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Greendale, part one

Posted on 16 July 2003 by Caryn Rose (2)

Neil Young and Crazy Horse
White River Ampitheater, Burien, WA

I have been in self-imposed Greendale blackout. I knew he was doing it, I knew the basic concept, but I have not read any posts or reviews aside from general local newspaper ones posted around the internet – I haven’t been to Neil’s site, I hadn’t heard any of the songs (despite having several live shows in my possession). Part of it was intentional, the other part was that I was just too busy.

I honestly do not understand any of the complaints. At all. The music was completely brand-new to me, and I loved every minute – and if I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it either. The story was easy enough to follow if you’re not drunk off your ass and don’t have ADD. If you just let yourself participate in the story and let Neil take you where he wanted to go, I do not see how anyone could have been bored, UNLESS all you know and care about Neil Young is the Greatest Hits. (And even then, it’s not like it was that humdrum a story.) This audience loved the show. Even people who didn’t know much about it were paying attention. There was not a lot of wandering around that I could see. For the most part, people stayed put and seemed to respond well to the basic themes and messages he was trying to convey.

The performance was impeccable. The music is accessible and it’s well-balanced between hard rock and rockin ballads and narratives, there’s only ONE acoustic song (“I’m going to go over here and sing a song, and I could use your help… well, I’m gonna go now… you’ve seen me do this before…”) It’s not like the audience has to sit still the entire time. There were tons of people dancing (and not just doing that annoying Greatful Dead twirling thing). People were just plain into it.

I LIKED the “homegrown” feel of it. It felt like watching an old time tent revival kind of show. And as high tech a guy as Neil is (and oh is he), he could have done anything he wanted with this story, and he chose to present it exactly in this fashion. I think a lot of complaints are around the lo-techness of the stage play. In this day and age, we’re used to flying bridges and spinning drum risers and huge video screens, and here’s Neil giving us an analog play. I liked that part of it, though. I liked that he has his friends and family and crew and friends of friends appear in it.

They clear the stage and reset it, and on amble NY and CH, they were showing bits of the Rust Never Sleeps DVD behind the stage while they set up (that is one GREAT DVD), and then there they are. They start “Hey Hey My My,” those thudding chords bringing the entire audience to their feet. My friend says to me, “Oh my god, nothing has ever sounded so good.” The ENTIRE place was on their feet, all the way up to the back of the lawn. It was incredible. I was having a discussion recently with someone who doesn’t really like Neil, and I stood there last night going, “HOW ON EARTH IS IT POSSIBLE TO NOT LIKE THIS?”

HHMM, Powderfinger, DBTR, Sedan Delivery, and – I can’t believe he played this! – Prisoners of Rock and Roll! (I had an ex who used to insist that song was about the Replacements.) Okay, it was pretty much the standard second set (but I didn’t know that because I wasn’t reading setlists), but he was playing SO HARD and was SO frantic and intense (and that’s on the Neil intensity scale, which is something else altogether). I loved the two women behind us who were singing Sedan Delivery so loud they were outsinging Neil. It was so sweet.

He finishes the first “encore” and goes off. My friend and I stand there and it’s like halftime commentary, except on the show:
“Okay, what can he do next?”
“What would fit thematically?”
We both look at each other and in the same instant: “Rockin In The Free
“I’d like to hear Fuckin Up”
“He could do Fuckin Up and then RITFW, I wouldn’t mind.”
“Um, that would be The Pearl Jam Encore.”
We laugh really hard at that thought, because it was true.
“Cinnamon Girl would be a nice crowd-pleaser…”
“Piece of Crap would fit, too.”
“As would Mother Earth.”
“But that would be a bummer now.”
“And the organ is nowhere to be seen.”

Out walks Neil and the band again, and sure enough – RITFW, which makes us
giggle outrageously like it was our big private joke. And it was WEIRD, because I don’t remember the last time I heard Neil’s version live electric, and he’s doing it slower, and my usual response to my usual circumstances hearing RITFW (ie, Pearl Jam encore) is to pogo like crazy. I have to fight that urge physically. The other funny thing is that my friend and I find ourselves singing along loudly, but we’re using Eddie’s phrasing and cadence, because, well, that’s what we’re used to hearing. Heard too many live Pearl Jam versions vs. live Neil electric versions.

I do not understand how people think this is not worth $78.50. I mean, Lucinda Williams (who I very regretfully only saw 3/4 of a set from because the traffic getting to the venue was so bad), AND Neil playing an entire new album, and then what amounts to practically a whole second set??? I’m not getting it, at all. I loved it. It was funny and inspiring and thoughtful and sarcastic and then LOUD and happy. It was nothing short of fucking great.

This is only part one; I need to get the album and spend some time with it before I write some more. I did joyously discover that I could download “Bandit” and “Be The Rain” from the iTunes store (and god do I have a lot to say about that, but, another time); I have not been so moved by anything Neil has done since Sleeps With Angels. He’s still got it, and it’s just so righteous to witness him full of energy and enthusiasm and drive and passion for a new project.

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2 Responses to “Greendale, part one”

  1. Thom says:

    Read you Neil Young review, and it made me wish I had known about the show! I love a good Neil show, and I would have liked this one. Lucinda has been on my mind lately, as well, and I would have enjoyed seeing her. Oh, well, guess I gotta either listen to the radio or read the paper more. Nahhhhhh

  2. Garth says:

    I agree completely. I actually went with a lot of trepidation about a show of entirely ‘new’ material. I was shown! It was awesome. In fact, I can’t think of too many artists who could pull off a signifigant number of new songs, not to mention an entire CD/song-cycle. The band was quite simply stunning and as you say the encore… WOW!