Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Don’t you love it when things that are disappointing at first ultimately work out for the best? I was bummed out when the Neil Young and Crazy Horse concert I was supposed to go to over Labor Day weekend was canceled. But if it hadn’t been, I might not have gotten tickets to see Neil Young perform solo at Carnegie Hall last night. Crazy Horse is a great band but Neil on stage alone — except for his eight or so guitars, banjo, multiple harmonicas, two pianos, electric keyboard and organ — in that particular venue was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to.
It’s not often these days that I go to a concert and find I’m one of the younger attendees. I wish I could bottle that feeling to take with me when I go see Miley Cyrus in April. Not that advanced age stopped the audience from acting immaturely. I was amused to smell pot outside Carnegie Hall, but I was amazed to smell it inside. That’s never happened during one of the classical music performances I’ve been to there. And what about that guy in the front row who kept yelling song requests at Neil? Why do people do that? This guy kept doing it even after Neil, reminiscing about his 1970 Carnegie Hall performances, told us how those audiences kept yelling songs at him while he thought, “I know exactly what I’m going to play and nothing you say is going to change that.” Oh, and some other dude yelled, “Freebird.” Neil dealt with the minor annoyances with slightly mocking good humor. When some audience members kept calling out to him while he was telling a story, he said, “You paid real good money to be here so you should get to listen to each other.”
I loved the way Neil took his time and, twice, interrupted a song to say, “I don’t like that key!” and change things up. But his own sound wasn’t the reason he started and then stopped “Ohio.” That time he was teasing the audience for clapping out of time. This video I took begins as he chats with us about that, before starting the song from the beginning.
“Ohio” is one of my all-time favorite songs. (Now you know three of my all-time favorite songs. I’ve already mentioned “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” and “Hanging Around.”) But when Neil said, “I’m going to play my hit” (which got a big laugh, as if there were just one Neil Young hit!), he was referring to “After the Gold Rush.” I liked that he has updated the line, “Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s” to “Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 21st century.”
He described various guitars to us, including two given to him by former Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young bandmate Stephen Stills. Talking about one of them, he noted that Stills gave a guitar to each CSN&Y member. Interestingly, Neil’s bio in the Carnegie Hall program didn’t mention CSN&Y, except in the title of his 2008 documentary, CSNY/Déjà Vu.
One of the Stephen Stills guitars had a patched-up bullet hole in it. The person who was shot at while playing it wasn’t Neil, luckily. Another of his guitars had been owned by Hank Williams. He bought that one himself. Towards the end of the show, he looked around at the guitars and exclaimed, “I didn’t even use this one. Or this one either!”
At the end, he gave us all a round of applause …
… and some of us dashed outside to take pictures by his famous tour bus.
Neil is playing at Carnegie Hall again tonight, Thursday and Friday. If you have an extra ticket and need a charming concert companion, I’m dying to see him a second time!
UPDATED TO ADD: Look at this great picture posted on Instagram by a guy named Brian Berkowitz: Neil walking into Carnegie Hall with his tour bus in the background.
UPDATED AGAIN TO ADD: I think this New York Times article makes Neil sound grumpier than he was. I thought he was calm and funny when putting people in their places, as they deserved. If he’d been really grouchy, he would have been describing the yelling guy in the front an “asshole,” the way MrB and I were. Now I have to go lie down and recover from “Ohio” being described as “an indignant old song.”