A Rustie report from The Tonight show
by Laurie -- The DJ's Daughter -- Hoffman
Got to the Tonight Show gates this morning at 6:15AM. Richie and I arrived at the same time. I didn't bring the donuts I had promised because I had dreamt of Neil all night -- awful, anxiety dreams of not making it into the show due to arriving too late. Because of traffic, or too long of a line, or whatever. The dream was all to the tune of Ambulance Blues which kept playing in the background. Weird huh? Anyway, I had to go without the donuts because I just wanted to get there to make sure I got a spot in line.
Well, we were FIRST in line! :-) A Rustie named "Lurker Andy" showed up a few minutes later, then Rick Rentler shortly after that. Richie got his guitar out and we all spent about 45 min. to an hour playing and singing Neil Young tunes right there in front of the doors to the studio ticket office, in the midst of the Days of Our Lives outdoor set. LOL. It was a hoot. Many of the folks in line clapped for us after certain songs.
Eventually we got our tickets and headed to Denny's for breakfast. After that we debated what to do next. I suggested the Gene Autry Museum (sort of jokingly) but Richie and Rick wanted to go on the NBC Studio tour, which we ended up doing. I'm glad we did, 'cause while we got our tour tickets we confirmed with the tour guide that Neil would DEFINITELY be a guest on the show, along with Keifer Sutherland and "The Naked Chef". He also told us that he "Just wanted us to know that we wouldn't be able to go into the Tonight Show studio to check it out, because there was a band rehearsing inside." A band? Gotta be Neil! We had wondered whether or not he would play at all, whether he would be with a band or solo, etc, etc. Now we knew for sure.
We walked through the lot's studios, finally arriving at Studio 3 where the Tonight Show is taped. It was all closed up. As we walked by I suddenly heard five notes on a guitar: the five notes that go with the words "Are you passionate?", from the song Are You Passionate, off the new album Are You Passionate?. It was so exciting! I said, "Rick! Did you hear that?" He was like, "What? I heard some notes!"
We all started listening. It turned out that someone had opened the side studio door, letting some noise out. We weren't sure at first where the sounds were coming from. As we walked on, toward the door to the outside parking area adjacent to the studio, Richie said, "Look! It's Neil's equipment." Sure enough, laid out against the wall of the studio in the hallway was tons of very familiar-looking black cases with silver hinges. We were able to walk right next to it all. I looked at it and touched it. It said "Lookout Management" all over it.
Then, there, standing in upright stands, were two beautiful guitars.... one brown, one gold. Next to that was an open guitar case that had the words "Billy Talbot...." on it. Can't remember all the words. But it sure looked likes Billy's guitar case. Was BILLY there??? We were really excited now.
Some roadie then came out one of the side areas whistling the same notes to Are You Passionate? I was excited. My expectation had been that Neil would play Differently tonight, but I was thinking how it would be so incredible if he did AYP...
The tour group (including Richie) went outside to stand by Jay Leno's car in the parking lot and talk about something or other, but Rick and I hung back, stroking the guitars (just a little) and looking at all the equipment. We knew it'd definitely be a band performance.
We kept hoping Neil would come out. The commissary was right across from the parking lot opening, and it was around lunch time, so I thought maybeee... After a bit we joined the group outside the doorway, when who should walk out the door to the back of the studio but Elliot Roberts, lighting up a cigarette! He was also talking on his cell phone, so we couldn't say anything to him. But Richie caught his eye and Elliot, recognizing him, put up his thumb, like "Alright!" We all did a thumbs up back to him... :-)
The whole time, the tour guide is going on and on about something and we didn't hear a WORD!!!! ha ha ha ha ha!! We spent all our time whispering about what we were seeing: the equipment, Elliot, the four or five road-eyes walking around....it was so cool.
When we went back in to finish the tour, we again touched the guitars (just a tiny little bit) and the guide said, "Uh... don't get too close to that." We hung back from the crowd as they walked up the hallway, down the corridor from the studio. Someone came out the door again, and although we were too far away to distinguish exactly what was playing inside, we could of swore it sounded like Are You Passionate. This time it wasn't just those early notes though...it was farther into the song.
After the studio tour, I went home to to let the dog out, eat lunch, and post about all this to Rust. I figured I had to get back to the studio by around 3:15 or so. The guide told us that the first ten or so people get to sit in the seats where you get to shake Jay Leno's hand. So getting there early to be among that group was the plan. If that didn't work out, we planned to try to get on the left side of the stage, which is the side where the band will play.
Due to my advanced maternity situation, I was wearing beige maternity overalls and a long-sleeved red shirt. Rick wore his MORE BARN! shirt, and Richie wore his Piece of Crap shirt.
On my way back I hit traffic so I called Rick to see what their status was. He said I'd better hug and kiss him like I was his wife when I got there because they ended up tenth in line, and there were now like fifty or more people behind them. I was shocked and scared (a little). I arrived twenty minutes later and hugged Rick. The line of people didn't seem to care that I cut in front of them, thank God. So that worked out.
We did end up in the first thirty to be seated, and we ended up in the third row, which only has three seats. No one gets to sit in the first row, as that is designated for VIP's.
The pre-show is just about the funniest thing I have ever witnessed. I laughed so hard at Jay and his audience antics that I was crying, and I almost puked during one part when these five girls came up to dance the bump and grind. It was sooooooo funny I can't even explain it. After their solo efforts, they all gathered around an old guy from Colorado who was blushing and dancing with them. They were hanging on him, and Oh my GOD, I'm laughing right now, it was so hysterical!
ANNNNNYWAY... The show started, and it's all taped in real time (during commercials the audience watches the set changes and listens to the band). During the opening, I tried to run up with the crowd and touch Jay's hand but there were too many people crowded around. I'm told that I could be seen pretty clearly during that shot.
Keifer came out after the monologue and the "Jay Walking" segment. After talking a little about his TV series "24", the two of them talked about -- you guessed it -- NEIL. THAT was cool. EXCEPT when Jay accidently referred to him as NEIL DIAMOND!
The Naked Chef made a tasty looking roast beef dish and mashed potatoes. Yum! He is a charming guy, but I was just sitting there thinking that in just a few short minutes, Neil would be out. I thought about how he must be behind the curtain, readying himself to go on cue. I thought, "as professional as he is, I'm not sure this kind of performance is his thing." You know, coming out on cue, having to perform maybe before he's mentally ready. It must've been nerve-wracking for him.
The song that the Tonight Show Band performed between the Naked Chef segment and Neil's appearance was Don't Let It Bring You Down. But it was their own soulful version (with a black woman's vocals) that they played. It was really haunting and ... weird actually. But still good.
Jay wasted no time introducing Neil when the lights came back on. The curtain goes up, and there's our guy, no hat, dressed cool, in sunglasses, holding Ol' Black. Who was the guy next to him? It turned out it was Poncho, but he looks soooo different that I didn't recognize him AT ALL.
Neil was about 20 feet away from our row. The familiar sounds of Are You Passionatecame out of Ol' Black, and it was a thrill! A complete thrill! I mouthed the words along with him, but he changed the lyrics slightly during the first verse. Typical. At the end he messes up the first line of the last verse. He repeats it. Typical again. I just laughed. I loved it.
Neil sounded really good to me. The music was perfect. It's a sound stage, so that really added a lot to the effect. Astrid and Pegi were there, singing back up. Neil looked a little uncomfortable with five cameras on him at once. But he held his own. I loved the guitar solo.
After the performance, the lights went down almost immediately. They were just about out of time for the show. But we didn't realize that, so when Keifer and the Chef moved over to make room for Neil, and Neil came walking across the stage to meet with Jay, I squealed, "He's gonna talk, he's gonna talk!" Well, they talked alright....all through the commercial break while the house band played for us. When Jay went back on the air he only reminded the audience that Neil was there to promote his new album... "Goodnight!" And that was it. Ahhhhhh, man!
Before the audience left we had to watch Jay try four times to get his commercial ready for the evening about the show. He had the guests on either side of him while he promoted the show using cue cards and the camera ran. Neil just stood there with his sunglasses on, looking slightly amused. Jay did four takes of that, then Neil quickly went to the side of stage, grabbed his red plaid jacket from someone, and quickly left the studio with a police escort on one side and an NBC security guard on the other. Bye bye.
Outside afterward, Rick and Richie and I joked about how we spent the whole day to watch one song, and HOW WORTH IT IT WAS!!! I was pretty high from the whole experience. I thought how it'll be cool to watch on TV. And I know that while I type this, Rusties on the East Coast are watching the show right now. Have fun. Can't wait to read your comments. :-)