Report: Neil Young Live in Miami

 

 

In a
solo acoustic/electric show last night (Sept. 23) at Hollywood’s (near Miami) Hard
Rock Live venue, Young previewed material from his new album
Le
Noise (due in stores next week) while
offering up a healthy sampling of his back catalog. Verdict? The new stuff’s
charm is fleeting, but the rest of the tunes remain among the most durable in
the great American songbook. Opening for Young: Allen Toussaint, subbing for an
ailing Bert Jansch.

 

By Lee Zimmerman

 

Few performers can actually be described as genuine musical
chameleons, artists that change their MO with practically every new release so
as to leave fans guessing their next move. David Bowie fit that bill back in
the day. Tom Waits and Todd Rundgren occasionally qualify as well. But as far
as an artist that continues to morph and change his persona, even now, 45 years
into his prodigious career, no one comes close to the ongoing synthesis of Neil
Young. From Rock to Rockabilly, Folk to Country, Grunge to Thrash and
experiments with ambiance and electronica – not to mention his occasional side
jaunts with Crosby Stills Nash and Young and Crazy Horse – Young is famous for
keeping his audiences guessing and breathlessly anticipating his every move.

 

It’s no different in concert, which finds his performances
offering an overview that glances back at the expanse of his early catalogue
while also previewing newer material. Young’s solo show at the Hard Rock would
have seemed ample opportunity to sample his more subdued side, but in truth, he
went mellow only in moderation. Looking dapper in a white fedora, seersucker
sports jacket, dark tee shirt and jeans, he won the capacity crowd’s approval
early on, performing acoustic versions of “My My, Hey Hey,” “Tell Me Why” and
“Helpless” in succession, seemingly intent on fulfilling the audience’s
expectation that he’d return to his wandering hippie days of old. But then
again, Young is also known for foiling that anticipation and here he did the
same. Although he did shuffle from acoustic guitar to upright piano to grand
piano and, for one number, “After the Goldrush,” even to a pipe organ – all
with his ever present harmonica in tow – he also took ample opportunity to rock
out on electric guitar with a ferocity that rivaled his full band shows.

 

Likewise, being famous for testing new songs on unsuspecting
audiences, Young took ample opportunity to do that as well. With a new album
due next week – convincingly dubbed Le
Noise
, a series of atmospheric soundscapes featuring Young alone on guitar
directed through the ambitious agenda of producer Daniel Lanois – Young treated
his adoring audience to no less than six of the album’s eight songs, and
introduce a pair of tunes that have yet to find any home at all — “You Never
Call” and an odd would-be children’s song played at the piano called “Lela.”
The latter provided his most expansive introduction of the evening (“This is a
song for all the little people, people too little to be here tonight. Mama said
‘nope.’ … all the tiny, little redneck people…”). It was an especially
auspicious intro, given that his comments were mostly random and infrequent.

 

Truth be told, the Le
Noise
material sounded somewhat slight, consisting mainly of Young
thrashing about on electric guitar and tossing in lyrics that seemed to be
obsessed with darker themes. In fact, one, “Love and War,” would have fit
comfortably on his protest opus from four years back, the searing Living with War. Overall however, the
material seemed little more than another grand experiment like Trans, one will eventually find its way
to the margins of his ample catalogue. With nearly half the concert devoted to
unknown offerings, the crowd was often left milling about impatiently, eagerly
anticipating the next chestnut that would reverberate with second-nature
familiarity. Fortunately, there was a fair sample of those as well – riveting
versions of “Down by the River” and “Cortez the Killer,” the obvious and
expected “Cinnamon Girl” and “Ohio,” a tender
“I Believe in You,” and the somewhat ironic encore of “Old Man.” Indeed, at age 64, Young was clearly
more suited to sing the song’s lyrics from the perspective of the title
character. Even so, he stuck to the original lyric, describing himself as “24
and there’s so much more” just as he did four decades back. Given that his
voice – that famous high pitched warble that still defines him – still sounds
as sturdy as ever, and that he’s no less energized or ambitious, we can only
hope that in fact the “so much more” still proves prophetic.

 

Young was preceded by legendary New Orleans pianist, producer and songwriter
Allen Toussaint, a last-minute substitution for British folkie Bert Jansch, who
had to bow out early due to illness. With a brassy voice and a sprightly
keyboard style, the ever-affable Toussaint charmed the crowd and narrated a
tour of sorts through his prolific career, touching on the numerous top ten
hits that have likely made him a very wealthy man. Among them were “Mother-in-law,”
Southern Nights,” “Fortune Teller,” “Brickyard Blues,” “Working in a Coalmine,”
and the instrumental “Java,” songs that have been covered by a remarkably
eclectic group of patrons, including the Stones, the Yardbirds, Ernie K. Doe,
the Judds and Glen Campbell. “I’d like to thank all those who are only going to
see the back of my head all night,” he offered up early on. Nevertheless, being
heard, if not seen, was all that mattered.

 

Set
List:

 

1.         My My, Hey
Hey (Out Of The Blue)

2.         Tell Me Why

3.         Helpless

4.         You Never
Call

5.         Peaceful Valley Boulevard

6.         Love And War

7.         Down By The
River

8.         Hitchhiker

9.         Ohio

10.       Sign Of Love

11.       Leia

12.       After The
Gold Rush

13.       I Believe In
You

14.       Rumblin’

15.       Cortez The
Killer

16.       Cinnamon Girl

            —

17.       Old Man

18.       Walk With Me

 

 

 

Leave a Reply