Neil Young Concert Review

Greendale Tour, Scranton, PA - 09/06/2003

"Being The Rain" by Thrasher

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Neil Young Concert Review originally published on Human Highway ---

The most memorable concerts are those where the artist causes me to slip away into another dimension so that I forget about everything else but what's happening up on stage. It's been awhile since Neil Young and Crazy Horse let me slip into the zone. Maybe not since the 1999 Solo Acoustic shows has any Neil performance so riveted and captivated me as the Greendale shows.

In comparison to the Columbia 6/25 concert, last night's performance in Scranton was a night where Neil was really in the zone and I just slipped away. Maybe not as far over the edge as Front Row Bob the Writer at Concord, CA, 7/20/03 but pretty far for Thrasher.

I think this will be considered to be a somewhat unique show and a highlight on the Greendale tour. Unlike the show I saw earlier on the tour where I heard numerous calls for various classics like "Southern Man" during the Greendale set and mutterings during Neil's between song patter about "snapping out of it", last night in Scranton I heard no cat calls for the hits. No comments about what's this Greendale stuff.

The crowd was totally into Greendale from the moment the lights went down until the first encore break. And the Scranton crowd was on their feet for much of the Greendale set. From where we stood on the fifth row on the left side, it seemed like many were standing for the entire Greendale set and very into it.

I guess this reviewer didn't quite get it. He left early due to "time constraints". (Translation:beat the traffic/I'm bored.) Here's what the Scranton Times concert review said:

I don't know whether it was the Saturday night effect, the beautiful crisp cool mountain air at the Montage ski resort, or the 24 oz beers being served but this crowd came to have a good time and rock. By the time the encores began, security had lost complete control of the mosh pit zone. It seemed that a considerable number of folks managed to get down into the front of the stage area and folks were actually dancing in the aisles.

Uncharacteristically, the venue didn't have the normal crowd control barrier that separates the stage from the audience by about 4 feet. Folks were packed up directly against the stage and things got pretty wild during the encores. At one point, several fans jumped on the stage and had to be tossed off by security. But I'll come back to the tumultuous close a little later.

Emmylou Harris opened and gave a great set with Buddy Miller. She played Wrecking Ball and commented on how much she was honored to open for Neil. A great set that got the evening off to a warm start. Later Emmylou would come out during Be The Rain and dance around with everyone.

Neil and Crazy Horse came on about 8:30 and launched into the standard Greendale setlist. At this point, I was quite familiar with the material having heard the Europe solo shows, the electric shows, and now the official album. While listening to the album I found myself visualizing the stage set. I can't say enough about how much the staging brings the whole Greendale story to life. Greendale is definitely some of Neil's strongest work since the Sleeps with Angels and Mirror Ball period in terms of musical vision.

Those reviews which discuss the loose and/or jumbled themes are definitely missing something because anyone who comes away from the shows not seeing and hearing how musically and thematically cohesive Greendale is must be blinded by the politics of Neil's message. Either that they don't care to try and understand the message.

Reviewers like those at the Toronto Sun seem to be blinded by Neil's politics and fail to grasp the beauty of Greendale's poetry. Mary Dickie is humourous to the point of absurdity in reviewing the 9/4 Toronto concert:

A little more on target, here's what the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader concert review said: My highlights included the soaring and wrenching Carmichael, the beautiful solo acoustic Bandit, and the funereal dirge on pump organ of Bringin Down Dinner. Then the set closing numbers Sun Green and Be The Rain. It was really fun to be with so many folks who were pumping their fists and flashing the peace sign. Lyrics like "We've gotta job to do, we've got to save Alaska" don't come across too well in print and don't rank very high on Neil's creative lyrics list but work amazingly well in the choreographed Greendale production with the sets, projected visuals and actors singing and dancing.

As for the encore, it was pretty delirious from where we were moshing about. I thought Down by the River was quite incredible and hypnotic with the audience singing along on "Be on my side, I'll be on your side". The 12 minute, DBTR was a simmering, controlled burn Tour de Force where Crazy Horse raged in all their ragged glory. Cortez was majestic as always in conjuring up images of foreign conquerors invading. (Hmm, anyone see a theme here?) Even the oblique Powderfinger took on sinister tones with Neil sneering out the lines, "I pulled the trigger and saw my face flash in the sky" followed by a crescendo of feedback drenched notes.

By the time of the final encore of Rockin in The Free World (lyrics meaning), fans were being pulled from the stage, and hats, t-shirts, and banners were being tossed towards Neil, and the place was going bonkers. Neil added some lines to RITFW along the lines of "Boys are dying everyday cause we didn't have a plan". After the taps improv, Neil took his Old Black guitar and aimed the neck at the audience with a kinder, gentler machine gun hand. He fired off a few more heavy feedback rounds, brought the evening to a close, waved goodbye and walked off.

I guess that's when I realized how much of an anthem Rockin in The Free World is having gone from the theme song for the fall of a Superpower at the Berlin wall in 1989 to the rising of a Superpower in 2003. Now if we can only get the United Nations to Support Our War.

"You can make a difference if you really try."


Greendale: Falling From Above, Double E, Devil's Sidewalk, Leave The Driving, Carmichael, Bandit, Grandpa's Interview, Bringing Down Dinner, Sun Green, Be The Rain

Encore #1: Hey Hey, My My , Down By The River , Sedan Delivery , Powderfinger , Prisoners Of Rock 'n' Roll

Encore #2: Cinnamon Girl , Cortez The Killer

Encore #3: Rockin' In The Free World

For more Greendale setlists from 2003 tour, see Sugar Mountain.

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