Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Neil Young @MSG, Dec. 16th

On the last night of a tour, Wawa said, sometimes bands like to mix it up. So we looked forward to what might happen, and the night did not disappoint. This time we (and Julie1) got to MSG at about the same time as the night before, just before opener Everest hit the stage. We had enjoyed this new band, and this second occasion proved no less interesting. Yes, The Watson Twins showed up again, but on a cover of Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Going Nowhere," Wilco members John Stirrat and Pat Sansone came on to lend backup vocals. Cute!

Next, it was Wilco's turn to get the crowd going. Wawa pleaded that they not start with "Via Chicago" and perhaps they heard him because we heard the opening notes of "You Are My Face." We looked at each other bemusedly, wondering if anything would be switched up for this set -- would it just be song order, or additional songs (please no "Kidsmoke!"), and surely, Wilco didn't stick to the program. They made us happy with three songs in a row that they hadn't played on Monday ("I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," "Handshake Drugs" and "A Shot in the Arm") before going back to probably the most impressive track off their latest album, Sky Blue Sky, with "Impossible Germany" (I am a big fan of the extended buildup of guitar layering leading to what looks like Jeff Tweedy and Sansone having guitar sex). For fun, Tweedy brought out his son Spencer to play drums on "Late Greats" and we sang Happy Birthday to him as well. And if things couldn't get more interesting, on "Jesus, Etc." Norah Jones and two other ladies came out to sing backup:

I was happy to see the boys all loose and happy. They might not have been as tight as the night before, but they were charming as always. As they closed out their set with "I'm the Man Who Loves You" and Glenn Kotche stood up above his drum kit, drumstick raised in air, Tweedy said that might be the last time we'd see that. What did that mean??, we wondered. Is Kotche quitting the band? Are they retiring that song? God, I hope not to both!

So, yeah, Neil Young truly is the bat shit crazy old uncle of Rock 'n Roll. With the same messy hair, paint-splattered jacket and running shoes on again, he played essentially the same setlist as the night before (with the addition of another 'car' song and the flipflopping of two songs at the end) but brought the same amount of energy that would be impressive for anyone, let alone someone in his 60s.

We were breathless through the first third of the set (the more electrified portion), kinda bored during the seemingly neverending middle stretch of car songs (dude, we get you like electric cars and stuff, but really? "Cough Up the Bucks" really is a lemon if you want to extend the metaphor!), and restored in the grungy last part, especially when everyone on the tour came out to sing along with "Rockin' in the Free World." Yeah, it is a corny-ass song but we loved it anyway.

I was happy to see all the bands come out and take their bows. It really was a memorable night. Seeing Jeff Tweedy with Neil Young gave my music geek self quite a thrill.

(Jeff Tweedy, Pegi Young, Neil Young, Tweedy's younger son, Everest's Russell Pollard)

I was able to record two of my favorite Neil Young songs last night -- the rockin' "Cinnamon Girl" and "Needle & the Damage Done." Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Neil Young @MSG, Dec. 15th

(I owe this blog a review of TVOTR from October -- eek! -- and of Fishbone from November, but I couldn't resist putting last night's amazing show up!)

Last night was my first time seeing the legend, Neil Young. I have always considered him to be one to cross off on my list of must-sees, but difficulty in scoring reasonably priced tickets to his prior shows had kept me from seeing him. When he announced two nights at MSG a few months ago with the added bonus of my beloved Wilco as an opener, I jumped at the opportunity, especially since they made the front GA/Pit section affordable (well, sort of).

Wawa and I got there early enough to be at the front of the Pit and to catch the first opener, a sleepy band called Everest. They had a solid, jammy sound -- reminded me a bit of the time I saw Sam Roberts -- and even pulled out the not-so-creepy-anymore Watson Twins as backup for a few songs. I could envision really enjoying them at a smaller venue like Bowery Ballroom.

Wilco came on and played a short set of nine songs -- about 50 minutes worth. They were tight and did a nice sampler platter of their music, giving the audience a bit of the old and the new, the alt-country, the jam and the blips and boops. Wawa was dismayed to hear "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" even though it is a great song because it is such a time-consumer, and they were working under time limits, but whatevs. I'm generally happy to see Wilco whenever I can. They are so fantastic live, and it was great to see them play a large venue like MSG. And Jeff Tweedy's awkward little dance during "Hummingbird" always makes me happy!

I had been looking at recent setlists from Neil Young's Fall tour and was surprised that he did not hit the stage until 10:10. Would New York be shafted by a curfew and get a shorter setlist? No way, man! Neil did not disappoint -- he played a full set of 25 songs for about 2 hours and 25 minutes. It was chock full of old songs I knew including my favorite "Cinnamon Girl" and "Heart of Gold" and a stunningly gorgeous "Needle and the Damage Done."

I was surprised by how hard this dude rocked! He did not pause for much banter and played every electrified hard song as though it were his last one of the evening. Even a stale song like "Rockin' in the Free World" felt fresh and new to me. I felt fortunate to be able to see him so close and hear ever word during a surprisingly good sound mix for the front. Unlike the times I've seen Bob Dylan, another old fogey, this rumpled mess of a man brought it. He closed out the evening with a nutso cover version of The Beatles' "A Day in the Life" which broke several of his guitar strings so bad, he ended up thrashing his guitar with the broken strings.

Man, that was insane! I really felt like I got my money's worth with this evening, and can't wait to repeat it all again tonight! =)

Here he is playing "Heart of Gold":