streamed the live performance. There were also some heating sources set up here and there. They looked like small oval bbqs. There were strings of pretty white lights strung around the trees and other shrubbery. There was fencing all around this area and it was all awkwardly covered with tarp-like material.

Live streaming projected against the outside wall of the Legion Hall

We heard Daryl Hannah had a large hand in designing the “viewing garden” and the stage setting in Coronation Hall (other than Neil’s standard particulars). I personally found it charming that he fumbled around for the right hat to wear while singing particular songs. I also enjoyed the stories he shared about his guitars, how they acquired all their nicks, scratches and more.

There were also live streaming available at various locations on the campus of Trent University in Peterborough, a city about a half hour away from Omemee.

I enjoyed Neil’s performance immensely. He was very chatty and embraced all the annoying mix-ups. Also very funny in his own unique way.

But I did notice that he seemed to be under the weather a bit, perhaps nothing more serious than a sore throat but he was taking a lot of sips of water (and beer) but specifically requested a cup of tea with honey (to soothe his sore throat). He also mentioned something about a particular guitar being not being correctly tuned to his lower register, presumedly, from the sore throat.

Another indication that he was perhaps under the weather (or just his age catching up with him) was that he noticeably seemed to forget lyrics, shortened songs, etc. For example, he completely forgot the Canada verse in JTTP but included the “O Canada” verse in DBD. I think he chose to sing “Sugar Mountain” because of the connotations with his childhood, including his time in Omemee. Randy Bachman was in the audience and that’s one of his favourite Neil songs so perhaps that had something to do with it as well. Randy recently inducted Neil into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on September 23, 2017.

I am so grateful that Neil chose to come and play in Omemee. (And that he still enjoys performing.) It would have been nicer if more of the local people had been given tickets. I did hear that Scott Young P.S. teachers were offered the opportunity of a ticket for $40. That seemed odd because everyone else “invited, presumedly, didn’t pay.

Sharry Wilson and Colton Eddy from “The Strombo Show” inside the Butternut Folk Art shop, Omemee

I attended the streaming that Colton Eddy of “The Strombo Show” helped set up. The live streaming of the performance was projected on an outer wall of the Legion Hall. Colton had to get a permit from Omemee to do this. The Legion Hall had their own live streaming event inside but there was only a smallish front room available with a smallish screen. We chose to embrace the great outdoors. It felt like one of those great shared “Canadian moments.”

People waiting patiently in line to gain access to the “viewing garden,” designed by Daryl Hannah (as noted by Neil during his concert).

Omemee Santa Claus at the tree-lighting ceremony. Daryl Hannah participated but I didn’t see her. However, that is where I encountered Elliot Roberts. That’s when I made my approach.

I gave out a lot of copies of “Young Neil” and receipt was confirmed by Elliot who also received a signed copy and posed for a photo with it. Gave Neil a signed copy via a kind individual in the front office at Coronation Hall. And have Bob Young an unsigned copy as he hurriedly walked past. (A man on an obvious mission.) Bob was in charge of ticket distribution. Neil thanked him from the stage.

I made the CTV evening news (for about 30 seconds). Omemee shop owner Joan Rehill is a friend of the Young family and so was her late husband. She has a number of Neil related memorabilia on a few shelves in a front corner of the store (Butternut Folk Art, 18 King St. E.) plus her NYAS membership card, button and more.

Sharry interviewed by CTV News outside Coronation Hall

I donated an unsigned second copy of “Young Neil” to the Omemee Public Library. And I donated a signed copy to the library in Scott Young P.S.

Scott Young Public School Omemee

Another signed copy went to the new owners of 33 King St. W., the Young family home. I knocked but no one was home except the dog. I left the book in a bag at the front door past the inside covered porch.

33 King St. W. (Young family home, Omemee)

Thanks so much Sharry for the report and photos. Nice report and memories from a town in north Ontario. What a day. Oh, Canada. Don't be denied, indeed.

So for those Neil fans who were anticipating the arrival of December 1st with high expectations -- in the end -- we were not to be denied. Thanks Neil, Daryl & crew!

More on Omemee Thanks Neil Young & Neil Young Thanks Omemee.

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At 12/05/2017 04:06:00 PM, Blogger Minke said...

Dear all,
Watching Neil’s homecoming was such an event. It shook me thoroughly. It was beautiful and confusing, and utterly gripping. Neil’s performance moved me to tears at several points. Emotive highlights were Someday and Don’t be denied, both so highly personal, made for this moment and occasion, and both getting such sweet, vulnerable and poignant renderings.
To see Neil’s musicality so captivatingly alive was an enormous joy. But so see him almost fall over, groping in the mist of bad eyesight, so dependent on his helpers, reminded so much of our mortality, of dying light, of the shakiness of things. Neil has always been there and now we see him, as we see those around us, preparing to slip away, someday.
I can't fathom whether the concert was good or bad, technically speaking. Perhaps the performances of some songs will not stand stand up to repeated listening, from a greater time distance, out of the moment and the ambiance. There were bad notes, mistunings, mistakes, awkward endings. It was the first time I had the feeling that something was sliding away from him, that he was not on the top of his technical game. Perhaps this was most visible in his guitar technique. always so immaculate and well-aimed, but now more faltering, more putative – and the more moving for it.
It was grandiose.
In the run-up to the event, I sometimes thought he was really moving to Canada, selling his stuff, leaving his California stardom, letting this be a homecoming and a farewell -- but to what? Settling in old age, running the business and doing the politics. But who knows.
Whatever comes next, Neil gave us the ultimate gift of a musical genius that adjusts itself to the possibilities and limitations of moment, age, to the present state of his body and mind. Forget the slips, the spirit was there. A new spirit, more intimate than ever, fragile, with such a strong sense of looking back, on the way home, and as true as ever.
After all, the emotive assault on our inner tunings tells it all. I guess this is what true fandom is, despite the glitches, the let-downs, the exasperation, frustration sometimes, to be moved to the core.
Thanks Neil, thanks Thrasher

At 12/05/2017 08:39:00 PM, Blogger David Finkelstein said...

Great comments Minke!

At 12/05/2017 10:38:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

I second that, David. A Friend Of Yours

At 12/06/2017 10:40:00 AM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

@ Minke Toer... Thanks for sharing your observations on the show, but more important for me is your insights on the frailty of human life. My wife and I are dealing with her fathers alzheimer's and sharing in the honor of helping him on his next journey as he prepares to leave this realm. He may only have days left and his time with us is short. Watching Neil perform was both precious and timely for us both. Like my dear friend and father in law, Neil is going through this life in his own special way and we are all blessed to share in that life. The time behind him is much longer than the time in front of him and he has chosen to share that with us as well. We our truly blessed by his unselfish act of allowing us in, and for that I am truly moved. Perhaps it's because of our current situation here at home that this performance was so powerful, but Neil Young has always been fearless, imperfect, and profound all at the same time. I hope this makes sense.


At 12/06/2017 12:54:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

Beautiful words Minke and Dan.

For some reason I keep circling back to the word HUMANITY.

Neil's music has always gotten to the core and he was always willing and/or anxious to share his flaws with us. Today, he's truly vulnerable, as age and health play their powerful hands. Neil's struggling with challenges, from the physical to the personal to the mental like we all do. As Minke pointed out, this concert was perhaps the first time we've really seen Neil somewhat compromised or slowed down in obvious ways. It was all there to see and feel, and all the more special for it.

@ Dan, my father passed away two years ago in his early 90s after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's a few years prior. It was a journey in caring for, in sharing and watching and feeling his struggles with him. Moments of pure fear and profound sadness, but also moments of joy in the little things and the giving back of love and faith and trust and sacrifice.

Watching Neil, it felt like a moment, or should I say THAT MOMENT when the observable balance of power changed, however slightly. He was open and honest and vulnerable and in need of those around him. He embraced and faced the moment, tentatively but openly.

Things have changed and are changing, and we are fortunate to be a part (however small) of the journey.

"Take my advice
don't listen to me"

At 12/06/2017 03:06:00 PM, Blogger Minke said...

Hi Dan,
Thanks for sharing this. What a predicament. To watch Neil’s Omemee show must have been uplifting and deeply moving. The drift of life. We’re all part of that. I know its chronicler, its bard, its griot. Let’s enjoy the moment. Take care.

At 12/06/2017 03:15:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

Topanga Daze. You’re words give me comfort and support. My father in law and friend passed away this morning just after I posted. I appreciate your support and shared experience. Thank you from the depths of my heart.


At 12/06/2017 05:44:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

My heartfelt sympathy to you and your family at this time.

Continuing on the shared experience, my father and my brother in law grew incredibly close and reliant (in different ways) to each other during the process. The bonds formed through a life and in the end stages of life are remarkably strong, and I trust that you'll look back fondly on moments the two of you shared and you'll be filled with peace, warmth, smiles and serenity..

At 12/07/2017 01:01:00 AM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

Dan, sorry for your loss. I wish you peace, and many fond memories.

All of these comments resonate with me as well, as I struggle with trying to make the right decisions for my Mom and step-Dad, who are both far along down that path of life and circumstances. It's also caused me to consider for the first time my own place on the "long decline".

Anyways, I didn't quite get the same sense of frailty in Neil's performance that some are commenting on, although I did notice the extra care he took to watch his steps, and to be sure he had a hold of something before moving to the next station. Could just be the darkness of the set, tho.

I think we've seen him miss a few lyrics here and there before, etc., and remember some speculation a few years back on this blog concerning certain signs of the advancing years, but I don't think the intervening years have lent any credence to the notion. Although he has taken a little time off from performances, he's not that far removed from some pretty raucous moments with POTR, and obviously hasn't exactly been standing pat the last year.

Still, it can happen almost over night, and all this talk does make me think about what it will be like without this old companion of ours, who I've been walking with since 1968. But it also brings back to me a wonderful outburst uttered many years ago by a great lady, and like minded soul, who had similarly begun to hear the whispers: "Damn you, I'll piss on both of your graves!!!”

Long may you run, Neil.

A Friend Of Yours

At 12/07/2017 12:54:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thank you Minke for that heartfelt tribute.

There's not much we can add that others didn't add after your comment. Thanks TopangaD, Dan & Greg for your words, as well. And our sympathies.

See: Comment of the Moment: Neil Young's "Somewhere In Canada" Concert

And let the record just show that on December 1, 2017, Neil Young made the whole world both laugh and cry -- and experience every emotion in between.

We are the lucky ones...


At 12/07/2017 03:28:00 PM, Blogger Lloyd Walton said...

I didn't hear any mistakes, just different arrangements. On Journey Through the Past, he was reading the lyrics. The line omission could have been deliberate.


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