photos by Expecting To Fly
Neil Young News
The following page is one of a series of posts to the Neil Young mailing list Rust on the amazing August 2005 concerts at the original Grand Ol Opry historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. The series reveals the pure ethic of a Neil Young fan: "Don't Be Denied!" Here are Rustie John Duncan's exhaustive tales from Nashville in 10 parts.
Postcard from Nashville Part 1 Postcards from Nashville From:
"John Duncan" <dunca@...>
A Concert Odyssey by John Duncan
Date: Sat Aug 20, 2005 9:49 am
Subject: Postcard from Nashville Pt 6 2nd night
It's 8am here in Nashville and I think I went to bed at about 4. We
did indeed get into the aftershow - there was no list and so we sort
of adopted it as a second Rustfest of the day, only this time with a
couple of free drinks courtesy of Warners. It was Meryl Streep's
first Rustfest and though she didn't actually talk much to us
(technically speaking not at all) she was near enough to the rest of
us standing against the wall to be considered a lurking participant.
Okay, okay, she was just in the drinks queue as it passed by our
perch on top of the second air-conditioning vent from the left. (She
So what about the second night? It was pretty much agreed by our
party that Neil was really in the zone on the second night. The
first night was very very good, but the second night just seemed a
tiny weeny bit more relaxed and easygoing for Neil and the whole
band and he seemed to feel loess constricted by the fear of messing
it all up. I guess it must have felt like recording the second take
of a song when you know you've done a good job first time out.
Nothing to lose.
This time I took longer notes of what he said between songs and
while it was broadly similar to the previous night's chatting, it
wasn't exactly the same. And I have four pages of longhand notes
that I can just about read instead of one page of shorthand that I
can't. They aren't perfect but I hope they'll add something to
yesterday's post. The same caveats as yesterday apply...
The curtains part and Neil is sitting on a chair, in a grey,
slightly shiny suit already two or three chords into the song, (and
when I say shiny it would be at the opposite end of the shiny scale
from gold lame, but it would still be officially shiny). He looks
very country. His right foot is slightly further forward than his
left, he's looking intently down at the guitar ands from our balcony
seats he looks every bit the classically posed country singer. This
song sounds even better than it did yesterday.
2. No Wonder
After the applause has died down, a crew of people hurry on and
start moving things on and off. They swarm on to the stage. They've
all rehearsed this - they don't look panicked or hurried like
standard tour roadies they just hustle around the stage in no
apparrent order until the new stage set-up is in place. Meanwhile
Neil stalks the stage, strolling impatiently and nervously like an
expectant father in a maternity ward - trying not to look tense, or
over-eager either but obviously finding it extremely hard. Limbo he
called it. In the gap before another song he actually apologised to
the crowd (none of whom had paid remember) for the delays and said
he didn't mean to be rude. You could almost see Neil paying the
price for letting go of some spontaneity to achieve this film. He
wanted it and knew it had to be done, but it looked like it was
killing him to treat an audience like this. No one in the audience
felt hard done by at all as far as I could tell. But he felt it
Neil: "I love this place, it's like a church. Well, it is a church.
Funny how [illegible writing] - [I think he said - ] like this
church the next song has different things going on in it."
The line that leapt out and made me want to listen harder was "That
song from 9/11 keeps ringing in my head" Does he mean Let's Roll?
Again I loved this song even more on second listening - some of the
guitar work was Bluenotishly aggressive...which I rate to be a good
3. Falling from the Face of the Earth.
He tells the story of how the song came about. "When I was recording
here I used to start writing a song at night and finish it in the
morning. Anyway after 2 songs I was dead in the water. There was
something on my mind but I didn't know what. I got back one evening
and picked up a message from a friend in New York who was concerned
about some things that had happened. I was very moved by the message
and I copied it down. [Smiling] I ain't telling you who the friend
is cos I'm not sharing writing credits [laughs from audience]. I've
told him that."
This is the one song that I thought weakened its grip on me on
second listen. I still loved the chorus but the squeaky high vocals
have echoes of some of the self-consciously stylised Are You
Passionate? material. And bits of Greendale. But oddly it was still
the chorus that was there in my head this morning with. Isn't art a
4. Far from Home
Neil: "When I was 8 years old I was a chicken farmer. I had about 35
of them. My daddy used to take me out on the weekend delivering eggs
and copies of the newspaper he used to work for [illegible]- the
weekend editions. One day I got home and my daddy had bought a
plastic Arthur Godfrey ukelele. I looked at it - I didn't really
know what it was, though I'd seen it in the store where I bought
45s. He moved his hands along it and sang and He played Bury me Out
on the Prairie and gave me a big smile. You gotta understand I'd
never seen my daddy sing or play anything. [illegible] when the
family got together - Uncle Bob, Dad, Grandma. Anyway, here's a song
The really moving bit was what he said after the song. "That song
means a lot to me. [The other day] I started crying in the middle of
it. It's a family thing."
So I really do think this material is coming from the broken heart
of someone whose father has passed away and left him to think about
the past and all the things you can't bring back...It starts to make
sense of why the Archives seem linked in Neil's mind to the
completion of this album. Prairie Wind is all about treasuring your
past and opening your heart to regret without shame.
5. It's A Dream.
My favourite again. Neil: "This next song is about my home in
Canada. How things change. New cars, new buildings. [pause] I wonder
how Hank would've felt if he'd stepped out on the way to Tootsie's
and seen the Gaylord Convention Centre over there. Things have
changed in Nashville, but the spirit's still here, and that's a good
This song still stands out for me. There's a tinkling insistent high
piano note that gives it a dreamlike quality, sweeping well arranged
strings and Neil's high pitched voice at its best working within the
neat and tidy tide of the arrangement like the grit in an oyster. I
can't get the chorus out of my head. "It's a dream/, only a dream/.
And it's fading now/. Fading away."
[more follows in part 7]
Postcards from Nashville
"John Duncan" <dunca@...>