July 3, 2003 12:24 PM   Subscribe

Greendale. For his recent tour, Neil Young is staying true to form and surprising the hell out of people by performing his new multimedia-rock-opera-dvd-epic-type-thing in its entirety and yelling at the increasingly unruly audience who came to hear his classics. Although a project of this magnitude has long been the domain of wonderfully, unashamedly pompous old bands in the 70's, I find myself rather intrieged. Am I alone in welcoming this kind of concert surprise?
posted by ghastlyfop (47 comments total)
If it's anything like Human Highway, I'm intrigued too, and a little scared.

"It takes a worried man, to sing a worried song..."
posted by transona5 at 12:29 PM on July 3, 2003

No, you're not alone. Though if it's just the two of us, Young's in trouble. Seriously, Neil has been changing all through his career with the only constants being his weirdness, his strangled whine singing, and a guitar--I'm a big fan, though, don't get me wrong. Saw him live on the Blue Note tour (This Bud's For You!) and loved it. Still, from the yelling at the audience article: "Santana on Valium" great metaphor! I'm looking forward to seeing the Greendale DVD.
posted by billsaysthis at 12:32 PM on July 3, 2003

And speaking of the Who, apparently Townsend has a new rock opera queued up for release.
posted by billsaysthis at 12:33 PM on July 3, 2003

I caught the Greendale tour show in Toronto's Air Canada Centre. It was absoulutely amazing. Neil has a history of playing entire albums live before they've been released. That's how he did "Rust Never Sleeps", which features a lot of songs that were recorded live.

Greendale isn't perfect, but it's still better than I expected.
posted by websavvy at 12:34 PM on July 3, 2003

I applaud him. A concept album is a difficult beast to pull off. (although admittedly, I love all those "pompous old bands in the 70's")

Any "fan" that goes to a concert with expectations of hearing certain songs deserves to be dissappointed.
posted by GeekAnimator at 12:39 PM on July 3, 2003

I don't like most songs the first time I listen to them. It takes a few rotations in the CD player for the cream to come to the top. So hearing new songs in concert doesn't really do much for me, unless they are really good.

A whole concert of new stuff would drive me batty.
posted by smackfu at 12:45 PM on July 3, 2003

Indeed, yeah. I lurrrrve "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" and "Quadrophenia."
That said, I think I'm the type that might get distracted by the dickheads shouting for "Heart of Gold" and "Hey Hey My My."
As long as he doesn't pull out "Let's Roll" I'm there.
posted by ghastlyfop at 12:46 PM on July 3, 2003

I wish I hadn't read reviews of his bio. Now I don't even like to think about him, let alone listen to him. Another downside of the celebrity culture, I s'pose.
posted by stonerose at 12:46 PM on July 3, 2003

the all-time absolute best surprise that could possibly ever befall me at a neil young concert would be his failure to show.
posted by quonsar at 12:49 PM on July 3, 2003

What about his bio, stonerose? I haven't read it but I've heard good things about it...
posted by ghastlyfop at 12:53 PM on July 3, 2003

I recently avoided a Lou Reed show because of his new album, "The Raven," a concept album about Poe in which he rhymes "Edgar Allan Poe" with "the boy next do'". There's something to be said for playing the old stuff - which it turned out he mostly did.
posted by transona5 at 12:55 PM on July 3, 2003

In case anyone cares, my wife, who isn't a big Neil Young fan, went to the Greendale show and thought it was really good. She hadn't been exposed to the music prior to that.
posted by websavvy at 12:58 PM on July 3, 2003

FWIW, he only did one Greendale tune at Bonnaroo--the rest of the show was old classics, and it was fantastic.
posted by muckster at 1:05 PM on July 3, 2003

Well, I know nothing about the Greendale stuff, but I have to say I don't think much of taking $65-$85 dollars a head to entertain people and then getting angry at them for not being entertained.
posted by JanetLand at 1:14 PM on July 3, 2003

Hell with that. I want to hear the songs that made him famous. I'm not paying 60 bucks for the 'beta'. If they want to play all new songs as a test then have a free show.

I went to a Bare Naked Ladies concert where we stood in the rain and all they played were songs from the 'new album not yet released'. Then they played all their classics in a 3 minute jam feast.

posted by Yossarian at 1:21 PM on July 3, 2003

ghastlyfop: You left out Styx's Kilroy was Here boondoggle, you heathen! 8)
posted by Cerebus at 1:25 PM on July 3, 2003

hooray neil!
posted by corpse at 1:50 PM on July 3, 2003

What Yossarian said. I was once working with a well known guitar band in the early nineties. Said band played a festival in France, and having been in the studio for the previous month, decided to only play new material (they felt they had matured). It was almost Spinal Tap as the band plowed through an entire set of unheard material to a crowd who only wanted the old favourites.

I love it when my favourite band / artist does something new, but it pisses me off when they start to believe that everything they do is going to be great and therefore an entire set (or even a majority set) of new material will blow the crowds minds.

Having said that I've never been a Neil Young fan, so I'd have no idea what he was playing.
posted by ciderwoman at 2:02 PM on July 3, 2003

...for very good reason, Cerebus! It's Styx!
posted by ghastlyfop at 2:02 PM on July 3, 2003

I was actually at this Atlanta show, and I have to admit I had nooo idea it was a show of new tunes from a new concept album in its entirety.

That said, I really enjoyed it, but the crowd was definitely there for some classics. And the songs are typical Neil Young, I don't know what the reviewer was expecting. 1/2 of the album was really good songs, very looong solos.

There was a feeling creeping in about 3 songs in that, oh these are all new, and oh there's an order (he gave story fill ins between songs) and oh its a concept album. So you either went with it, or you rejected it. The thing is, when are you gonna get to see someone you really like (and if you're dishing out 60 bucks for a ticket you better like em) perform a concept album (not actually done all that often) in its entirety w/ lights and some actors (although slightly overdone) like a big stage show. At the very least it's interesting.

Also after the Vegas remark, the crowd actually cheered , fairly ignorant of the fact he was making fun of them, not in defiance, but in acceptance. That kinda show. And he did give 3 kick ass encores of old stuff.
posted by dig_duggler at 2:11 PM on July 3, 2003

first off, i think its incredible that he is taking chances and trying to say more and sound different.

but in my book, charging 65 to 85 bucks a head to folks that think they are gonna get a standard neil young show is pretty much bullshit.

those people paid to see the songs that made the name neil young worth 80 bucks, not untested unheard material that no one will remember in 30 years. if he wants to be an artist and experiment, he should play smaller places, charge less and advertise it as something like 'greendale performed by neil young'... plenty of people would still show up, and they wouldnt feel let down.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 2:20 PM on July 3, 2003

I went to a Bare Naked Ladies concert...

...see, now there's ya problem, right there.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:59 PM on July 3, 2003

Hell, I saw Neil ten years ago in Atlanta (with Social Distortion & Sonic Youth opening up. Whatta bill.) and even though the tickets said "...AND CRAZY HORSE" in big black letters there were still folks there distressed and dismayed by the lack of soothing acoustic numbers and (what I saw as) the sheer glorious cacophony of it all.

"I wanted to hear, like, Harvest and stuff like that! Not this noise!" someone in the row in front of me complained to his spouse while mopping spilled chardonnay off his khakis. These were the same people who had bolted from their seats within the first moments of Sonic Youth's set, saying, "we've got to call the sitter."

So I killed him. And his pretty wife, too.
(Dear Mr. Ashcroft: the previous sentence and the sentence frangment which follows it are untrue.)

I'd like to see Greendale. Neil Young's brilliant-to-crap ratio is higher than most artists who've put out as much stuff as he has.

But I wouldn't pay $80 bucks to see any show unless they came and set up in my living room.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:32 PM on July 3, 2003

No one looks at Springsteen's Tunnel of Love as a concept album, for some reason, but it is. An amzing one, of course.
posted by billsaysthis at 5:13 PM on July 3, 2003

I never thought I'd find a way to work this in on MetaFilter, but... I am old enough now and was nerd enough then that I saw the infamous Tales from Topographic Oceans tour not once but twice... by choice...
posted by JollyWanker at 5:34 PM on July 3, 2003

Yossarian and Ciderwoman, if you just want to hear the hits, you should stay home and listen to the records. Heaven knows Neil's released enough live albums.

And this is guy who has made a career out making sure that there is no such thing as a "standard Neil Young concert." Ever heard of Trans? The man's a nut, and everybody should know that by now. You never know what you're going to get. After Harvest was such a hit, he went on tour and didn't play a single song from it, but instead dressed up like a Miami Beach pimp and got shitfaced on Tequila onstage and placed "Tonight's the Night" over and over again. After playing an entire set of new material, he'd say, "Now I'm going to play something you've heard before," and then play "Tonight's the Night" again! He's been pulling this stuff for over 30 years now.

I love Neil. I saw this tour in Chicago and I was blown away. It was really interesting and moving and it totally fucking rocked. It's basically a three-piece version of Crazy Horse now as Pancho is just playing keyboards that are not audible. So Neil's playing the only guitar and that openness creates a whole new sound for him. It's cool.

I just do not understand people who only want to hear songs they already know. I'm sure in 1970 when he was debuting "Cinnamon Girl" and "Down by the River" there were people in the crowd all pissed off that he wasn't playing Buffalo Springfield songs!
posted by elvissinatra at 6:21 PM on July 3, 2003

I never thought I'd find a way to work this in on MetaFilter, but... I am old enough now and was nerd enough then that I saw the infamous Tales from Topographic Oceans tour not once but twice... by choice...

jollywanker, my estimation of you has just blown through the roof. good deal. as it relates to this thread however, there is an immense difference: yes members can actually play thier instruments.

So Neil's playing the only guitar...

elvissinatra, guitars the world over hang thier headstocks in shame.
posted by quonsar at 6:49 PM on July 3, 2003

Should've linked this earlier: you can grab a bunch of live Neil, including shows from the current tour, at (you'll need BitTorrent.) Lots of other bands, too.
posted by muckster at 8:58 PM on July 3, 2003

There was an audience tape of Neil's Greendale Tampa concert on usenet a week or so ago. Also, you can watch him play an acoustic version he did in Dublin by going to his website. If the album turns out anything like those gigs, it's going to be his best ever.

To those who are complaining about it, I've been following him since 1972 and really, you ought to be used to it by now. Neil does what he wants, it's usually different than the last thing he did, and after 30 years, I've learned to accept it. There's a lot of old dinosaur acts that have been doing the same damn show for 20 years. I can't imagine anything more boring and meaningless.
posted by pyramid termite at 9:13 PM on July 3, 2003

i dunno, i'd pretty much expect a performer to play whatever the heck they felt like playing if i paid to go to their concert. I mean, would you really want to sit through a concert of someone belting out songs halfheartedly because they'd rather be playing something else? seems like even less value for the money than not hearing material you're familiar with. Though i do have a soft spot for an acoustic version of cortez i heard once at bridge school.
posted by juv3nal at 11:57 PM on July 3, 2003

I remember going to see Bob Mould back around the time he released Black Sheets of Rain, at the Town Pump, in Vancouver. What I didn't know until he came onstage was that it was 'an acoustic set with...' I was expecting Monster Guitar, and was momentarily disappointed, until he actually started playing.

That show rocked my world. Just sayin'.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:36 AM on July 4, 2003

i'd pretty much expect a performer to play whatever the heck they felt like playing if i paid to go to their concert.

Absolutely. But that would not obligate me to like what's being played, and for the performer to yell at me for not liking it, that's just wrong.
posted by JanetLand at 5:44 AM on July 4, 2003

Quonsar, I know you don't like Neil's guitar playing. I think we've actually argued about this before. Whether or not you respect his abilities, you've got to admit that it's pretty cool and very unusual for a 58-year-old guy to change his guitar style, a style he's been playing consistently for almost 40 years!

And Yes fans crack me up. All fans of strictly "virtuoso" musicians crack me up. You gotta balance the science with the soul, yo. I'd rather listen to musicians who feel it and are getting off on what they're playing rather than a bunch of technically good musical masturbators. I realize everyone doesn't share this idea.

For me, I like garage rock, and no I am not talking about the White Stripes, but rather the teenagers from the sixties who were actually practicing music in their parents' garages and recording one-off 45s at local recording studios. For a good idea of how great and primal this stuff was, check out the Back from the Grave series on Crypt Records.

Neil and the Horse tap into that teenage exuberance that you feel when you were first blown away by rock and roll. If I wanted to listen to jazz or classical music, I'd listen to jazz or classical music. If I wanted to listen to a bunch of dorks jerk themselves off, I'd listen to Yes.
posted by elvissinatra at 5:59 AM on July 4, 2003

I've not heard any of the Greendale stuff, but it cannot be worse than the last couple of albums. 'Let's roll' was not only propaganda bullshit but, worse, really horrible music. I got Are you passionate? for free -- media review copy -- but, after the second listen, I wanted someone to compensate me for my time. Yeesh.

Even better: Greendale, esp the DVD, sounds like there is a high potential for Neil wackiness, up there with the roadie ewoks and vocoder album.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:14 AM on July 4, 2003

quonsar... is a Yes fan...

*wanders out, dazed*
posted by languagehat at 6:35 AM on July 4, 2003

i recognize musical masturbation and steve howe certainly sprinkles his playing liberally with it. a lot of yes stuff is sheer formulaic wankery, no argument. i can even appreciate the inarticulate string-yanking of a ted nugent because it rumbles up out of his gut like a bubble of decaying deer flesh. he feels it. he breathes the stuff. billy corgan occasionally raised my eyebrows a notch or two and even a handful of these non-soloing downtuned seven string numetal monkeyboys are doing clever things i can admire. but neil young? sorry. neil young with an electric guitar is like moe howard with a chainsaw. it might be amusing, but you don't really wanna be anywhere near it.
posted by quonsar at 6:48 AM on July 4, 2003

I am compelled to admit my secret shame - the only Yes album I like is the one that 'real' Yes fans love to hate - 90125. Mostly because it reminds me of boozy freshman university sexcapades.

Oh, the embarrassment of it all.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:52 AM on July 4, 2003

Yes? No.

Elvissinatra, I see what you're saying, and I appreciate NY for what he does, but I'm not talking about going just to hear some golden oldies package.

At the gig I was talking about the entire audience were screaming for the bands previous single. Did they play it? Did they hell. Just new stuff, that's all, and IMO the new stuff sucked for the most part (and I'd heard it many times before due to working with them).

I hate it when people chat away during a song, but I also hate it when a singer demands silence, like we're all insane for just not getting it. I go to a gig I want to see the artist, the artist who created the songs I liked and who will no doubt create more that I will love. The audience are a vital part of the live performance and deserve a degree of repect.

And if you're not familliar with it then check out this story about Duke Ellington at the Newport jazz festival. On the live recording the crowd is merely polite, then Paul Gonzales gets going and the place just erupts. Win the crowd round by playing not shouting at them.

And if you can't win them round play that last single. They've paid their money, they've bought your records, I don't think it's much to ask.
posted by ciderwoman at 8:56 AM on July 4, 2003

Not to diminish myself in quonsar's eyes, but it was Rick Wakeman I liked and admired, not necessarily "Yes" as a package. If I had to sit through Topographic Oceans to see Rick Wakeman, well, I did it (yup, saw "Six Wives" lives and own a bootleg VHS of "Center of the Earth," too).

My slim reasoning for bringing it up was to comment on the "concept album" side of the thread, not to question Neil Young's musicianship. I was a youngin' during the Golden Era of Concept Album Rock - the very first LP I owned was "Sgt. Pepper's" - and I ate 'em up, from "Tommy" to "Diamond Dogs." Frankly, I'm not guitar-literate enough to have a really informed opinion on Young's abilities. I suppose I could say that his voice does tend to make me think of domestic felines being fed ass-first into a food processor, but then as has been liberally pointed out on MeFi before, what the fuck do I know?
posted by JollyWanker at 9:09 AM on July 4, 2003

i recognize musical masturbation and steve howe certainly sprinkles his playing liberally with it. a lot of yes stuff is sheer formulaic wankery, no argument.

And a lot of it isn't (or wasn't); speaking pre 1977 here, the great albums, Fragile, Close to the Edge, Relayer. Topographic Oceans had its moments, like the glorious vocal passages which open, I think, Side One--my vinyl copy is at present sitting in a box in my closet underneath a box of shoes, and I don't have the CD to check. I am unrepentant in my love for these albums, even though I haven't listened to them for years, simply because I wouldn't have made it through high school without them; but in addition to that, I find the John Peel-ish arguments against their work repetitive and long overdue for revision. The usual charges--wanking, pretentious, pompous, overblown--have become a kind of dogma, and I wonder how many people who have come to believe in the received wisdom of the "garage rock=authentic teenage energy/angst=good" and "prog=inauthentic pretentious wanking=bad" have really listened with open ears to the music which flowered in those few years of the early 70s. It was brave, it was experimental, and it tried for grandeur. It tried for intelligence. Radiohead reference Messiaen, and it wins them critical respect; Yes referenced Stravinsky and were shot down. Close to the Edge is actually a compact and tightly composed album, less than 45 minutes long. I've heard Sonic Youth pieces which were longer, more rambling, and contained more sheer, for lack of a better word, wanking (and I love Sonic Youth, no complaints here). Yes's only crime, as far as I can see, is that they tried to be serious in a time which didn't allow for it. I wish they had stayed the course, myself, and stopped trying to be rock stars with popular hits... I jumped ship after Relayer.

But the Topographic Oceans tour rocked. That was the one with the Roger Dean shapes over the stage? Very cool.

Oh god, I've just spent 20 minutes writing a defense of 70s prog on mefi... but I will not rest until that one musical moment gets some critical respect, somewhere... [/derail]
posted by jokeefe at 4:05 PM on July 4, 2003

re: Neil's guitar chops. Somebody (I forget who) on alt.guitar put it best: "He's not a great lead player, or a great rhythm player, but he's the best damn Neil Young player around." In other words, he has his Thing, he does it well, and nobody else does it. When I hear something like "Down by the River" or "Hurricane", his lead playing strikes me as almost painting with sound, rather than the conventions of rock guitar. And he understands emotion and dynamics in a way that, imho, a lot of more technically able rock guys don't (and I'm not thinking Steve Howe here, more the hordes of metalheads post-Van Halen and pre-Korn.) Maybe it all boils down to taste, but I'll take Neil over Nugent any day.

And as for those critics who toe the [post-]punk line and deride all 70's prog automatically, especially those who simultaneously canonise post-rock, math-rock, Radiohead and all other modern forms of prog in drag, get over yourselves. Punk rock is staler, more formulaic and more artistically dead now, than prog was in '77.
posted by arto at 9:13 PM on July 4, 2003

(you can get some sleep now, jokeefe.)
posted by arto at 9:14 PM on July 4, 2003

All fans of strictly "virtuoso" musicians crack me up. You gotta balance the science with the soul, yo. I'd rather listen to musicians who feel it and are getting off on what they're playing rather than a bunch of technically good musical masturbators.

The idea that progressive musicians aren't "feeling it" is patently ridiculous. You don't make prog-ish rock these days except for the love of the music, but there's no shortage of people doing it.
posted by kindall at 10:52 PM on July 4, 2003

(you can get some sleep now, jokeefe.)

Heh. Thanks (except it's 1:25 a.m. and I'm still working.... or not, as I'm checking Mefi...)

I will say that Neil Young's guitar solo in Cinnamon Girl is a moment of one-note genius. Complete sonic perfection. But I'm afraid that I went off Neil back in 1980 when he endorsed Reagan, and I've never quite caught up.

But (forgive me) Harvest was one great album, dude. No arguments. And Crazy Horse still amaze for the sheer wall of noise.
posted by jokeefe at 1:26 AM on July 5, 2003

Yeah, I discovered Neil Young circa "This Note's For You", and never really checked out his '80s stuff ("Hawks and Doves", etc) so I've never really had the chance to be offended by his politics. Even "Let's Roll" seemed to me to be more a monument to individual heroism, even if the title became a right-wing/pro-war rallying cry. YMMV, of course.
posted by arto at 2:26 AM on July 5, 2003

arto, what the hell are you doing up? You're one hour ahead of me, and it's nearly 3 a.m. here.

I offer no excuses for myself...
posted by jokeefe at 2:56 AM on July 5, 2003

but in my book, charging 65 to 85 bucks a head to folks that think they are gonna get a standard neil young show is pretty much bullshit.

It's not like he was fucking secretive about the set beforehand; if some redneck jerk can't be bothered to look into the nature of the show before blowing 50 clams, then he only has himself to blame.

I was at the Atlanta show and Neil was amazing. And the "Las Vegas" dig was right on the money - Atlanta does have a little Las Vegas in it somehow.

In hindsight, I would've paid twice as much as I did to see that show. Concept material or not, seeing Neil work his old dog stomp with Crazy Horse was an occasion I'll always remember. If you've ever enjoyed Neil and you get a chance to see this tour, GO - you won't be dissapointed.
posted by Pinwheel at 10:53 AM on July 7, 2003

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