"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Neil Young Rock Block


Neil Young is performing at Carnegie Hall this week (our pal Matt B caught one of shows). The Times had a piece about the first performance.

Then this morning on the subway I read “Loss Prevention” a short story in Richard Lange’s impressive collection Dead Boys.  Here’s how it begins:

Every junkie I’ve ever known has had a thing for Neil Young. Be he a punk, a metalhead, or just your garden-variety handlebar-mustachioed dirtbag, if he hauls around a monkey, he’s going to have Decade in his collection, and he’s bound to ruin more than a few parties by insisting that you play at least some of it, no matter that the prettiest girl in the room is begging for something she can dance to. Even if he gets off dope, he sticks with Neil, because by then Neil’s become the soundtrack to his outlaw past. Let him hear “Old Man” or “Sugar Mountain” years after the fact, and everything in him will hum like a just-struck tuning fork as mind and body and blood harmonize in mutual longing for a time when desire was an easy itch to scratch.

So this is why, when the deejay announces that a rock block of Neil is coming up next, three classic cuts in a row, I know there’s no hope of Jim budging until the last song ends.



1 GaryfromChevyChase   ~  Jan 10, 2014 11:24 am

He's authored the soundtrack of my life. We're about the same age and his work is always autobiographical, and tied to where he is at the point. His concerts are strangely quiet. We know the songs and words, but it's never a sing along. Fans come to listen, because every performance is a new work of art. Do folks clap along to a symphony? Of course not... they are there to listen. Same with Neil.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 10, 2014 2:12 pm

1) Very cool. I can't tell if the lack of singing along is pretentious or cool. I mean, he's a rock n roll singer, this isn't chamber music. But every artist is different and I don't mean to suggest that he's like seeing Billy Joel. Be curious is Matt B chimes in with his take on the show this week.

3 Sliced Bread   ~  Jan 10, 2014 2:42 pm

I think it depends on the venue, the tour, and especially the tune. The audience is clearly heard clapping and singing along to the live, second version of "Rockin' in the Free World" on "Freedom."
But on the Live at Massey Hall and recently released Live at the Cellar Door accoustic releases from the early 70s, the crowd stirs in reverent silence.
If Neil's blasting it out with Crazy Horse, fans are okay to sing along, but if he's doing a solo, or stripped down set, everybody goes into hushed-library mode.

4 Matt Blankman   ~  Jan 10, 2014 4:29 pm

Singing along at a concert is annoying to the folks sitting next to you, generally. I think [3] pretty much nails it - at a solo acoustic show, you know, keep quiet and let everyone enjoy. At a rock'n'roll show, you have a little more freedom to go nuts. For most of us, it's pretty easy to get a sense of when audience participation is a good idea and when it's best to stay quiet.

At the show I was at, he didn't admonish the audience at all. There wasn't a lot of chatter, but some occasional whistles and hoots and "WE LOVE YOU NEIL!"s. He did even make a "Freebird!" joke after some folks were calling out song requests.

5 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 10, 2014 4:42 pm

4) What was the show like? How many times have you seen him before?

6 Matt Blankman   ~  Jan 10, 2014 4:57 pm

[5] Egads! I have seen him...a lot, starting in '88. It was great, in short. A low-key, mellow evening, completely different than the last Neil Young show I'd seen, which was with Crazy Horse at the tail end of 2012, where he went appropriately bananas on his Les Paul.

Really inspired evening, set list clearly chosen by Neil with care and regard to the room and his history. The Buffalo Springfield material ("On the Way Home," "Mr. Soul," "Flying on the Ground is Wrong") were highlights for me. I also really enjoyed the two cover tunes he did, each with a nice long introduction, Phil Ochs' "Changes" and Bert Jansch's "Needle of Death." Clearly both artists and songs mean a lot to him.

The only thing surprising was the lack of surprise! Typically you expect a curveball at a Neil Young show, and Tuesday's setlist was the same as Monday's. (He added 2 songs last night apparently)

7 glennstout   ~  Jan 10, 2014 5:48 pm

Neil, like Mo, no words.
I been on the horse for a long time and it's always been an interesting ride

8 GaryfromChevyChase   ~  Jan 10, 2014 9:30 pm

Sliced: been listening to the Celler Door CD all week. Fabulous. The door was an amazing venue; Young, BB King, Phil Ochs, emmylou,buddy guy, Ike and Tina, platters, all in a room of less than 300.

9 Matt Blankman   ~  Jan 10, 2014 11:06 pm

[8] What a great album. Also, I believe Nils Lofgren first met Neil at the Cellar Door, before or after a show.

10 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 11, 2014 10:44 am

Can you guys recommend 5 or 6 Neil essential Neil records?

11 Matt Blankman   ~  Jan 11, 2014 12:10 pm

[10] In chronological order, here are 6 for the beginner to get a good sense of Neil and his body of work:

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
After The Gold Rush
Tonight's The Night
Rust Never Sleeps
Ragged Glory

However, this means leaving off some really essential records, like On the Beach, Freedom, Comes A Time, Live Rust, Sleeps With Angels, et al.

Of course, the Buffalo Springfield discography is essential too, and they only made 3 proper albums.

Of course,

12 Matt Blankman   ~  Jan 11, 2014 12:18 pm

Also, "Decade" really is an excellent compilation of his work from '67-'77, w/Springfield and after. Thoughtfully chosen by Neil and a great representation...but of course, he's made a lot of music since 1977, so it's incomplete.

13 Matt Blankman   ~  Jan 11, 2014 12:21 pm

And I left out ZUMA?!?

14 GaryfromChevyChase   ~  Jan 11, 2014 2:42 pm

And Chrome Dreams II?

15 Sliced Bread   ~  Jan 11, 2014 5:42 pm

Great calls, Matt and Gary. 5 albums to start a Neil collection:

Decade (the double album best of the 70s) - as Matt says, it's an excellent compilation.
Rust Never Sleeps
On the Beach

6th? After the Gold Rush or Ragged Glory.

I would say this is the essential stuff, but you couldn't go wrong picking up the first four records on Matt's list - which are well-represented on Decade.

16 Matt Blankman   ~  Jan 11, 2014 8:35 pm

Harvest is not on my personal short list, really, but it was a huge hit and is fairly essential, so it can't be denied. (Speaking of which, I prefer Time Fades Away.)

I stick by my picks as the best introduction to the "many moods of Neil Young" for a beginner - though I agree that Decade does that as well (at least for the 60s and 70s).

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