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Hi all, my wife and I were at the Vancouver show last night 3/3 and I thought I would say a few words about it.
First of all the weather here has been awful, rain every day for weeks it seems. So we were delayed in getting to Vancouver cause the ferry from Van. island was delayed. But we got to the Queen Elizabeth theater in plenty of time to see all sorts of Neilsters, aging hippies and youngsters.
The T shirts, black with white Neil hunched over an acoustic guitar and SOLO in big letters below, were $30. as were the equally mundane baseball caps. So we passed them by. The total cost for our car on the ferry, the $70. balcony tickets, meals etc was over $300 and that was enough.
The stage was set with 2 pianos separated by a ring of guitar stands (we thought they were mike stands, which shows that we rarely go to concerts) and a huge organ. Neil came out promptly at 9:30 and played.
He said his first words to us after the 2nd song, "Nice weather we're having." Understated, but struck as funny. You know it hardly mattered what he said because you got the feeling the crowd just worshipped him, and hung on every word he said. He later told a story about his dog Elvis while playing the dog song from Harvest Moon. It was kind of rambling Arlo Guthrie style while picking at the banjo. Not that great a story but it went with the song, and we all just loved that man, so we were touched. He sure loved that dog.
I tried to jot down the set list but it was dark, and now I see I have left the list on my desk at work. But here is what I remember best -- the order is not right, and I am forgetting much, sorry!
Tell Me Why: Great, nice way to start.
After the Gold Rush: on organ, heavy sound, different and interesting
Last trip to Tulsa: Lyrics sound kind of dated now, but it is Neil and no one else can do this like he can.
World on a String: even better than on unplugged. Tremendous song.
Slowpoke: I had only heard about it on Rust, but hearing it for the first time live was an affirmation that Neil Young still has it, he can write songs that are just as good as anyone can write.
Song about Dad: Walking through the grain, his Dad. I guess this is real new.
See the Sky about to Rain: On the piano, just like I remember from my old On the Beach album, hadn't heard it for years and years.
Homegrown: On the banjo, told a funny story about organic farmers and how they want to live a little longer so they can eat more. Had the crowd stomping! Again, from the Lost 6, hadn't heard it for years, yet I knew all the words.
Albuquerque: He said he doesn't sing it often -- only when the spirit moves him. So we were lucky this night.
Encore songs: Good to see you again and Sugar Mountain. What a great new song, I held my wife's hand and we FELT every word. This is why it was worth the money.
He did struggle a bit with false starts: After the Goldrush... He said he loved the sound of the organ so much he forgot what he was doing!
Memorable night. Started at 9:40 ended at 11:45 with one 20 minute break. Kind of short. He is getting old (hadn't seen him since 1986 in NY), he sat the whole time, but still is Mr Soul.
Never having been to a Neil Young concert before, I wasn't sure what to expect going in. Among other things, I wondered at the minimal staging and lights, but the effects created by only two or three overhead spotlights were perfect (especially when offset by the flash of sparking joints all over the hall). Even as The Man Himself wandered on stage without introduction, looking just like another roadie until he sat down, the pros and cons of such a small venue became very clear, very quickly.
First of all, the acoustics in the QE are meant to funnel as much sound as possible directly to the audience. Unfortunately, that means that the audience is amplified just as much as the performers. Most of the other reviews I've read made passing mention to the fact that Neil seemed a little distracted by the screams and catcalls from the audience, but none hit on the two questions that have been stuck in my mind since last night: First, after paying as much as $120 for the chance to hear a performer like Neil for less than two hours, in an intimate setting that won't likely be repeated, why would anyone spend half the night drowning out the performer with shouted song requests (or more frequently, "WOOO!!!"). Second, and this one's for those people who did spend most of the night screaming song requests while Neil was trying to talk, if the only songs you want to hear are Cinnamon Girl and Rockin' in the Free World, why would you spend so much money on a solo, unplugged concert?
On the plus side, the same acoustics did great things for the music. Philadelphia (on the grand piano) was better than I've ever heard it, and unlike some of the other songs, Neil seemed to be playing it more for himself than for the rest of us. My choice for the show's highlight would have to be Unknown Legend which by itself was well worth the price of admission. It might have been the only five minutes of the whole show where the whole crowd just stopped and really listened to what he was doing.
I doubt I'll ever get the chance to see Neil in a show of that size again, much less in the kind of smaller venue like a pub or a small blues bar that would have suited last night's show perfectly, but even if this is all I get, I'm going home happy.
Lost Dog here to start:
It's been a helluva run here in Vancouver. Some real chestnuts dragged out of the Archives! I still can't believe we heard Last Trip To Tulsa last night. And See The Sky About To Rain! I think that the latter was inspired by the weather here in Vancouver yesterday morning. We had real high winds and some hard rain. There was local flooding and power outages. So a rain song was a good addition to the set. I thought we might get Like A Hurricane on the pump organ, but STSATR was much better.
Neil's dog story with Old King is really sounding good on this tour. He seems like an old blues master on the stage telling the story and all with the song. The music of course isn't blues, but it has that feeling. Neil's voice is really sounding strong. He's hitting the high notes well, Hopefully the voice holds up. I was really surprised to get Tell Me Why to open, as he said during the HORDE pre-shows in 1997 that he couldn't play it any more because it was "really high". But he's doing it again and it sounds great!
Philadelphia on the grand piano is really sounding good. It's mesmerizing to hear this!
You people are gonna love these shows!
Motor City here:
Wow, what a great start to the tour. I guess he answered a lot of our questions about how much he'd diversify the setlists. STSATR was stunningly beautiful. The Elvis story intertwinned into Old King on Wednesday was also great - he started by saying "I hope Bear's in the bus. He's my new dog. I hate it when he hears this song." During the song/story, Neil lets out several snorts to highlight the affair.
The guitjo Homegrown was also a treat - it was an interesting twist to dedicate it to the rivival of the small organic farmers. He made a comment along the lines of "This song became a song about weed for 20 years, but now its becoming a protest song."
He also announced the set break in an interesting way on Wed: Before the beginning of the new "Courduroy Pants" song, he said something like "I'll be gone in a few minutes, but don't worry I'll be back."
He had two false starts on Wednesday (during War of Man and ATGR). During the beginning of ATGR, he botched the lyrics and stopped, saying "Sometimes the organ sounds so good I forget what I'm doing."
Near the end of the setbreak, several audience members started yelling fire - The sage that was burning off to the side of the stage got out of control and flared up. But Larry and QE Theatre security leaped to the rescue, before it ignited the backdrop!
Yes, the shows have been fantastic. He's already played 28 different songs & I expect he'll be pulling out a bunch more like Distant Camera, Silver & Gold, Horseshoe Man, Razor Love, etc... I've even been enjoying the standard fare (ATGR, HOG, HM), as they are few & far between. If he keeps up this pace I'll have nothing but the hits to look forward to when he gets to NYC.
Well, Seattle up next. Will Pearl Jam show up? I really don't care, I'll take whatever I get & love it!
Lost Dog back at the controls.
I'm still living in a dream world. However, all good things must end, and it's time to report to the real world office for a short shift this afternoon. (Motor City says speak for yourself pal!). Then once again tomorrow morning for a short shift before I venture south to Seattle.
Cheers, from the centre of the universe!
We weren't as close as the first night, so didn't get such an intimate look at how Neil was reacting to the crowd and everything. Regardless, there were fewer false starts and forgetting of lyrics; his performance seemed smoother; and the crowd didn't seem as noisy.
Neil seemed a little more comfortable. Sure, there were still the whistles and hollers during the quieter parts of the songs, but it wasn't as pervasive as the first night. Between songs, of course, people were yelling out requests and clapping and cheering, but there's nothing wrong with that! Neil didn't make the same comments as the first night about it (the seagull comment and the comment re "those are all good ideas..." with the inference that he was going to do whatever he wanted to do anyway).
His voice sounds absolutely wonderful. As good as I've ever heard it! See The Sky About To Rain and Last Trip to Tulsa were fabulous - reminded me of Expecting To Fly and Ambulence Blues at Bridge, except we weren't sitting with as many Rusties. So the people around us didn't share our excitement like at Bridge!
I think that the fact that he has this big songbook with him means that he's going to trot out a whole bunch of songs from the past that haven't been played in years - maybe just a couple each night, but when you add them all up that makes for a lot of Rust excitement! We'll see.
Wish I could go to Seattle. Enjoy all!
We saw the two nights in Vancouver and loved them. Just incredible.
(See the first night review.)
The second night was miraculously better than the first. All songs played the first night sounded great. Last Trip To Tulsa is a song that I have been hoping to hear for years now and had written off as extremely unlikely. It was incredible!!! STSATR was a nice treat as well, and Homegrown -- complete with intro -- was great. Pocahontas, as always, was perfect.
The best thing about these shows were the new tunes. They are as incredible as you could possibly imagine. The melodies that Neil comes up with just seem sureal.
The worst thing was the crowd. Well not the whole crowd but the %2 of the crowd whom insisted on yelling during the songs. Yes that is DURING the songs. I'm all for having a good time but my enjoyment of the shows was diminished (at times) by the noise but this seems as unavoidable as it is unfortunate.
GO TO THESE SHOWS! THEY ARE INCREDIBLE!
Holy cow! What a show. I have been a fan of Neil's for a while now, but this is the first time I've got the chance to see him solo. Been waiting for this for a long time, and I was not disapointed.
(More reviews coming soon... --RE*AC*TOR)