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T O U R
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Rob Turner's Review
(more reviews coming)
The show details.
Many in the crowd tonight had been at the brilliant Philips Arena CSN+Y show. Fond stories of that evening were shared with jubilance as everybody tried to ignore the fact that they were forced to wait for the doors, which opened about an hour late. Some were perturbed, as many folks take advantage of the venue's policy of allowing people to bring their meals into the show (although coolers and bottles, which are allowed at most events, are not allowed at rock shows). I'm sure they were hungry.
Tegan and Sarah only performed five songs. They proved to be very good songwriters, but the indifference of the notoriously rude Chastain audiences seemed to get under their skin. The chatter was so loud it seemed to completely drown them out a couple of times, and the applause was so meager at the end of two of their songs they were compelled to address it from the stage. They were so miffed that they asked, "How many of you are excited to see Neil Young and the Pretenders tonight?" just to goad some applause out of the predominantly self-absorbed audience members.
Chastain Amphitheater brings out many people who don't really know how to behave at concerts. This is a beautiful venue only tainted by the many wealthy people who buy season tickets so they can have nice background music to their pretentious conversations. I have nicknamed it "Chat-Stain Amphitheater," as the chatter is the only stain on this gorgeous place.
This didn't bother Chrissy Hynde and her current incarnation of the Pretenders. From the low-key version of The Loner which opened the set, to the heartfelt, passionately sung, set-closing Needle And The Damage Done, they had much of the crowd's attention. I had sneaked up to the second row by the time their set started, and I was immediately taken by Chrissy's ability to work a crowd. She is a woman of advanced years now, but she is every bit as sexy and energetic as she ever was. Early in the set, there wasn't anyone around me, and she kept singing toward me, and coming up and jamming in front of me with a twinkle in her eye. At one point, she even gave me a wink. I was wondering if she was still married to that guy from Simple Minds or if I could ask her out...yeah right! (I couldn't help but think of the legendary Boston DJ Ken Shelton who often spoke of his love of Hynde's heiney).
We didn't get Middle Of The Road, Precious, Stop Your Sobbing, Roomful Of Mirrors, or Forever Young. But the great versions of Talk Of The Town, Night In My Veins, Back To Ohio, (or that called My City Was Gone?), a stomping' Back On The Chain Gang, and the encore of Brass In Pocket, more than made up for these omissions. During this encore Chrissy shed her guitar and prowled the front of the stage. She seemed to make eye contact with every person in the front ten rows. She also got down on her knees and kissed the stage that Neil was going to perform on, commenting "I know all of you would do the same thing if you were up here." She appreciates our boy.
Now I may not be the most knowledgeable Neil fan around, but I thought he delivered one hell of a show. It wasn't as electrifying as a Crazy Horse show, or as hypnotic as a solo show, but there were alot of chestnuts. I didn't budge from my seat (which was back in the fifth row for this set...dead center though, baby). As if to immediately silence any jerks mumbling about Nepotism, Neil had his sister and wife (who are the backing vocalists for this tour) each take a verse during the set opening Motorcycle Mama. His sister sang the "I'm runnin'..." verse, and his wife sang the "Well I'm here to deliver..." one. They each belted out strong, confident lead vocals. This was a nice bouncy table setter with a pinch of raunch.
Powderfinger is a great choice for a follow up, as when he says, "Look out mama," it makes you think he's talking to the motorcycle mama of the first song. Also, there is a line in the set opener that says "I'm here to deliver, I hope you can read my mail," and Powderfinger has the line, "I think you better call John, 'cause it don't look like they're here to deliver the mail." I got a kick out of it anyway. It wasn't the full-blown, balls-to-the-wall Powderfinger that we have been treated to on past tours, but he enunciated very well, and seemed more interested in delivering the lyrics than the anger of the song.
I grew up on the Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere album, so when he donned a straw hat and offered a note-perfect version of the title track of that album, I was overjoyed. I don't think I had caught this one live before. This is when the show really started to kick in for me, as the pedal steel and piano sounded absolutely spectacular. Neil brought forth an elegant lead vocal on I Believe In You, and again the pedal steel was very sweet.
Unfortunately, some young drunken boys were talking incessantly... I found it really odd that these same people were asking me to sit down as well. I obliged, but I told them I would sit down if they would shut up. They agreed, but the guy to my right really wanted to dance so he didn't seat himself. Then the pricks behind me pulled off one of the most selfish and arrogant maneuvers I have seen in twenty years of going to shows: they went to security and had SECURITY USHER THE GUY OUT OF THE SECTION during Unknown Legend. The guys behind me then proceeded to high five each other, slap each other on the back, and laugh loudly. All I could do was pray for these guys that they won't be assholes their whole lives. Oh yeah, they continued to talk loudly during some part of every quiet song Neil played.
It's a MUSIC event people, not a TV SHOW. Dancing is not nearly as rude as asking people not to dance so you can see the artist whose music you are talking over! Dancers could help by trying to sit when it's appropriate, but I for one would NEVER ask anyone not to dance at a show. And what could be so important to talk about that can't wait until the end of the performance that we've all paid good money to see? Maybe it's just that I got spoiled growing up in Boston where most people know how to behave at concerts, and, for the most part, how to be respectful of an artist and the fans that support the artist. Can't these Atlanta yuppies (it's a problem at a lot of large scale shows with quiet moments down here) just go talk at the latest action movie, or N'Sync show, or something else more in tune with their tiny little attention spans?
Anyway, I found the electric take on Unknown Legend, was even more of a celebration of the lovely woman in the diner, than the original. I think this is when the dobro came out as well. The pedal steel player also offered some tasty lap steel and dobro at various points during Neil's set. The dobro was particularly interesting when it was used on a couple electric songs, and it was a driving force during a couple of acoustic numbers.
Ironically, Dance, Dance, Dance was performed after this guy (who is a fan of HyperRust, I might add) was unceremoniously removed. Like many times on Neil's 1999 solo tour, I found it interesting to see Neil perform a song that isn't on any of his albums - although it was oddly familiar.
He followed with two from his Silver and Gold disc that came out this year. First, Buffalo Springfield Again was nice. I was pleased that some in the crowd picked up on the humor that is in this song, as there were a couple of moments of audible laughter. Then, Razor Love, was mesmerizing. Neil seemed to be immersed in his delivery, enunciating every syllable with gut-wrenching emotion.
I think Neil really loves From Hank To Hendrix. I have seen this one at most of the shows I've caught since it was released on Harvest Moon. Daddy Went Walkin' (also on Silver and Gold) was outstanding. Many heads that weren't moving during much of the show began to bounce during this one. Neil talked about the farm that his Dad has, up in Ontario, and reminisced a bit.
By the way, there was other banter.... He joked about now having a "tuning farm" -- and later when tuning his guitar a couple of times, he mentioned "Oh, it's back to the farm again"... He talked about playing Atlanta's Fox Theater with the Strawberry Alarm Clock and the Beach Boys in the sixties, punctuating with a "How 'bout that?!"...
Neil also mentioned that the steps up to some botanical gardens here are haunted. "I don't know why, they just are." He also said, "This is a nice place you got here", very similar to his comment on the Austin theater on the Silver and Gold video.
The next five songs were for the hard cores. They were all rarities, and it allowed the mainstreamers and the drunks some time to have more conversations. Or get bored. Or walk around or go pee...
Peace Of Mind was pure elegance. They romped through Walk On, during which we started getting a little peek at some of that crazy, heavy Neil lead work. This song is on the On The Beach album which, by the way, isn't available on CD. Winterlong (which only appears on the Decade compilation) was a spine-tingler. And Bad Fog Of Loneliness, was sung with brilliance. He really was into singing the "I dream of sweet caress from you" lines. Again, it's a real treat to hear another song that is Neil penned, but unreleased.
My friends Dave Saslavsky and Matt Carlson had each reported that Words (Between The Lines Of Age) was the highlight of the Hartford show. This definitely proved to be the case again in Atlanta tonight, as his stellar lead vocal and the two crushing instrumentals took me on a tremendous inner voyage. The first jam started with some piercing pedal steel lead work, which led to some crafty but incisive Neil playing, before culminating with some dual Neil and pedal steel lead. The second jam started quietly, with the pedal steel gradually building the wave 'til it was big enough for Neil to leap onto it and explode with notes of fiery, ageless energy -- a more than welcome assault on my hungering senses... God bless Neil Young. This was amazing, and the applause at the end of the song (and every song that followed) was THUNDEROUS!
Harvest Moon was sweet. World On A String sounded a bit edgy, almost defiant in an electric setting. Right when this one ended the roadies leapt into action to set up an alternate keyboard area for Mr. Oldham, as Neil took over the main keys for the set closing Tonight's The Night.
Neil again was completely inside the song, with a soulful, moving lead vocal. He even put on a shaky voice the two times he sang about how his old buddy, and roadie, Bruce Berry used to "sing a song in a shaky voice." (The song is an ode to Bruce who was a roadie and close friend of Neil's, and he passed away in the seventies.)
The Watchtower encore was killer -- and that's not just 'cause I'm a Dylan freak. Neil shredded each solo in stellar fashion. During the third verse (Neil turned it into a four-verse song by repeating the first verse at the end) after he sang "a wildcat did growl" Neil got a wild sounding noise out of his guitar. When he wrapped up this verse, he launched into the most vicious, scathing, beautiful lead of the night. He again thwacked my eager soul into blissful submission.
Neil then left the stage, and many in attendance left the building. But then Neil returned for a second encore. Mellow My Mind was appropriate after the Watchtower mayhem. Neil even had a hint of a wry grin as he sang "make me feel like a schoolboy on good time / jugglin' nickels and dimes."
As MMM ended, I noticed that there were just over ten minutes left before Chastain's non-negotiable 11 o'clock curfew. Not sufficient time to offer Hurricane and give it a full workout. But it WAS enough time for a superior rendition of Cowgirl In The Sand. The jam before the last verse was transcendent, and Neil played with the noise of the final jam right up until 11 o'clock on the button.
This is a tour for fans that appreciate all of Neil's material. If you just want to hear the songs that get continually rammed down your throat on the radio, you might want to sit this one out.
(more reviews coming soon... --RE*AC*TOR)