Seeing Neil Young play live is always an extraordinary couple hours- always.
To have a true music and cultural legend be in the room, doing what he does best- performing his art for you. A Neil show is always an event, a real musical experience- never have I gotten the feeling- after 17 shows that it was simply being 'phoned in'. Knowing the setlist ahead of time, I figured I knew what to expect going in- but I was completely wrong! The songs are just the canvas to which Neil lays down the true creation that evening- the performance. I think we may, as an audience, get too hung up on songs in a strict sense. We want to hear this song or that song, while missing the overall feel and vibe of the evening.
I believe the key to the whole Twisted Road/Le Noise trip may be the nuance- the subtleties going on constantly. The lights on the four panels behind Neil changing colors at specific songs or specific lyrics- such as red when Neil sings 'what a Killlerr' on Cortez or the 'Earth Colors' changing and becoming distorted on Rumbling, the album itself with its small sonic touches of color, also the setlist, the stage setup and the choosing of instruments, etc. I believe many things are completely intentional and thought out as has sort of been Neil's trip going back to Tonight's the Night and Rust Never Sleeps. Small touches, that may have little or a lot of meaning, that when taken all together make for huge artistic expression and experience.
Having seen the Twisted Road on its first leg, about four or five shows in (Wallingford CT) I must say that tonight's show was much more Rockin' and in your face compared to the first, which in comparison seemed much more dark, and slightly mysterious- spooky, which was why I originally liked it to the closest thing to Tonight's the Night. In Wallingford that night, Neil seemed to be exorcising some real demons. In Providence, Neil seemed much more confident in this material and delivered it well. The album has been released, the songs were now aged a bit and road tested with, again, subtle changes throughout.
Neil enters the stage very nonchalantly, without the entrance songs or darkened lights, etc. just steps out- which I love. The audience gave him the welcome he deserves- an eruption of a roaring ovation that went on for a few minutes. Neil sits and strums the opening riff of Hey Hey, My My- the riff that first turned my head around and caught my ears when I put on RNS just by chance because I liked the cover, thus beginning my long road of being a Neil fan. Tonight's rendition was excellent and moving. Tell Me Why and Helpless were both very well done. As a huge fan I was looking forward to the Le Noise material slightly more than the hits and of course Neil doesn't disappoint. You Never Call, this time around seemed much starker and more moving than the first time- (this time he included all the lyrics). The Hitchhiker was PHENOMINAL- he shook that ornate little theater! I love that bass petal he uses- he steps on that thing and the bass literally blasts you in the face and shakes your seat- very disorienting, but in a good way. When Neil just stops cold for one second after 'we had a kid and we split apart' it's breathtaking.
Other highlights were Ohio, Down by the River- on which Neil jammed just slightly more between verses this time out. Leia, I found really poignant perhaps because I have a 15 month old daughter, were that not the case I think I'd still like it as the sort of little ditty that Neil has done throughout his career (Till the Morning Comes, Cripple Creek Ferry). Also an excellent Sign of Love and I Believe in You (a little less echo or reverb on his voice this time out I think). Cinnamon Girl was great, but that's the one song he does I feel doesn't work well solo electric- it just needs that stomp! But then he came back Walk with Me and he hit it right out of the park- more feedback, more passion this time- the meaning, it seemed was not lost on this audience. He left the stage ringing and it was over too quickly.
A great show!
My only complaint is that the seats in the theater were TIGHT! Possibly worse than MSG? Really packed in and it got hot in there. Also the greatest hits crowd are somewhat annoying- but that's the fanatic in me I suppose. Someone was yelling out some really obscure tunes like 'Pressure'- which was funny. I bought a beautiful show program filled with excellent photos and drawings done by Eric Johnson.
Bert Jansch was awesome! What a player! Just be quiet and listen- you'll be amazed at this huge talent!
If you are seeing a show on this tour, go with an open mind and pay attention! I'm really glad Neil decided to go out on the Twisted Road again and look forward to the next thing- whatever it may be.