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Friday, October 05, 2018

The Philadelphia Stories from The Man in The High Tower (Theater): Neil Young Solo @ Upper Darby, PA - Sept. 30 & Oct 1

"Tell Me Why"
Photo by thrasher
(Click photo to enlarge)

Neil Young performed 2 solo concerts at the Tower Theater, Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, on Sunday, September 30 and Monday, October 1 which we had the privilege and honor of attending.

On Night #2, after the 1st 2 songs -- "The Last Trip To Tulsa" (full 8 verses) and "Thrasher" (full 8 verses) , we turned to our seat neighbors and fully agreed that we had already gotten our $'s worth for the night. Yes, it was pretty surreal to have Neil start the 1st notes of "Thrasher" and have all of these Rusties in the first couple of rows turn to us with these looks of amazement. In our lifetime, we have had some pretty amazing Neil memories over the years, but priceless doesn't even begin to describe when Neil plays your favorite song just a few mere feet away. More on our "Thrasher" experience down below.


Over the course of 2 nights in Upper Darby, we heard 34 different songs, 12 songs on the second night he didn’t perform on 1st.

Setlist Grid via Sugar Mountain

A few more highlights:
  • The Loner: 1st acoustic since 1970
  • The Trip To Tulsa: last played in 1999
  • See The Sky About To Rain: last played in 1999
  • Expecting To Fly: last played in 2003
  • Lotta Love: 1st solo since 2003
  • Four Strong Winds: 1st since 2014
  • Children Of Destiny: 1st solo electric
  • Eternity: 1st solo acoustic

Broken Arrow

For us, the Philly solo concerts hit all of the major themes, with all the right notes, at all the right moments. What more could one ask?

And Broken Arrow on grand piano?! Simply stunning. Breathless, on the edge of the seat. Not just expecting to fly, but actually flying. A true master class of an evening. We count our blessings and we are blessed, indeed. It's all about Love & War... and we're living the Dream and the Nightmare.

But we'll take a cruise down Peaceful Valley Boulevard any day...

The Big "S" From The Philadelphia Spectrum Autographed Sign

And here's our dear, long time friend Karen's thoughts after seeing 102 Neil Young concerts on her blog streamland:
Now. The thing is this. There’s a big community of serious - and I mean serious - Neil Young fans out there. Me among them. We are a tight group. Friends. And everyone was oohing and aaahing about these setlists. Me too. Of course. But … that’s not what led me to go to 102 Neil Young shows in the first place, folks. That’s cool, and all, but it’s not that which keeps me mesmerized. It’s the sheer span of the catalogue and its creative brilliance, and it’s also and really the feeling. The feeling Neil Young can somehow call up while he’s playing, and that he somehow throws out to us. It’s his lonesome voice when he sings so plaintively “lonesome whistle on a railroad traaaaaack ain’t got nothing on those feelings that we had.” It’s his soft vulnerability in every syllable of Expecting to Fly, the world-weary sound of the early confusion of fame in his Broken Arrow, his mysterious story-telling in Last Trip to Tulsa. It’s the determination and earnest, even innocent, quality of his voice on Children of Destiny. It’s the distinctive, it-could-only-be-him thump thump of the low notes of the acoustic guitar, it’s his feet tapping to the music and his knees swaying back and forth to the rhythm. It’s the giant, supernatural force of his electric guitar that reaches out into the audience and grabs you by the throat from the first note. It’s the love you hear in the clickety clack of his new song. It’s the fact that there are almost always new songs. (Speaking of which, I loved his solo acoustic version of this new song, called presumably House of Love or Eternity …. His deep voice vocal on the click clack clickety clack in between reminded me of the Are You Passionate album, somehow, which I adore. That deep click clack vocal is so stirring, I could listen to it all day.). Which is all a long way of saying, Neil is present.


peace & love

Neil Young, Philadelphia - October 8, 2014
(Video by Sister Terri)

It was a long time coming.

But it was oh-so worth the wait back in 2014 when we got to hear "Thrasher" perform live for the our 2nd and 3rd time. October 1, 2018 would mark our 4th occasion to hear "Thrasher" -- 3 which happened in Philadelphia.

It had been 36 years ago since we first heard Neil Young perform the song "Thrasher" on the 1978 Rust Never Sleeps tour on October 7 in William & Mary Hall at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. In retrospect, it was an unforgettable moment. A moment that we eventually came to believe that we would never, ever experience again in our lifetime.

And Neil performed the song "Thrasher" with all the intensity and passion that we could ever hope. And it was flawless. All the lyrics were nailed. The right harmonica was loaded. And the audience was rapturously hanging on every note, pondering those oh-so cryptically metaphorical verses.

Philadelphia - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - Show #2

After 1978, Neil would never play the song "Thrasher" again... that is until 2014 at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, CA on 3/29/2014.

Until this year, the song "Thrasher" had been played in concert only 32 times, the last time being Oct 24, 1978, which was captured in the “Rust Never Sleeps” concert film*. (*Cow Palace, San Francisco, 22 October 1978. Thanks So Tired & Sugar Mountain!)

So why now? Was there any particular motivation of Neil to perform this rarity in 2014 in Los Angeles?

Well, as with all things, Neil, who knows?

Just before performing the “Thrasher” encore on the 3rd night in Los Angeles (April 1), Neil Young said:
"This song, uh, you know, I did it, I haven't done it that much in my life, because, at a very vulnerable moment I read something about it. Just like the worst fucking review I've ever read. So, for all you reviewers, if you feel like your words don't mean anything, you're probably right. In that case.. in that case, they were damaging. So, anyway, we uh .. I think I got this uh.. I think this is the one here, I hope so.."
As we rambled about the other night on Thrasher's Wheat Radio, there's a great deal of significance to the song's unexpected resurfacing after its 36 years absence as Neil's most requested obscurity track.

Obviously, the song “Thrasher” is quite special to us and we've long considered the song to be Neil Young’s lyrical magnum opus - rich with poetry, metaphors, themes, allusions, and symbols. In one of our very first posts to the Rust list back in 1993 we attempted An Analysis of the Meaning of the song Thrasher Lyrics.

Looking back today at the analysis, there were some things that we think we got right and a few things that were clearly wrong. Our central thesis at the time was that "Thrasher" was about the whole mega group Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young trip in the mid-'70s. Neil seemed to be referring to his former bandmates as the "they" in “Thrasher”. The dinosaurs are CSNY - extinct, a fossil. "So I got bored and left them there, they were just dead weight to me" refers to Neil's departure from CSNY. "It's better on the road without that load" signifies Neil's successful solo path.

So that was then. This is now.

It's now been 40 years since the 1974 reunion tour and there's been much speculation about a multi-disc box set being released for the anniversary, as well as, a possible tour. While still no definite confirmation of CSNY plans here in 2014, the clock ticks on and the possibility remains.

But it would seem that the performance of “Thrasher” last week would be a good omen in terms of Neil reconciling differences with CS&N. Or not?

Could this be Neil's response to CS&N regarding the 1974 reunion tour box set, as in it's not going to happen? Well, based on Neil's response to a crowd shout out in Philadelphia to CSNY, Neil replied "Never again."

"But me I'm not stopping there,
Got my own row left to hoe
Just another line in the field of time
When the thrashers comes, I'll be stuck in the sun
Like the dinosaurs in shrines
But I'll know the time has come
To give what's mine. "

First-ever performance of “Thrasher” recorded on May 24, 1978 at the legendary Boarding House in San Francisco.

Or maybe the performance of “Thrasher” has nothing to do with CSNY? Maybe another 4 letter acronym... PONO? A comment below by The Flying Scotsman just might be on to something...
"The aimless blade of science" - surely a reference to the criticism of Pono, intended or not! :-)

Also, along the same lines was Neil's story about one of his guitars: he believed the story for years. Then someone introduced doubt into his mind - it turns out the story about it wasn't true. But he kept on believing the story anyway: "So to me, it's still true".

As blatant a metaphor for his belief in hi-res audio as there could possibly be, and quite apt for the rest of us, too.

It's all about what we believe.

The Flying Scotsman.
Well, we now know the time has come to give what's ours.

We still see the vista. We still hear the muse. We continue.
Godspeed. Thank you Neil. Mahalo.

The Essential “Thrasher” Request Fold Up Sign

(Thanks Howell, Karen, Lauri and all the rusties who make the magic happen!)

Labels: , , ,


At 10/05/2018 10:32:00 AM, Blogger NYBD11-12 said...

Great review of Darby show! Based on the set list, the second Darby show would have been the one for me!

Thrasher is one of my most precious songs to me, too. I was fortunate to hear it 2x in 1978 in MI. In fact, after hearing it at show #1, I just had to go to show #2 to hear it again, cuz with Neil ya never know if or when you will hear a song again -- either live or recorded.

And thanks for highlighting Mellow My Mind. The part you "sang" -- "I've been down the road, and I've come back/broken whistle on a RR track/Ain't got nothing on those feelings I have" I listened to that song 30 times the night someone very close to me passed away. The ache in his voice sang what I couldn't say.

Thanks again Karen for a great recap!

At 10/05/2018 11:00:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks so much NYBD11-12.

That's really cool you got 2 Thrashers in '78. We only got one but that was enough for us to start the quest for hearing #2 someday. It took 36+ years to get that in 2014. And only 4 years until hearing #4.

What's interesting going back to 2014 video above is that Neil played Thrasher walking about the stage. On Monday, Neil played sitting in a chair. A bit less dramatic visually but still compelling as ever.

Know about that pain of loss. We listened to Tonight's The Night album repeatedly through the early 80's due to some hard times. You can find that story if you hunt around TW and feeling a need to drink tequila shots.

But here we are. Still standing and happier than ever, with our hearts of gold everywhere we look and touch.

we are the lucky ones... and fortunate enough to know it...


At 10/05/2018 11:57:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Neil's music always been mesmerizing throughout my whole life.And comforted me so many times.It's been with me all my life as long as I know him and his music.Cees Mostert.

At 10/05/2018 04:47:00 PM, Blogger anon said...

Heard Thrasher 2x on 5.28.78 Boarding House early and late shows and then in October at Rust Never Sleeps Cow Palace concert

It was a very good year...

At 10/05/2018 11:52:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

I think "Thrasher" is the only place I've ever heard the word shown used!
Neil is still on top of his game, giving it all every time out. What a gem.

At 10/06/2018 01:26:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

It's great that we all love Neil's music - but surely there's room for a dissenting voice -Eternity is dreadful.

At 10/06/2018 02:45:00 AM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

I have been blessed with several solo shows over the years and they always felt real and in the moment. I’m not sure Neil is capable of not being in the moment for most of his career. Even with Crazy Horse it has always been immediate and transcendent experience’s.

We have been caregivers for elderly parents for the past twelve years so we have only been able to see two shows from Neil. One solo in Austin and Crazy Horse at Red Rocks. Both were exquisite experience’s.

So I’m glad you’re getting the chance to see Neil so frequently and sharing your experiences with us. It’s a way of being there vicariously through you. So thanks Thrashers for sharing your joy with us. Be the rain.

At 10/06/2018 07:24:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I'm looking a recording on a flac site (dome a dozen) for 10/1... anyone have it? most amazing set list I have seen in a long time.

At 10/06/2018 11:07:00 PM, Blogger Stills said...

The 2nd Upper Darby show was my third time hearing Neil do Thrasher. These two Tower Theater shows were almost 40 years later to the date (end of Sept. 1978). I saw the two Rust Never Sleeps shows at Madison Square Garden. The sad thing is that I didn't appreciate the music as much and I don't remember a lot from those shows. The heartfelt respect and appreciation would come later on, as Neil progressed throughout the '80's, 90's and into the 21st century. I grew older and the music grew more precious to me. Needless to say, I was lifted to a higher place with the first two songs at The Tower Monday night, and stayed there for the rest of the evening. To make it even more memorable, I was able to get Neil to sign an album for me after the sound check and then caught a guitar pick after the show. Thanks Neil! Cheers!

At 10/07/2018 10:59:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks NYBD! : ) Karen

At 10/07/2018 12:23:00 PM, Blogger Timmo said...

Sounds like a very special night, in a series of special nights when it comes to all things Neil. His playing of Thrasher with "our author/archivist" Thrasher there in row two must have been amazing: singled out, cheered and appreciated by the fans who rely on Thrash to keep everyone up to date in Neil World. Way to go, my friend.

At 10/07/2018 12:44:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Cees - agree, absolutely mesmerizing and comforting simulataneously. its the combination that brings the spook and magic.

@ SONY - yeah, it is somewhat incomprehensible how @ 72 Neil can still be at top of his game.

@ Dan - transcendent experience pretty well describes what one undergoes over the course of a concert. When Neil started playing Thrasher, we kind of went into a state of shock and had an out of body experience.

Very analogous to the scenes in film Paradox where Neil floats tethered above Daryl. In your mind, you see yourself just sitting there totally slack-jawed while the lyrics just drop like little word pearls through the air.

Be the rain.
Be the wheat.

@ Bratton - someday soon...

@ Stills - that's really cool to get Neil to sign an album! which album?

@ Karen - and thanks you too!

@ Timmo - after 100 or so Neil concerts, you sometimes feel like you've heard it all. But Monday was truly special.

The Philly crowd was perfectly quiet and you could hear the proverbial pin drop -- as it should be. to share the moment with so many close friends, so intimately, so personally, is a wonderful gift.

peace, my friend.

At 10/07/2018 09:31:00 PM, Blogger Stills said...

@Thrasher - After his sound check, Neil signed the album cover "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" for me. He was even gracious enough to personalize it to me. Some people say you don't ever want to meet your heroes but, Neil was great in person and it carried over into his performance that night. Cheers!

At 10/08/2018 01:08:00 AM, Blogger Mikey91 said...

Speaking of which, me and my band The Last Jackals in Saigon, Vietnam and another friend of mine whom appears to be a loyal Neil Young's fan - we'll play a mini set of Uncle Neil's belated birthday bash on November 14. Can't wait.

At 10/08/2018 05:12:00 PM, Blogger NYBD11-12 said...

Stills--very cool signature by NY, especially for first CH LP. indicates that 2 of the EKTIN songs -- Cinnamon Girl and Down by the River -- are the second and ninth most played songs. And 2 of its songs -- Round and Round and Running Dry -- have never been played live. Good choice for a signed LP!

At 7/21/2020 10:02:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Great story about Thrasher, by far my favorite Neil song. It's epic. Saw the Carnigie Hall show previous to those shows where Thrasher was played again after decades. Video of the song is rare except the one from Rust Never Sleeps.

At 7/22/2020 12:36:00 PM, Blogger NYBD11-12 said...

Thrasher is one of my favorite songs too. It is quintessential Neil:
* It has a great, emotional melody
* Great, original metaphors
* His story, told with authentic emotion
* It disses Crosby, Stills, and Nash

What more can one ask for?


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