Thursday, May 27, 2010

Midweek Musical Muse: Neil Young Solo

Going to a Neil Young concert is similar to buying a new Neil Young album. Unpredictable! You may or may not get what you expect. After attending one of his concerts this week I can say I mostly got what I thought I would get. It rocked OK!

Neil Young has produced nearly 50 albums stretching back to 1966 when he joined Buffalo Springfield and his catalog is wide, varied and unparalleled. Very few other rock ‘n’ roll artists can match him in output and the use of wide-ranging styles. The only one that comes to mind is Bob Dylan.

Young is mainly known for an acoustic folk and country rock, or a hard rock artist with the band Crazy Horse. But he has dabbled in blues, swing, rockabilly, electronic rock, alternative rock and grunge to mention a few.

Most people love music, but a small percentage will travel far and wide and, these days, pay large sums to see specific artists in concert.

My love for live performances developed when I lived for a while in a commune on a small farm in the northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa, when places like Honeydew and Randpark Ridge were still sparsely populated and a place like the White Horse Inn was an out-of-the-way but very cool joint to spend Saturday afternoons listening to one-man bands in the bar.

Palace Theatre entrance. Check on the right who's coming in September.

There is something special about seeing and hearing music in action. Whether it is watching the Bolchoi Orchestra and Ballet Company performing Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, enjoying a casual dinner while being serenaded by Coenie De Villiers in a restaurant in Cape Town, or sitting all dressed up in evening wear at a black tie dinner watching Julio Iglesias cooing in our ears. But it is rock ‘n’ roll concerts that really tickle my fancy and over the years I have been very fortunate to see many legendary artists or bands live. Some highlights include the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, U2, Bruce Springsteen and Led Zeppelin (minus John Bonham). After Wednesday evening I can now add Neil Young to this list.

The Venue

Louisville’s Palace Theatre has been described as the “Jewel of the South” and the “finest theatre in the South”. Built in 1928 the theatre is throwback to another period in time with the ornate stone walls painted in cobalt blue, red and gold and a high vaulted ceiling covered with sculptured faces of historical persons. Inside the theatre it is quite spectacular. Built like a “Spanish courtyard” from the Baroque period, with motifs, arcades, balconies and a cobalt blue imitation nighttime skyline

Louisville Palace Theatre foyer

Louisville Palace Theatre lobby with its sculptured ceiling of historical figures

Inside the theatre with painted nighttime ceiling and many ornate features

The Show

Neil Young started off the evening on the acoustic guitar with the oldies My My Hey Hey, Tell Me Why and Helpless. Thereafter it was electric all the way and he changed instruments as regular as Lady Gaga changed outfits. One of the t-shirts for the Twisted Road Tour summed it up perfectly:

         I said solo…They said acoustic

He launched into a trio of new and unreleased tunes I never heard but very much enjoyed with heavy bass pedal effects, especially Peaceful Valley, before he picked up Ol’ Black, his trusted Gibson Les Paul guitar for Hitch Hiker, Ohio and a few other tunes. Then he switched to the upright piano for Leia, to the pump organ for After The Gold Rush and to the grand piano for I Believe In You. Then it was back to electric for some more oldies like Cinnamon Girl and Cortez The Killer. For the encore he performed another new song Walk With Me. All-in-all a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable evening. Now Mr. Young, keep on rocking and don't you dare retire next year to draw social security.

Neil Young on stage with wooden Indian decoration as solitary company
(Picture by Tracy Woodward)
If I can level some criticism then it is about the length of the show, or rather how short it was. Only 90 minutes and less than 20 songs. I see on blogs some people are complaining about the ticket cost and at $175 a ticket it was an expensive night out on the town, but both M and I really wanted to see Neil Young live. Cost was never really a consideration. And hey, the place was packed to the rafters, or rather to the blue painted ceiling.

Another check on the Bucket list!

Although several videos about his current tour are already available on Youtube, including some of the new material, I'll leave you with a 1971 classic, one of my favorites and some brilliant acoustic guitar playing.

Pictures: Except where mentioned from Google and yahoo! images.

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