Sunday, February 13, 2011

Neil Young Tribute @Carnegie Hall, Feb. 10th

To me, tribute shows are kind of a mixed bag.  We go because we adore and want to celebrate the illustrious career of a prolific artist, yet we bring certain expectations, perhaps unfairly so, and I end up walking away feeling somewhat elated, a tad disappointed (unlike last year's superb and much cheaper Dylan Fest).  Thursday night’s Neil Young tribute at Carnegie Hall felt par for the course to me.  While producer Michael Dorf clearly has the vision and pull to do this on a yearly basis (starting with the Joni Mitchell tribute that I attended five years ago in the same venue) and I applaud that effort, especially since these shows benefit a number of worthwhile charities, I cannot turn off my critical eye and ignore the evening’s shortcomings.

(More words, a pic, a video and the setlist after the jump.)

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be front and center in the pit for Neil Young’s two nights at MSG.  It was my first time seeing him live, and he really knocked my socks off.  Each night he rocked out for 2-1/2 hours, keeping the energy going and making us forget how long we were on our feet.  At Carnegie Hall, however, the majority of the performers played quiet tunes that felt at times somber and a little sleep-inducing.  Perhaps it was the venue and being seated (who shushes in between songs at a concert?), or maybe it was the focus on keeping it simple and largely acoustic, but I felt a little distracted and often referred to the setlist printed in the program to see what was next.  I found myself wishing a number of the performers had more than one song each.  It's not uncommon that most performers actually need a few songs to warm up to the crowd, so having to switch up after every song really disrupted the flow of what could have been a really strong evening.  Even the normally attention-grabbing Glen Hansard felt subdued to me.

Anyway, the complications of a tribute show aside, a few of the performers really stood out for me.  Joe Purdy proved to be a great opener, alone on his guitar, playing the humble singer-songwriter role well.  Bettye LaVette did a great rendition of “Heart Of Gold” that she apparently released in the early ‘70s, joking that she was probably the only sister into Neil Young back in the day.  I was excited to hear J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. shred on “Cortez The Killer.”  Granted, it’s probably easier to dazzle with Young’s electric guitar-focused rock than his quiet acoustic pieces, but by the level of applause, I think everyone agreed that Jakob Dylan on “Southern Man” and The Roots (with some of The Dirty Projectors as backup) on “Down By The River” tied for most energetic.  And last, but definitely not least, my queen, Patti Smith, ended the main set with a quiet but stirring “It’s A Dream” though she did goof it up a little and stood there looking a little sheepish, waiting for her daughter on piano to catch her up on the missed verse.  But really, Patti can do no wrong for me.

As expected, most of the lineup came out to join the fantastic “house band” fronted by Larry Campbell for a stirring encore of “Ohio” followed by “Hey Hey, My My.”  The last two songs really captured what I was hoping to get all along for the 2 hours we were there – the restless energy that permeates Young’s work, be it a drifting song like “Harvest Moon” or the fuzzed out grunge of his rockingest pieces.  I only wish that momentum could have been carried throughout the show.

Here's a video I snuck of Glen Hansard covering Neil Young's "Tell Me Why":

And the setlist:

Joe Purdy "Out on the Weekend"
Joan Osborne "Old Man"
Bettye LaVette "Heart Of Gold"
J Mascis "Cortez The Killer"
Ben Ottewell (of Gomez) "Unknown Legend"
The Wood Brothers "Sugar Mountain"
Shawn Colvin "Birds"
DeVotchKa "Only Love Can Break Your Heart"
Mason Jennings "Red Sun"
Nada Surf "Barstool Blues"
Bebel Gilberto "Harvest Moon"
Cowboy Junkies "Don't Let It Bring You Down"
Keller Williams "Comes A Time"
Glen Hansard "Tell Me Why"
Juliana Hatfield & Evan Dando "Cinnamon Girl"
Aaron Neville "Helpless"
Jakob Dylan "Southern Man"
Pete Yorn "Rockin' In The Free World"
The Roots "Down By The RIver"
Patti Smith with Jessie Smith "It's A Dream"


"Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)"

1 comment:

shannon said...

Thanks for this review and the video. We've linked to it from our Frames site, hope that's okay!