Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Neil Young at the Fox, St. Louis, 11/19/07

At first we couldn't decide whether to go to Neil or not. Okay, actually, J couldn't decide. I'm the one who always wants to go, irrespective of scheduling, finances, and other minor considerations, and I'm acutely aware that we haven't seen Neil nearly enough. With some of these legends you gotta keep one eye on the clock and take advantage of any opportunity you get. At least, that's my philosophy. Secondly, tickets were kind of steep. And thirdly, the show was on a Sunday night, the last night of a vacation that involved a lot of driving before we had to go back to work.

Nevertheless, I perservered.

It struck me around Saturday, though - I realized I didn't want to spend a couple of hours in the car Sunday either. However, I'm glad we had something to do even had the show not been awesome - it kept us from just moping on the couch watching the hours tick away, you know?

Anyhow, I do love the Fox. Our seats weren't too great but they weren't too bad. Actually, I think they were just far enough back that Neil didn't seem like such a geezer, you know, but close enough that we could see quite well and unobstructedly. As always, we sat in front of a group of talkative dumbasses. I exercised great restraint and only shushed them once during the acoustic set, but come on, dude, shut the fuck up during the quiet parts. You know the people who have to comment on the stupidest stuff. "He's gonna sit in a chair!!" "I bet he plays harmonica!!" You just want to kill 'em. We didn't notice them so much during the second set, of course.

There was an announcement before he started, asking us not only to refrain from recording and photos, but to refrain also from cell phones and from shouting out song titles. "Tonight's set list has been pre-selected by Neil Young." That didn't stop everyone, but it did cut down on it a lot. Oh, and if I ever meet the "I LOVE YOU, NEIL" chick from halfway back in the balcony, I am going to choke her with a low 'E' string. Because what she was really saying was "I love myself more than I love you, Neil!"

The acoustic set was great. I love Neil's acoustic playing. It's so full and rugged and fierce. Sometimes between songs he'd get up and kind of wander between the organ on one side, the piano on the other side, and back to the guitar station, cogitating. I always forget how low his speaking voice is. He did lose his place during "After the Gold Rush" and started again on "Well I dreamed ... no I didn't," and played until it came around again. He talked about how hard it was sometimes to play a song you're so familiar with and play so often because it has so many memories and so much weight on it from all the times you've played it before, whereas newer songs are easier to remember. It kind of reminded me of the NPR interview when he said that he can only write one song at a time, otherwise "they fight." And when he started playing "Love is a Rose," he stopped and said, "You oughtta be clapping your ass off, man." Died laughing. and "Harvest" and "After the Gold Rush" was one blissful back-to-backer. His voice was a little shaky on some of the highest bits of "Gold Rush," but as I said, only Neil and bats could sing that bit to start with, and he's always had that weird light skinny voice sometimes anyway that heads for the stratosphere of its own accord, so it was cool.

acoustic set:
1. From Hank To Hendrix
2. Ambulance Blues
3. Sad Movies
4. A Man Needs a Maid
5. No One Seems To Know
6. Harvest
7. After the Gold Rush
8. Mellow My Mind
9. Love Art Blues
10. Love Is A Rose
11. Heart of Gold

For the electric set ... well, let me say that the stage set was a bit odd. It had the stage qua stage around the front, but behind that was a kind of artist's warehouse loft theme, including a guy on the back left - in a red suit and panama hat kind of getup - actually painting. So during the second set, the artist guy presented each song by coming to the front where there was an easel and putting up a painting sort of that song with the title written on it, then going back to his area and painting during the song. um, it was pretty strange, but he knew his business, so there wasn't a lot of waiting for him or anything.

Anyway, if you've been hesitating to go to Neil Young because he's old, or if you've been thinking a guy his age doesn't BRING IT anymore, think again, because I'm here to tell you that Neil BROUGHT IT. It was great to see him kind of randomly thrash and stagger about the stage in his patented Neil Young lurch, and he didn't stint on the playing, either, although to be brutally frank, I could have done without at least five minutes of the at least 15 minute version of "No Hidden Path" he closed with. But it was awesome nevertheless. "Dirty Old Man" was particularly pleasing.
And wait till you see the encore.

Electric set:
1. The Loner
2. Everybody Knows this is Nowhere
3. Dirty Old Man
4. Spirit Road
5. Bad Fog of Loneliness
6. Winterlong
7. Oh, Lonesome Me
8. The Believer
9. No Hidden Path
Encore 1
Cinnamon Girl
Cortez the Killer
Encore 2
The Sultan

After Cinnamon Girl, Neil went over to the bassist and talked about what he wanted to play for several moments, and you could tell he was going off list. We waited ... waited ... and then the first note sneaked out and J and I flipped out. If you'd asked me what single-but-unlikely Neil Young song I'd have liked to hear, well, I'd have most likely said "Cortez." It was that moment at a concert where you think, I really could die happily now, for lo, I am fulfilled. If you're unfamiliar with "Cortez the Killer," shame on you. Try to find a live version. So that was a fabulous surprise. Then to our surprise he came out for the second encore, and they brought out a gong, and a guy ... dressed kind of like ... a sultan ... with the turban, and the flowing trou, and the boots, and the gong mallet, came out and stood serenely by the gong, near the easel that said "THE SULTAN," and, well, he played his part with tempered enthusiasm, and it was very strange, but very good.

Here's a review from the St. Louis paper (I am beholden for parts of my set list, for it was very, very dark in there and I honestly can't read some of my own writing).
click here.

Cortez the Killer

He came dancing across the water
with his galleons and guns
looking for the new world
in that palace in the sun

On the shore lay Montezuma
with his coca leaves and pearls
in his halls he often wondered
with the secrets of the worlds

And his subjects gathered round him
like the leaves around a tree
in their clothes of many colors
for the angry gods to see

And the women all were beautiful
the men stood straight and strong
they offered life in sacrifice
so that others could go on

Hate was just a legend
war was never known
the people worked together
and they lifted many stones

They carried them to the flatlands
and they died along the way
they built up with their bare hands
what we still can't do today.

And I know she's living there
she loves me to this day
I still can't remember when
or how I lost my way

He came dancing across the water
Cortez, Cortez
what a killer


John said...

Sounds like a great show. Love "Cortez." That is one of the finest songs ever written. Really, a fine, fine piece of music.

I've only had the opportunity to see Neil once, and I thought he was great. Among the top few performances I've ever seen. What I've always loved about his playing is that he can play so softly and sweetly or he can stagger around punching and pummelling his guitar to incredible effect. At true guitarist, a master of his instrument.

Great review.

Occula said...

Well said, John. And his songwriting is the same way, so soft and beautiful, or so ragged and snarly. That was really the beauty of the acoustic set-electric set; you got to thoroughly enjoy both sides of his personality. He's really in a class by himself.

Thanks for stopping in and commenting!

Occula said...

Oh! And your profile says you're a Truckers fan!! awesome.

John said...

Yeah, I'm a big Truckers fan. I used to live in Richmond, VA, and they played a lot in the area when they were coming up. One of my best friends back east is a HUGE Truckers fan. He went to a charity show a while back at a record store in Richmond, and before the show he got to chat with Patterson for awhile outside the store. It sounded awesome. I was envious. I just think the Truckers sound is so unique and awesome. I was happy when I found your blog to see that you, too, are a Truckers fan.

Later on.