Neil Young Concert Review - Greendale Tour
Aspen, CO, 08/31/03
By Jonathan Neal aka MORNING SON
More Greendale news and photos During Labor Day Weekend, throughout two days at the Jazz Neil Young Greendale Neil Young Concert Reviews
originally posted to rust@yahoo. Great intro to Jazz Fest, Jump direct to Neil review
Aspen Snowmass Jazz Fest, I was surrounded my beauty - the
stunning natural splendor of the Rockies at 7,900 feet, the
insane energy of two of my favorite musicians of all time
from the front row, dozens of new friends I had never seen
before who shared my passion, two beautiful women of my
dreams - one fictional, and one real, and the beauty of the
story of love, honor, coming of age, inspiration, and
devotion to our tender world that Neil Young tells through
I drove up from the Santa Fe area on Friday, armed with
tickets to Saturday and Sunday's events. Friday night I
hung out in the Woody Creek Tavern, a very mellow bar about
five miles from Aspen. Sitting a few tables over from the
bar was none other than Hunter S. Thompson. He was wearing
a cowboy hat and a Hawaiian shirt, and seemed as weird as I
had ever imagined.
The waitress told me that Tom Petty had checked into the
hospital that night with altitude sickness. Aspen is at
7,900 feet, which certainly requires a period of
adjustment. As a resident of mountains above 8,000 feet, I
can say from experience that one must be very careful with
physical exertion or alcohol consumption when coming from
sea level. It took me more than three months of mountain
living before I could have more than two beers in a sitting
(thankfully I have recovered from that affliction). I can
certainly imagine that Tom had flown into town and partied
down in his "room at the top of the world," waking up
dehydrated and sick. It's too bad, too - maybe he would
have played longer than an hour and a half if he had been
well. Anyway, before he got sick apparently he had checked
into the Presidential Suite and was playing the grand piano
in his room.
Later Friday night, I went to the J-Bar at the historic
Hotel Jerome, and the guy next to me at the bar told me
that Neil had left the place five minutes before I got
there! Oh well, seeing him at a bar is nothing compared
with seeing him pour his soul out through his guitar.
I wasn't about to pay the exorbitant Aspen hotel rates, so
I crashed in my moving bedroom. I woke up Saturday morning
and drove to the parking lot at the base of the mountain, a
few miles from the venue, which was in Snowmass Village. I
was about the fifteenth person in line, and when the doors
opened at 1 pm I ran as fast as I could across the field
toward the stage, and found myself at the very front and
center. Of course, I would have to hold my
four-square-foot section of real estate for six hours to
see Mr. Petty.
The venue was spectacular. It took place in a beautiful
mountain valley, on a huge meadow. Leftover Salmon is a
great jam band, and they had people dancing early as the
sun was shining in the warm, late summer sky. However, by
the time Bo Diddley came on, the sky had darkened and it
became very cold.
Diddley was hilarious. The man must be near 80. I totally
respect his music and the fact that he was basically one of
the inventors of rock and roll, but his act was hard to
take completely seriously. He hobbled out to a seat on the
stage, was given a rectangular guitar, and proceeded to
play his classics. There was a pretty blond lady a few
people over from me, and throughout most of the concert, Bo
was staring at her and singing solely to her, to this
woman's delight. The rain had been pouring down for
awhile, but suddenly the wind began to howl and the rain
began to drench Bo, his band, and the electrical equipment.
Bo muttered into the microphone, "Oh shit." He waved his
roadie out, who proceeded to move him to a more sheltered
location. He told the audience, "It isn't hip to get this
thing wet," referring to his electric guitar. "I'll end up
like a Christmas tree." At any rate, he was drenched a few
more times, and the roadie would move his chair each time,
until he simply gave up and hobbled out. Diddley gone.
Then time for Petty. The people around me were very nice.
One guy bought me two Heinekens , and another guy paid me
ten bucks to be the bodyguard for his 13 year old daughter!
That was weird. I tried to refuse the money, but he was
insistent - he wanted to be back in the crowd with his
girlfriend. OK, sure, fine I fought off the crowd and let
this 13 year old kid have the time of her life with Petty.
Tom is great - I love his music - but he is quite a
contrast to Neil. Whereas Neil continually reinvents
himself and keeps challenging himself and his audience,
whenever I have seen Petty live he basically plays a
greatest hits set with few curveballs. His songs are
great, but Neil he is not. I am really not complaining -
seeing Tom Petty front row center in general admission with
screaming fans around me is a great rock and roll
experience. However, his set lasted only an hour, and he
played only two encores. Must have still been sick. Had
Neil not been on the agenda the next day, I might have been
disappointed. It also helped that I caught Steve Ferrone's
drumstick when the roadie threw it in the crowd! Ah yes,
Tom is a good appetizer to the T-Bone main course of Neil
Young and Crazy Horse that would occur the next night.
Once again, I slept in the moving bedroom, after being
stopped by a cop who made me do the moving finger sobriety
test (I only had two beers at the concert). It's all good.
OK, OK, NOW THE NEIL YOUNG CONTENT
Next morning I bathed in Glenwood Springs at the world's
largest hot springs pool, then drove back to Snowmass and
got in line at 11:30 am, and I was number four.
I was prepared for Neil not to do Greendale. So as I ran
toward the line, and saw Grandpa's porch being set up, I
jumped for joy to realize he would perform my newly beloved
album that I have listened to twenty times in the past two
weeks - the album that has awakened a sleeping part of my
soul. When I began to hear some rumblings on stage, the
elation exploded. From the line, you had a clear view of
the stage, though it was far away. Then the unmistakable
sound of Neil's guitar filled the mountain meadow on this
brilliantly beautiful day, and us dozen or so were treated
to a soundcheck of "Devil's Sidewalk" and "Be the Rain."
The glorious day must have inspired Neil, and he launched
into the intro of "Country Home." It was such a treat to
hear his joyous ode to the mountains, and he sang most of
this song. Once they opened the gates, I made a wild
sprint, and found myself in the exact same spot as the day
As long as I could keep my spot, I'd be seeing FRONT ROW
NEIL AND HORSE! But as people kept filling in and laying
out their blankets and tarps, I knew I was in good hands.
I proceeded to spend the entire day with dozens of
wonderful, beautiful, passionate "open hearted people"
whose excitement gradually built up along with mine over
six hours to the dizzying climax at about 7:30. We formed
a pact that we would defend one another's spaces from
latecomers, so I was free to wander around the festival
with the certain knowledge that my tiny portion of front
row grass would be saved by people behind me! What a
great feeling of trust. North Mississippi Allstars and
Susan Tedeschi were both fine, but could any of us really
concentrate on those when we knew that we would soon see
Neil from less than a dozen feet away so soon?
I am a new convert to general admission seats. With these,
the fans in the front are the most passionate, as opposed
to assigned seating, when the front rows are generally
filled with the ones with the most money.
Everyone around me was telling stories about our Neil
experiences, sharing love and affection. One guy hadn't
seen Neil since the mid-seventies, though he knew every
song. There were other Rusties, people in their twenties
through their sixties. All of us had this look of
bewilderment on our faces - a dream come true - front row
Neil - was about to happen. Finally, the blue eyed, blond
haired, 27 year old beautiful girl of my dreams appeared to
my left, and she gave me the best "water" I've ever had
(thanks, Bri!). She kept grabbing my shoulder and
exclaiming, "Aren't you SO EXCITED!!!!!" And then the old
hippie behind me "brought out something for the trip"(it
wasn't old, but it sure was good), which just served to
amplify the electricity in the air.
Finally, as the sky turned a stunning Rocky Mountain
early-evening dark blue, Grandpa and Jed walked out onto
the porch. Yes, I have seen Larry Cragg before at Neil
shows, but he is exactly the way I imagined Grandpa to be
listening to the album. I kept yelling "Grandpa! Yeah!
Grandpa!" Of course, Larry heard me from 15 feet away - he
put his "Greendale Times" down slightly, smiled at me, and
nodded. I was just trying to convey how much his character
means to me - how much he made me laugh and cry.
Then Neil and the Horse came out, and it all became a blur.
As Neil began to coax his majestic guitar to sing out
across the mountains, it was all a dream come true. I
can't remember being so excited and high and purely happy.
Front row, virtually center, with dozens of my closest
friends that I had never met before that day, and the
musical soul that has been the soundtrack to much of my
last eight years.
Neil was wearing his Greendale High t-shirt (was that the
one Rusties made?), and he had his baseball cap pulled down
low just above his eyes. As he started singing, I realized
that I was one of the few who was singing all of the words.
I was pointing at Neil and shouting the words right back
at him "I won't retire but I might retread..." There were
several periods I know he was looking down at me and
noticing me singing...in my mind he and I were just having
a singalong. I love how Grandpa was pointing toward Neil
as the words "seems like that guy singing this song's been
doin' it for a long time."
When my heroine, Sun Green came on, we let out a scream.
My oh my - she I more beautiful than I had even imagined.
And such a great actress.
"A little love and affection..." Tears pour. Neil's guitar
soul was as large as this verdant mountain meadow that was
on top of the world.
"Rolling through the fighting, rolling through the
religious wars," how could Neil be more relevant?"
Throughout the whole show, all of us in the front were
dancing with each other, hugging each other, crying with
I love the paperboy running across the stage tossing
Greendale Times toward the audience and around the stage.
After "Fallin' From Above" ended, Neil said something like
"Thanks folks, we appreciate it. We still remember our old
songs - we'll play some of those later We're gonna play
some songs about a place called Greendale."
Oh my God, in "Double E," I was blown away that not only is
Sun Green a "natural beauty," but she really can dance!
She certainly is "hot enough to burn the house down." In
this song, my favorite actions on stage are the mob rising
up with their shovels when the renamed the Double L, and
also when Grandma is driving in her car, "living in the
summer of love."
I was struck by how focused Neil looked throughout the show
- he was clearly giving it his all. He clearly loves this
album and these characters, and he was trying his best to
pass on this love to the audience.
One of the greatest things about this show is that Neil
seems to expand upon the story and his lyrics - in ways
that strike the strongest chord inside of me. For example,
after "Devil's Sidewalk," the back view screen displayed a
billboard that read: "Clear Channel - Support Our War." It
just brings back the absolute insanity that happened when
the Dixie Chicks actually had the audacity to QUESTION our
appointed President about unleashing hell around the
world. How unpatriotic! And then Clear Channel
blacklisted them! I can't think of anything more American
than questioning the government. And now it has come to
the point where people feel the need to apologize for doing
so. Also, at the end of "Leave the Driving, during the
lyrics" But there's no need to worry/There's no reason to
fuss/Just go on about your work now/And leave the drivin'
to us/And we'll be watching you/No matter what you do/And
you can do your part/By watchin' others too" Neil flashed
on the words "Patriot Act" and footage of Mr. Ashcroft. He
was speaking exactly what I feel, and I hadn't realized
that this was the meaning of the lyrics. He was speaking
to my soul. Many a middle finger was raised. Actually, I
can't say that for sure. One of the strange things about
being in the front row is that I really had no idea what
the rest of the crowd was doing, except for the dozen or so
friends around me. Well, at least I was sure flipping off
I love the scene of Grandma comforting Grandpa when he sees
the news about Jed in the paper, and then he is great when
he preached about trying not to get too old....
The guitar intro to "Carmichael" is haunting. Such a
classic. It is always a dilemma at a Neil show whether to
close your eyes or watch the man. Interesting how at
Greendale shows, you also have a third option - watching
the actors on stage. Sensory overload! Anyway, in the
intro the "Carmichael," it's the perfect time to close your
Carmichael's widow is absolutely hilarious when she starts
dancing during "Remember , hey Mr. Las Vegas" in her
funeral veil - more than a bit incongruous!
"Bandit"....Neil told us, "Sing along if you'd like." This
is where things really started getting overwhelming. There
was almost too much emotion coming from Neil. At this
point in the show I could barely handle it. What a pure
song of passion. I tried to sing along, yes, but things
got difficult. "Someday you'll find everything you're
looking for." This line means so much to me. "Trying to
get through but not be through." Neil, I can't stand it.
Without my friends beside me, I never would have made it.
"Grandpa's Interview" is a classic. Great guitar, and
powerful lyrics of Grandpa. The audience seemed to really
get into this. Throughout this song, people cheered: at
"These people don't have any respect," "You can stick `em
where the sun don't shine," and "It ain't an honor to be
on TV, and it ain't a duty either."
Oh my God, Grandpa's death scene was unexpectedly traumatic
for me. I knew it was coming, of course, but seeing
Grandpa fall forward onto the porch's post, clutching it as
he slowly faded down.. I watched wide-eyed and teary eyed
and this bastion of goodness, love, and honor passed away
in front of me. Clearly I am sentimental bastard, but my
affection for Grandpa's character was amplified so much by
seeing him represented by Larry in the show... "Share your
lovin' and you live so long..."
The crowd really cheered when Neil sang, "Grandpa died
like a hero/ Fighting for freedom and silence/Trying to
stop the media/Trying to be anonymous."
Then Neil throws on more heartache in "Bringin' Down
Dinner," like I can handle it. Neil went over to the pump
organ and demolished my heart as my beloved Sun Green has
to face the reality of her Grandpa's death. "The evening
fog was rolling in...tender as a mother's love." Sun's
reaction when Grandma says "You're such a beautiful girl,"
is great - turning away in embarrassment, like any 18 year
old girl would do.
Sun Green collapsing into Grandma's arms is a wonderfully
But instead of wallowing in her pity, this girl explodes
into a symbol of strength and a source of brilliant
inspiration and hope in the song "Sun Green." I can't
believe Neil came up with this character to inspire me when
life seemed devoid of heroes at this fragile time. Neil,
through Sun, strikes gold in the following lines: "When the
city is plunged into darkness/by an unpredicted rolling
blackout/The White House always blames the governor
Saying the solution is to vote him out...Power Co's working
with the White House/to paralyze our state with fear."
God, these bitter lines remind me that Neil has always
followed Dylan's advice: "May you always know the truth and
see their lights surrounding you."
The dancers at John Lee's bar rock! This scene was
perfect, and I love how the Imitators were playing mops as
guitars. Once again, Sun Green is "dancing on the light
from star to star," being beautiful, hot, and wonderful.
It's a great video clip of Sun and Earth getting stopped at
the Golden Gate Bridge, by the CHP, only for the car to
pull away with Sun giving the cops this fantastic look of
defiance and freedom. She is a goddess as far as I'm
Now it's the climax - can I handle it?
"SAVE THE PLANET FOR ANOTHER DAY!"
The whole ensemble out on stage - who in the world in this
"DON'T CARE WHAT THE GOVERNMENTS SAY - THEY'RE ALL BOUGHT
AND PAID FOR ANYWAY!"
Society always laments the lack of heroes that can inflame
the soul with a desire to do good - hey society, wake up --
Neil's been doing this for 35 years.
"YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IF YOU REALLY TRY!"
People in this world are paralyzed with the inability to
follow their dreams, "living in the fear of the wrong
decisions, paranoid schizophrenic visions.."
"SAVE ALASKA - LET THE CARIBOU STAY!"
Oh, the administration craving to defile the Alaskan
Wildlife Refuge in the name of greed...
"BE THE MAGIC IN THE NORTHERN LIGHTS!"
Oh, George W. demolishing the Clean Air Act...
"BE THE OCEAN AS IT MEETS THE SKY!"
Never stop inspiring others - let your beauty explode, be a
source of hope, peace and light...
"BE THE RAIN YOU REMEMBER FALLING!"
Never stop deriving hope and strength from your past, from
the "trunks of memories" you have been blessed with...
And then, the flag, the Stars and Stripes being unfurled
and brought across the stage...Let the right never forget
that the true patriots are the ones who have the courage to
stand up against popular opinion and demand love, peace,
light, affection, and a Mother Earth that will survive for
our grandchildren's grandchildren... an environment not
being raped by the "greedy hand" of lies, deceit, and
Neil was roaming around the stage, weaving through the
dancers, then it was over, and the ensemble all bowed, and
the Greendale story was over.
The rest was icing on the cake. The footage of the Rust
Never Sleeps tour was fantastic. I believe he played Hey,
Hey, My, My, Powderfinger (an extra long version), Rockin'
in the Free World, and Love to Burn. During this last one,
his cap fell off, and he proceeded to repeatedly hit his
guitar with it, creating great Crazy Horse sound. I also
noticed that, at several points during the show, he was
playing the guitar with the palm of his hand. The crowd
would not let him go, so he came back and played "Cinnamon
Girl," and then a sublime "Cortez." Please don't take this
encore setlist as gospel - I may have forgotten a song, or
the order... I was truly in the afterglow of Greendale,
although I loved each of his encore songs, and with Pancho
joining up on guitar the Crazy Horse sound was augmented
substantially. By the way, I couldn't hear any of his
keyboard during Greendale, but maybe I just wasn't
listening for it.
After the rapturous show ended, our group up front was
simply dazed. We didn't even move. After fifteen minutes
of goofy grins, hugs, and phone numbers being exchanged,
finally security asked us to move along.
Yes, this raised the bar on concerts. I have seen so many
musicians in concert, but the confluence of everything
wonderful formed the Greatest Show. I can't quite see how
it could be duplicated. The people I stood and danced
with...the front row...the killer album...the artists...the
natural beauty...and the feeling I emerged with: it's never
too late to make a difference, to make the world a better
place...to love and respect others...
Thanks and love to my new friends in and around the front
row. And thanks to Neil. Nobody else from the sixties is
still doing what you are doing - still being fresh as ever,
and ceaselessly challenging yourself and your creativity.
Rock and roll will never die.
By Jonathan Neal aka MORNING SON
More Greendale news and photos
During Labor Day Weekend, throughout two days at the Jazz
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