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Good Saturday afternoon to each of you....
I just returned from Las Vegas and thought I would provide you a few observations on the shows of Thursday and Friday evening. A word first asking for your patience/forgiveness...I just got off the all-night Delta flight from Las Vegas so please forgive any mis-spelled words, run on sentences or general poor grammar. Chalk it up to lack of sleep!
In a word, tremendous. The two shows were, with the exception of a few songs, two very different performances. The only constant between the two evenings was the quality of Neil's voice. As a fan for years, I have heard Neil at times strain to reach the notes of certain songs and heard his voice "crack" due to strain and overuse. During the shows in Vegas this was never the case. His voice was clear and smooth...I am sure those in the music business could describe it much better than I however, as a fan, it was the finest I have ever heard him sound.
Regarding the set lists, the two nights combined would supply all with a compilation of almost the entire tour. Thursday night was filled with titles which have been familiar on previous tour stops including some which to date remain unreleased.
Personal highlights of Thursday evening were Ambulance Blues, a beautiful rendition of Philadephia, and World on a String, Don't Let it Bring You Down, Looking Forward, Flying on the Ground is Wrong, Pocohontas and the finest redition of Albuquerque I have had the privilege to ever hear. Unreleased material included the mentioned Looking Forward, Distant Camera, Daddy Went Walkin' and Out of Control.
As stated, Friday's performance was vastly different. With the exception of the opening Tell Me Why, War of Man, Harvest Moon, Long May You Run (on the pump organ), a VERY brief Good to See You (shortened/aborted mid-song during an encore), additional encores of Pocohontos and Sugar Mountain and the possibility of one or two other songs, the set varied tremendously. Amongst the songs Friday's audience was treated to were Out on the Weekend, Last Trip to Tulsa (which Neil changed to "Last Trip to Vegas"), Cortez the Killer, Love is a Rose, Southern Pacific, Old Man, Heart of Gold, Needle and the Damage Done and much to the delight of many in the audience, an encore which included Powderfinger.
Both shows were a unique blend of old and new songs and a delight to listen to.
Upon exiting The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel (HRH) I did not hear one negative word concerning Neil's performance on either night. In fact comments of "awesome", "tremendous" and "what a show" were heard often.
I was given a copy of the set list for "Part One" of Thursday's show through someone assocaited with the show. I do not know if the list is in Neil's handwritting, however it does list the nine songs of the first segment of Thursdays show, the key of the guitar used, the type of instrument featured and other instructions which were added for each tune. The only "mistake" on the list is Love is a Rose is listed as the next to last song, and there's no mention of Philadelphia on the grand piano.
If there was a down-side to both of the shows, it could be found in the behavior of a few in the audience. Not the majority...a few.
On Thursday night, Neil had to stop the performance at the begining of either the second or third song to "chat" with a few in the audience about the noise they were making. I do not recall his exact words but it was something to the effect of "there were reasons acoustic shows have not been done". He went on to say something like "if you want to talk to your boyfriend or girl friend that's cool but I am trying to play as loud as I can and it is difficult to play over you. People around you paid a lot of money to hear me play and we will wait till you are done..."
He went on to tell the audience he did not mind noise, cheering, comments, requests between songs...just not during.
His words had an effect until about the mid way point of the show when a few decided they needed to express their feelings for Neil during his songs ("I love you man..!") or in reference to playing/song selection ("Turn it up..!" and "Rock 'n Roll!"). There was also one individual who felt the need to comment fairly often during Neil's song/story in reference his dog Elvis during Old King.
At times Neil appeared amused by comments and even responded to a few ("Nice haircut!" "Yeah... I did it myself...") but at times, he seemed a little annoyed by some of the noise/comments.
Through the entire performance Thursday evening, Neil remained very talkative with the audience commenting on Las Vegas, making references to some of his guitars and speaking about the plight of the family farms and the need to purchase organic foods (intro to Homegrown). His stories and comments, although very serious at time, were also laced with humor.
Also, for you keeping track at home, "How ya doin'?" was heard during the second portion of Thursday performance.
Friday night was a different story... Neil appeared very businesslike and outside of the occasional wave or brief comment kept his interaction with the audience at a minimum throughout the performance. The audience was noisy at times, respectful at others. Unfortunately, a few marred the performance for some of those I was with, by their yelling and constant conversation during the songs.
Twice during Friday's performance it seemed that Neil started a song and then quit (or cut it short). On one occaision this might have been due to the crowd noise. One additional time he started a song, realized he had the wrong harmonica and stated something like "That is the worst thing than can happen to a performer." Someone from the audience must have said something to which he replied "Don't apologize, it wasn't your fault..."
Although they stated that no one would be seated during the course of the show, people moved around freely in various areas of the hall. On one occasion Neil looked to a group of young ladies who were moving about near the front and responded to something they said by stating "You'd find it if you would sit down..."
For the most part, the audience was quiet and respectful during his songs... A minority of folks unfortunately felt the need to make everyone know they were there -- usually at all the wrong times.
Some rumors and stories heard during the course of the two days...
If a show comes close to your town or you are debating whether you should travel so as to attend one of the upcoming Eastern shows, I would urge you to do so. Yes, tickets are a bit expensive, and yes, travel can be a pain at time but you will enjoy the music and the evening immensely.
Take care, thanks for reading my ramblings and enjoy the music...
(more reviews to be added soon... --RE*AC*TOR)