I don't think I've ever seen a performer more passionate about his music than Neil Young...and from all accounts, he bestows to his fans the same guts as a man approaching his mid-60s that he did 40 years ago.
This was my second Neil Young concert. I was four rows back from the stage last night at Comcast Arena in Everett, Washington....about 20 miles north of Seattle, the newer venue serves as a nice alternative for acts that come through town. I'd say it's a much better option than Key Arena in Seattle, which is traffic nightmare central.
Opening the night was a band called Everest, which I wasn't familiar with, and Death Cab for Cutie, an interesting alternative band from Seattle with a mosaic that echoes bands like U2 and The Stone Roses...however the singer has a unique style that I'm still getting used to...I'm not saying I don't like him, I'm just getting used to him.
Since my favorite band has a falsetto singer with a high-pitched shrill, I figure I'm the last one on the planet to be intolerant of other singers I might need to adapt to.
So back to Neil.
Unlike last year, when he split the show between acoustic and electric sets (see post on that show here), all songs were part of one set. Electric Neil sandwiched Acoustic Neil in the middle portion of the set.
I love how this guy mixes things up.
There was an indication that electric Neil was going to open up the show when his guitar tech Larry Cragg brought Old Black onstage...that's his prized guitar that he's used since the 1960s.
When the show began, he launched into "Love and Only Love," one of the classics from Ragged Glory, his grungy 1990 project and perhaps the best project to date with Crazy Horse.
He soon brought up one of my personal favorites, "Powderfinger," which originally appeared on 1979's Rust Never Sleeps. He was emotionally involves with his music as he sweat and sneered through many of the vocal passages.
One of the amazing qualities of a live Neil Young performance is how he seamlessly transitions from the beautiful electric sludge of tunes like "Hey Hey, My My," where his extended solos careen through the auditorium with sounds like a dinosaur moaning in pain from a leg amputation...to the acoustic grace and sentiments of a song like "Old Man."
He seemed to have a bit more energy onstage tonight than a year ago at WAMU Theater in Seattle...where at times he even seemed a bit disoriented onstage.
The only ones who were disoriented were the audience, left fending for their lives as they took blows to the head from the dungeon of Neil's grungy extended jams.
How can I explain it...Neil Young's sludgy electric brand of rock & roll is the equivalent of a musical axe being swung at your head...and, elated, you can't wait for that blade to chop into your skull...only the blade hasn't been sharpened in awhile, and it has pits and gouges in it...so it just manages to knock off a chunk of your skull...get it? Sure you do.
Okay, we're getting carried away here...what did he play last night?
The set list:
- Love and Only Love
- Hey Hey, My My
- Everybody Knows this is Nowhere
- Spirit Road
- Cinnamon Girl (they goofed the opening and started it over...too funny.)
- Oh, Lonesome Me
- Mother Earth
- The Needle and the Damage Done
- Unknown Legend
- Heart of Gold
- Old Man
- Get Back to the Country
- Just Singing a Song
- Sea Change (or is it "See" change?)
- When Worlds Collide
- Cowgirl in the Sand
- Rockin' in the Free World
- [encore 1] A Day in the Life (In his effort to make as much racket as possible at the end, he ends up ripping off the guitar strings from Old Black)
- [encore 2] The Sultan (instrumental with a big gong being hit by a guy dressed in swami gear...very odd)
So that's it...I'm hoping that Neil's next project involves Crazy Horse again...now THAT'S the show I'm waiting to see!