Friday, November 16, 2007

Neil Young: Timeless

On Friday, November 16, that same majority of your 1600 crew invaded DAR Constitution Hall, for a chance to catch the Grandaddy of Grunge, Mr. Soul himself, Bernard Shakey's alter ego, the man that ain't gonna burn out or fade away, the immortal Neil Young. Supported by friends and family (his wife Pegi doing her own set before joining Neil to provide harmonies), Ben Keith, Rick (the bass player) Rosas, and ever- reliable Ralph Molina on the drums.
We actually walked in during the first or second song of the opening act, Pegi Young, who was accompanied by both Keith and Rosas, and guitarist/harmonica player Anthony Crawford, who were well-rehearsed and comfortably folky-country to give a nice introduction for the show. Pegi Young's voice is clear and conveys emotion well, reminiscent of no one in particular, but at ease and in command. She played both original material and songs written by other friends and colleagues from this remarkable circle of friends and contemporaries with equal aplomb.
Her roughly forty minute set was followed by a brief intermission, then Neil took the stage for a solo set. In a loose fitting gray suit that looked to be splashed with white paint, Neil strummed guitar, and played piano, keyboards and even a little banjo, opening with "From Hank to Hendrix" from Harvest Moon, followed by "Ambulance Blues," also on acoustic guitar. Next up was "Sad Songs," one of the new songs from his latest CD, Chrome Dreams II. He would continue interposing classics like "A Man Needs A Maid," "Harvest" and a slightly updated "After the Goldrush" ("look at Mother Nature on the run/ In the twenty-first century") with more recent songs, such as "Love Art Blues," and in the second set, a powerful reading of "The Believer" with the band, making the most of one of Neil's signature meandering grooves, culminating in some bluesy back and forth exchanges between Keith, Rosas, and Neil, jamming on it and improvising at their finest.
The second set was full of many moments like that, and some unlikely and relatively under the radar songs turned up. The band kicked off with "The Loner," a great tune from Neil's first album I'd never heard live, followed by a favorite, the title cut from his second release, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere. The set also featured a stellar rendition of "Winterlong," as well as new tunes "Dirty Old Man," "Bad Fog of Loneliness," "Spirit Road," and the previously mentioned "The Believer." The night ended on a high note, with "Cinnamon Girl," "Tonight's the Night," and another recent instrumental, "The Sultan," as encores.
The sound was also very good that night, surprisingly so on the louder electric arrangements. Constitution Hall, while usually more than adequate for acoustic performances, often is not so forgiving when a band turns up and plays with a lot of feedback and distortion. But someone did an excellent job of managing the sound that night, and deserves credit for making a frequently problematic venue sound good.
Not much else that can be said, but Ben Keith told us they'd be back next year...and we're holdin' 'em to it!!

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