Tag Archives: Neil Young

Neil Young Cuts Through Le Noise At Massey Hall

Neil Young at Massey. (Copped this pic from Toronto Star.)

Neil Young at Massey. (Copped this pic from Toronto Star.)

LIVE: Neil Young
May 10, 2011
Massey Hall
Toronto, Ontario

Neil Young’s sold out Tuesday night show at Toronto’s Massey Hall was billed as a solo performance, but there was another pair of invisible guiding hands at work as well — those of Ancaster-born, U2 king-maker/super-producer Daniel Lanois.

While Young fell short of recreating the dizzy loops, echoes and fades that make his Lanois-produced latest album Le Noise such intoxicating headphone fodder, there was a barely sublimated sonic adventurousness — a hint of musical mischief and menace — that elevated the evening’s set into something more than just Neil. On a stool. At Massey.

Young’s experiencing a bit of a next-gen renaissance thanks to Le Noise, so it wasn’t particularly surprising the 65-year-old grunge godfather leaned heavily on the new album. Six of the 17 songs Young played were from the new record, but it was just as often what he did to his “classic” songs that revealed what his goal for the set was.

House-warmers “My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue),” “Tell Me Why” and “Helpless” were played reasonably straight. The crowd — more sport-jacket and recently trimmed hair than hippie burnout (no doubt the result of a more evolved ability to navigate the minefield that is modern ticket purchasing) — was particularly moved by “Helpless,” going so far as to sing along to the chorus with about the same volume and self-consciousness as Leafs fans doing the first verse of “O Canada” at the ACC.

Rapt silence was the more appropriate response for Le Noise track “Peaceful Valley Boulevard.” A gauzy, sprawling number on record, it was equally haunting live and could fairly match melancholy Young masterpieces like “On The Beach” and “Expecting To Fly.”

The next two songs — Le Noise‘s confessional “Love And War,” and all-timer “Down By The River” — started to reveal the outline of the Lanois impact on Young’s performance. It wasn’t so much about Young copping signature Lanois sounds as it was about watching Young wandering across the stage, coaxing bits of feedback from his amps, or impishly turning the chorus of “Down By The River” into a five-second primer on My Bloody Valentine.

It was this casual tinkering while strolling about the various guitars, pianos and organs which was what making Le Noise must have looked like. Except instead of Young, guitar slung over his shoulder, all poking around Lanois’ house for an audience of one, here he was doing so in front of 2,800 people.

Young’s re-imagining of “Cortez The Killer” was a particularly good example. Its intro disguised by a brief squalling shock, Young eventually emerged from his soundcloud to lay down a version you just knew was exactly like one Lanois might have coaxed him to play while the two were defining the identity of the latest album.

That’s when it became clear what Young was doing. He wasn’t just rote recreating the sounds of Le Noise for the audience last night, he was trying to recreate “the vibe,” as he experienced it, of his own adventure in le noise.

And when he closed the show with the single encore “Walk With Me” and its opened-armed plea “I’m on this journey/I don’t want to walk alone,” he managed to bring a lot of people with him.

Neil Young setlist for May 10, 2011:

“My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)”
“Tell Me Why”
“Helpless”
“You Never Call”
“Peaceful Valley Boulevard”
“Love And War”
“Down By The River”
“Hitchhiker”
“Ohio”
“Sign Of Love”
“Leia”
“After The Goldrush”
“I Believe In You”
“Rumblin’”
“Cortez The Killer”
“Cinnamon Girl”

encore:
“Walk With Me”

This live review originally appeared in The Grid (RIP) in May 2011.

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Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Rush Among Topics On Polaris Podcast EP3

Albums talked about on Polaris Podcast EP3

Albums talked about on Polaris Podcast EP3

The third episode of the Polaris Podcast focused on four albums that won Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize designations in 2016.

They were:

* Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush
* Leonard Cohen’s Songs Of Leonard Cohen
* Rush’s Moving Pictures
* Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s self-titled album

For this episode we interviewed Anna McGarrigle, Young Galaxy and a number of expert jurors.

Please listen, subscribe and validate my employment.

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Stills And Young Briefly Awaken Crosby And Nash

Crosby, Stills Nash & Young. Photo by Rachel Verbin

Crosby, Stills Nash & Young. Photo by Rachel Verbin

LIVE: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
July 10, 2006
Air Canada Centre
Toronto, Ontario

Named the “Freedom Of Speech” tour and featuring Neil Young playing most of his anti-Bush album, Living With War, the current Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young jaunt seemed perfectly designed to reharness the counter-culture energy that made CSNY protest heroes almost four decades ago.

The big question, though, was whether would the audience turn on and tune in or drop out. The early odds were even. Sure there were pockets of young rascals and sweet familial pairs (a father with tangled hair and teenage daughter dressed in burlap — how noble it is to keep Greenpeace supplied with volunteers), but the bulk of the audience was comprised of middle to upper-middle class, well-heeled white people. Your dad, wearing a casual golf shirt, was there. So was William, the assistant director and his well-pilatesized second wife, Audrey.

The key factor in all of this is that these people — the comfortable charity gala lefties — were the ones who would really have to dig the messages CSNY were putting out if the show was to have any success. No offense to the dudes up in the cheap seats, but you’re not the fellas that can affect real change. At least not yet.

The show kicked off with Young’s “Flags Of Freedom,” complete with a backdrop of rotating Canadian, British, American and associated allied flags. It was well received, although it’s hard not to rile up a crowd with the cheap pop of flag waving. The remainder of the 13-song first set rotated fairly evenly between Living With War numbers (“The Restless Consumer,” “Shock And Awe,” “After The Garden”) and tracks from CSNY’s various permutations (“Wooden Ships,” “Military Madness,” “Immigration Man”). Tom Bray’s trumpet work on Young songs, and throughout the evening, added a consistently solid punch, but the rants against Bush (David Crosby referred to him as a “chimpanzee” at one point) and song-form shots at bureaucracy and consumerism seemed to fall on relatively disinterested, if not deaf, ears.

The 20-minute intermission before the second set allowed CSNY to recharge. The piano double shot of the Graham Nash-featured “Our House” and Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” roused the crowd with some much-needed hit power. Sure, they’re love songs, not rebel songs, but they at least got the crowd moving.

The rise in temperature in the audience also buoyed Stephen Stills’ romancing-the-crime song, “Treetop Flyer.” With snap-of-finger suddenness, it brought the wobbling Stills to life. Until then, it had been mostly Young showing any spikes of emotion, but now half of CSNY seemed dialed in.

Stills’ next move, “Southern Cross,” brought the full band, four astride (no wandering by Nash and no rooted disinterest from Crosby), to full attention. From here on out, the quartet rolled out the protest that they had flirted with aggressively all night. “For What It’s Worth” was awkward, but Young’s blunt “Let’s Impeach The President,” complete with a video monitor that flashed mugshots of dead soldiers, brought it all back home. The payoff that would follow was a truly fiery “Ohio.”

It may have taken CSNY ’til the two-and-a-half-hour mark, but there it was. That combustible hippie righteousness had finally flickered, fanned and burst. The crowd, tepid for much of the night, was singing, clapping and in some pockets, downright flailing (eighth row, centre, floors — dude, I saw that usher trying to bum your trip all night).

I must say, even my jaded rock critic soul experienced suspension of disbelief when the band then hurdled into “Rockin’ In The Free World.” That five minutes of sloganeering was followed by a brusk run through “Woodstock” and then it was done. In the end, there were about 20 minutes total in the nearly three-hour set where pure, unadulterated fight-the-power-ness actually broke through to the crowd. In the mathematics of rebellion, Toronto ultimately had little screw-the-man vigor in its heart.

It wasn’t a complete loss, though. There’s a causeway that connects the ACC to Union Station that features an array of fancy display automobiles. Walking past them after the show, I noticed someone had besmirched one of the SUVs with a Greenpeace bumper sticker. It was surely the work of one of those burlap-wearing teenage girls and not one of the Eddie Bauer golf dads, but it was at least something. Perhaps it’s really about the small victories. If that’s the case, consider Toronto a win.

This story was originally published July 11, 2006 via Chart Communications.

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Neil Young Takes On Starbucks, Monsanto

Neil Young and Promise Of The Real

Neil Young and Promise Of The Real

Neil Young is rather clear on his feelings about Starbucks, Monsanto and genetically modified foods with his new song “A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop.”

He really dislikes them.

I explained a bit about his new song and video and why he feels this way for Samaritan Mag.

To read the story go here.

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Neil Young Benefit Concert In Edmonton To Fight Oil Pipeline

Neil Young (centre) at last January's Honour the Treaties press conference, Massey Hall, Toronto — photo credit: Dustin Rabin.

Neil Young (centre) at last January’s Honour the Treaties press conference, Massey Hall, Toronto — photo credit: Dustin Rabin.

Neil Young announced he’s doing a concert in Edmonton on July 3 to benefit the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Legal Defense Fund, an organization that’s fighting the Grand Rapids pipeline implementation.

The show, which is under Young’s “Honour The Treaties” banner, is a continuation of a benefit tour he conducted last year.

I wrote about it for Samaritan Mag. To read the full story go here.

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Aaron’s Top Albums Of 2007

Joel Plaskett Emergency's Ashtray Rock

Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock

This is my official Top 10 album list for 2007:

10. Magnolia Electric Co. The Black Ram

Picking just The Black Ram was a bit of a technical cheat as this record was part of the three-album, one-EP Sojourner box set Magnolia Electric Co. released that year. That said, of the four discs it’s definitely the one I listened to the most. In fact, the title track, “Will-O-The-Wisp” and “A Little At A Time” all rank in my Top 25 most played songs in iTunes. What this all probably means is that because I was pretty deep in my Magnolia fandom at the time, as a conscious act to not look like such a fanatic I ranked this album lower than I felt it deserved in my heart. In truth it’s probably a top five record.

9. Arctic Monkeys Favourite Worst Nightmare

If I’m to be completely honest, I still don’t feel I know this album all that well. I was mostly enamored with the song “505” and had approached the band with more open ears on this album because the hype train for the Monkeys had receded to the point it where wasn’t annoying anymore.

8. Two Hours Traffic Little Jabs

I listened to this record a lot for a month or two and it fits solidly in a Can-Rockpop lineage that includes Sloan, By Divine Right, Limblifter, Zuckerbaby and their ilk. Since then, though, Two Hours Traffic have become extremely irritating to me. This is because of the disproportionate amount of times iTunes tries to play their songs when I’m listening in “random” mode. I have thousands upon thousands of songs. I’ve got the full Neil Young and Bob Dylan discographies. And yet, with peculiar frequency iTunes tries to serve me up songs from this album. The only reason I can guess for this is that one of the band members had a computer engineer cousin who worked at Apple and was in the department that developed the iTunes random algorithm. It’s the only explanation and it’s definitely tempered my enjoyment.

7. Buck 65 Situation

Buck 65 seems to suffer from a bit of Rodney Dangerfield can’t-get-no-respect-ism and Situation is a pretty good example of this. A concept album focused roughly around the year 1957, the songs on Situation deftly traverse topics like crooked cops, Bogart and obscenity trials. The fact that the subject matter is so unlikely — not just for a rapper, but for any type of modern music maker — just makes Situation all the more intriguing.

6. Neil Young Live At Massey Hall 1971

This show may represent the most perfect version of “solo Neil.” It’s a historic document and a brilliant setlist. In cold scrutiny, though, it’s probably not a best of 2007 album. This ranking probably says more about how much I’m willing to jockey parameters because of my Neil love than anything else.

5. Jens Lekman Night Falls Over Kortedala

Night Falls Over Kortedala is an entirely fine album, but this #5 rank is almost entirely attributable to one song, “And I Remember Every Kiss.” A soaring orchestral ballad, the song captures all the fire, all the intensity, all the passion of that nervous, electric first kiss.

4. Cuff The Duke Sidelines Of The City

Someone recently told me Wayne Petti basically tries to copy The Inbreds’ Mike O’Neill when he’s singing. Fascinating, right? And it explains why I like Cuff The Duke. I don’t listen to this album anymore, though, and I don’t remember why I had it ranked so high.

3. Feist The Reminder

The sort of person who can remain unmoved by “My Moon My Man” is the sort of person I would look upon with great suspicion.

2. Amy Winehouse Back To Black

“Me & Mr. Jones” was really what hooked me on Back To Black. Here was this jazz singer going on about Slick Rick, plus ones and “fuckery” (which has since become a core swear word for me), all with an air of stumbling, drunken tragic romance. I was won over immediately.

A lot of the songs and albums and artists I love have something I’ll define as “turbulence of the soul.” The world, for them, is just a bit tougher, a bit more painful and a bit more difficult than it is for the normals. It was clear from the first listen of Back To Black that Winehouse was one of these people and it reflects beautifully/uncomfortably in these songs.

1. Joel Plaskett Emergency Ashtray Rock

A teenage love triangle that breaks up the band and breaks up a friendship. It seems like such a small narrative to build a concept album around, but Ashtray Rock, like a less morbid Quadrophenia, works perfectly. You feel there when the drunk teenagers party down at the Ashtray Rock and when you’ve got nothing more to say to these people… well, it’s like a grayscale closing scene capturing the back of the jean-jacketed protagonist walking down a slushy sidestreet. Alone.

Other album lists…

2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1

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Human Highway: Kevin Costner Was A Janitor On The Set Of The Neil Young Film

Neil Young

Neil Young

Classic rocker and film dabbler recently presented a director’s cut of his rather weird 1982 film Human Highway at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Young, who was in attendance for the premiere, told the audience at the screening about working with Devo for the film as well as a special behind the scenes role played by future star Kevin Costner. To read the story head over to Huffington Post Music Canada by going here.

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