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Ned Whattakiller's Review
(more reviews coming)
The show details.
A Hartford Courant review.
A Springfield Union News review.
My brother and I had lawn seats. Another friend of ours was supposed to come with us, but as of 7:00 he was stuck in Manhattan with a boot on his car. We had to go without him. It rained the entire drive up from Fairfield county. We were a little concerned that it would rain during the show, but it actually never did...
We got there just as the Pretenders left the stage. Maybe it was the weather, but the population on the lawn was pretty sparse. Even though we were late, we were able to sit smack dab in the center. Plenty of room to slip and slide around on the mud. Despite the mud and threatening rain, it was a very nice scene, not at all hectic like some lawn experiences I've had.
Neil comes out with a t-shirt and shorts, straps on Ol' Black and launches into Motorcycle Mama. Pegi sounded really good on this one -- I was surprised.
Powderfinger's up next, and he fluffs the words in the exact same place he did in Boston. At this point it doesn't matter though, since Ol' Black has taken over. By the time I Believe in You comes along, I noticed that Keltner's drums seem to drag. I've never been a big fan of his playing with Neil in the first place. I just don't think he's the best drummer for Neil to be playing with. A minor complaint though.
I think the "How ya doin" count for this show was the highest so far. More than Boston, for sure. I couldn't say how many exactly. He told us a little story about a dumbass reporter who questioned his sincerity every time he asks it. He replied, "Of course I mean it. I need to know if the audience is groovin'." When someone shouted to him: "How YOU doin'?" he said something like "I'm doin' great. I'm just happy to be here."
Dance Dance Dance is one of the gems of this tour. It simply sounds fantastic. Better than even the Crazy Horse version. Such a happy song, and instantly endearing. The audience really grooves to it, although I suspect a lot of them have never heard it before.
The new songs go down really well. I think Buffalo Springfield Again is Neil's newest "hit." The crowd really loves it. Razor Love was breathtaking, much more striking than in Boston. He nails the high note, his voice sounding great after being a little shakey at the beginning of the set. Astrid and Pegi sing along the "hey now's" in Daddy Went Walkin'. It sounds like a sort of American Gothic Puritanical backwoods revival sort of thing. You know how Emmylou lends a real dark, religious quality to Red Sun on the album? That's kind of what I'm talking about. Very ghostly, spooky.
Peace of Mind is pretty incredible too. For the most part, Neil sounds more country than rock'n'roll this time around. Ben Keith really adds so much to his music. At both Boston and Hartford, he made a point of introducing Ben as somebody who's been playing with him for over 30 years. Is this exactly true? I thought they first got together at the Harvest sessions in '71, not quite 30 years ago. Nitpicking, I know.
Then we enter the truly transcendant portion of the set. Walk On sounds great, albeit somewhat different from the familiar album version. He even jams a little on this one -- thankfully, since it is ordinarlily a pretty brief song. Bad Fog of Loneliness has quite simply become one of my newest all-time faves. I love it! The "so long woman" bridge parts are performed without drums, which makes it lighter than the rest of the song, rather than heavier as on the Archives Be Damned version. He also repeats those parts, making the song about twice as long. Very real, very emotional.
And of course, Words. Neil's continuation and perfection of that area of music the Beatles first mined with I Want You (She's So Heavy). It's a mighty rich vein, let me tell you. The Hartford Words is absolutely breathtaking. Neil plays the most beautiful melodies on that guitar I have ever heard. So articulate, and pure, with no typical guitar show-off licks. It's like he has re-invented how to play the instrument with taste, class, and absolute passion. In Boston, I thought Keltner kind of botched the odd meters in the instrumental section. But there was no such problem in Hartford. It was transcendant. Tour comp material. Better yet, live album material. Even better, DVD material...
He closes the set with Tonight's the Night. Real groovy, and shakey, if you know what I mean. Neil's really talking to the spirits with this one.
First encore is All Along the Watchtower. I'd been looking for the string synth to drop from the ceiling but it didn't. With the sky about to rain, it probably would have been tempting fate to play Like a Hurricane anyway. And to me that song just doesn't seem right without the Horse.
He leaves again, and we wait and cheer until he plays Mellow My Mind. This is one of my favorites, although I'm not convinced it should be the last song of the night, it's a little too down. And those high notes can still sound forced.
The lights stay down for another minute, and I'm all set for a third encore. It really seems like it's gonna happen. After all, at Boston the lights came on immediately after MMM. Alas, no such luck. The lights finally do come on. Was Neil fucking with us? Or maybe some dunder-headed Meadows employee just dropped the ball on that one.
Oh well. Still a great show. I think Neil was trying to give us something special for coming to see him, even with the lousy weather. I got the feeling that it makes him feel real good when real fans stick out the clouds and mud and occasional sprinkle to watch him work.
My brother (this was his first Neil show) had this to say: "Wow, he really dances around. Even on the slow songs! It's pretty funny to watch." That's it. Now I just have to wait until Jones Beach and PNC.
(more reviews coming soon... --RE*AC*TOR)