Neil Young played the historic Tower Theater near Philadelphia this past weekend, May 1st. The venue was authentic and had a life of it’s own. The stage was set with 2 pianos on opposing ends in front with an organ behind the piano on the left. Three different guitars center stage and a 7 foot Cigar Store Wooden Indian to the left of center, that Neil would occasionally speak with! Neil strolled the stage between songs as if to say: “what shall I play next?” The Tower Theater is a great venue especially in Neil’s case. The 50’s art deco Vegas style movie house lent it’s own subtle beauty. Big enough to feel concert-like but intimate enough to feel what he was putting out. The patrons on the other hand were a mixed disappointment, a gaggle of Nascar watching brutes that cat-called and used cell phones during the show to record and to annoy. All this after the ushers urged each entering patron to refrain from the aforementioned at the behest of the artist himself. There was also a 6 foot billboard in the lobby that basically said the same. Being from NY I guess I just expected the crowd to be a bit more musically cultured.
Mr. Young walked out with purpose and immediately played My, My, Hey, Hey (out of the Blue). In all the spirit of, “….once your gone, you can’t come back”, he exhibited his ever-evolving soul which he translates to music so beautifully. The setlist was a journey through his frailness (“Helpless”), his hope (“I Believe in You”), his protest (“Ohio”), his passion (“Down by the River” & “Cinnamon Girl”), his grandchild (“Leia”), and his lost friend LA Johnson (“You Never Call”), which was a hauntingly good ballad. A full range of material performed by an artist who refuses to placate his fair-weathered fans with only his old goodies. Even with the old, his rendition of “I Believe in You” seemed newly authentic, somehow reflecting his lifetime of experience. “Peaceful Valley Boulevard” is from the new one “LeNoise” and has all the subtly of an older Young ballad. “Ohio” seemed to go on forever, which was fine with me. During “Rumbling”, (also off “Lenoise”) he stopped and let out a distorted reverb that felt like he was actually touching you chest, that was intense.
Yes I enjoyed this show. Neil Young continues to endure into his mid-sixties. Unafraid and even daring with his new material Young defies convention and cataloging. In 100 years from now it will be difficult for historians to fully understand the scope and depth of Neil Young the artist. It’s impossible to enjoy every bit of a musicians material–especially one as vast as his–but he doesn’t disappoint his true followers. The only disappointment I do feel is the one many others feel when they go see Neil: I wish he would have played longer to include all of his greats. Granted that would be a 3 day set.
He harnessed a lot of energy during the show. From what I’ve read and heard the setlist will be similar for the remaining shows. I do urge any attentive fan to go see this show. This is probably his best material since Harvest Moon and that is not discounting Prairie Wind. See this gift to humanity and gem of a human soul before he’s no longer here. Sometimes you just need to Mellow my Mind.
I am not going to show you the entire setlist, you can find it but I recommend that you go in cold. I will however extend the link to his tour dates: http//www.neilyoung.com/tour.html. Enjoy!!