Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Like A Hurricane

Neil Young. Massey Hall.

Those four words right there should be all you need to know to understand how amazing last night’s show, the first of a three-night stand, was. Touring Chrome Dreams II, Young returned to play the legendary Toronto venue for the first time in almost 37 years for what was certain to be a special night. For me, this was only my second time seeing Neil, the last time some 11 years ago at Molson Park on a bill that was the very definition of eclectic – Neil with Crazy Horse, Oasis, Jewel, Gin Blossoms, Spiritualized and Screaming Trees. And since that was in a field with a throng of 30,000 others, I don’t think I actually SAW Neil though I certainly saw (and felt) him. But however you slice it, this show – with me in the front row of the gallery – was going to be infinitely more intimate.

After an opening set of well-played if rather innocuous country tunes by the missus, Pegi Young, Neil strode onstage to a standing ovation, settled into his chair ringed by acoustic guitars and started up with “From Hank To Hendrix” and from there, went into “Ambulance Blues” – one of my favourite songs from my favourite album (On The Beach) and if you ended the show right there, I’d have been satisfied. But of course, it’s easy to say that when he played acoustically for a good hour, dusting off one classic after another including “Harvest”, “Journey Through The Past” and “Cowgirl In The Sand”. And perhaps touched by the warm hometown reception, he uncharacteristically engaged the audience in a little banter and storytelling.

There was no time for chit chat after the 20-minute intermission, however, as he returned to the stage with a band comprised of long-time collaborators Ben Keith (Stray Gators), Rick Rosas and Ralph Molina (Crazy Horse). Electricity was the word for the second half of the show, both in the sense of the electric guitars that were now setting the tone and the energy in the sold out room. The crowd went nuts when he opened with “The Loner”, and nuts again when he followed it with “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”, and nuts yet again when he stopped after a few bars to get some feedback taken care of and started again. And so it went. Personal highlights were hearing “Winterlong” and watching as “No Hidden Path”, from Chrome Dreams II, was transformed into a classic of the Neil Young canon in front of my eyes, Neil and company jamming the hell out of it and simply blowing the roof off the Grand Old Lady of Shuter Street. Simply staggering.

And they still weren’t done. If “No Hidden Path” took the roof off, then the encore of “Cinnamon Girl” and “Like A Hurricane” shook the walls down to the foundations with intense, face-melting guitar fury. Massey Hall’s wonderful acoustics are usually put to use preserving the detail of quieter, more delicate material but when faced with Old Black cranked through that ancient tweed Fender Deluxe, they allowed every squeal, snarl and roar to be heard with amazing clarity. More than a few times over the course of the night I broke into a shit-eating grin as I realized that I was seeing one of my all-time musical heroes in a setting that I’d never in a million years have thought I’d get the chance to and this is a night whose memory I’ll cherish a good long time.

There’s an inclination to think of this tour, coinciding as it does with the slow release of the Archives, as Neil shifting into greatest hits/nostalgia mode. And while yeah, he’s definitely revisiting his past in a way that he’s never done before, anyone who interprets that as him slowing down is sadly, sadly mistaken. There’s still an ungodly amount of fire in the man and if anything, what he’s taking from the past is more fuel for the future. Long may you run, Neil. Long may you run.

The Toronto Sun, The Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail, eye and The Canadian Press have reviews of the show while The Post-Bulletin lists Neil’s top five musical left turns.

Photos: Neil Young, Pegi Young @ Massey Hall – November 26, 2007
MP3: Neil Young – “Ordinary People”
MySpace: Neil Young

By : Frank Yang at 8:24 am
Category: Uncategorized
RSS Feed for this post17 Responses.
  1. sean says:

    I’m insanely jealous. This will be my first time missing a Neil show in the Toronto area since 1987. Here’s last night’s setlist:

    Massey Hall
    Toronto, Ontario

    1. From Hank to Hendrix
    2. Ambulance Blues
    3. Sad Movies
    4. A Man Needs A Maid
    5. No One Seems to Know
    6. Harvest
    7. Journey Through the Past
    8. Mellow My Mind
    9. Love Art Blues
    10. Cowgirl in the Sand
    11. Old Man
    12. The Loner
    13. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
    14. Dirty Old Man
    15. Spirit Road
    16. Bad Fog of Loneliness
    17. Winterlong
    18. Oh Lonesome Me
    19. The Believer
    20. No Hidden Path

    21. Cinnamon Girl
    22. Like A Hurricane

  2. Sasha says:

    Can’t wait for tonight. One song from "On The Beach" is worth the ticket price alone.

  3. Thierry says:

    In. Cre. Di. Ble.

    In a year that has seen more musical highlights than I could’ve ever hoped for (Wilco, Springsteen, Steve Earle, John Doe with the Sadies, Aretha, etc.), this topped them all.

  4. gm says:

    Frank sez "More than a few times over the course of the night I broke into a shit-eating grin as I realized that I was seeing one of my all-time musical heroes in a setting that I’d never in a million years have thought I’d get the chance to and this is a night whose memory I’ll cherish a good long time."
    I know EXACTLY how you feel …I’ll be thinking the same thing Thursaday night when I’m there in Row 4 !!!

  5. Aimz says:

    Great write-up Frank. Sorry I missed it! :(

  6. Mike says:

    I had a pretty similar feeling seeing him in Denver. Glad to know I’m not the only one who was geeking out over this show. http://mbleister.blogspot.c

  7. Quinn says:

    that’s one sick looking setlist

  8. James says:

    I have seen some amazing shows this year (Spiritualized, just over a week ago, in fact), but Neil runs away with it, easily. This is my fifth time seeing him, until tonight’s sixth, and he is in the best form I have seen. Neil has lost nothing and seems to be adding texture and depth to his playing and vocal delivery. He seems to be getting younger. Neil is standing tall, representing his generation unlike anyone else still out there playing (or not). He means every single song. I thank God for Neil’s passion, because he is mine. Ambulance Blues was the finest live performance of a song I have ever seen. Hands down. I can’t say enough about this show, and I can’t wait to see it all over again. Wow. Simply stunning.

  9. thrasher says:

    Frank – Great review and photos! Are you catching anymore TO shows?

  10. Frank says:

    nope, besides not being able to find/afford another ticket, I wouldn’t want to get into the "was this show better or that one" game – the one I saw was fantastic, happy to leave it at that.

  11. Doug Smithers says:

    I have been one of Neil’s faithful fans since 1968. I have seen him 26 times. I originally had front row seats for his birthday show in Chicago but sold them due to my wifes failing health. I then purchased 2 second row seats for the show in Massey Hall on the 27th. I sold the Massey Hall Tickets when my wife was admitted to the critical care ward at Strong Memorial in Rochester N.Y.. My wife is stable again and home waiting for a liver transplant. I really wanted to see Neil return to Massey Hall but the trip across the border would have been pushing the envelope for my wife. I have 2 front row seats for the 11/30/07 show at Shea’s in Buffalo. Shea’s is only 45 miles and it looks like my wife will be able to go with me. The set list doesn’t much matter, just being there is total euphoria for me. I am really looking forward to seeing him do " No Hidden Path". I wish Tonight was The Night, but I guess I can wait another 60 hours until Friday.

  12. JM says:

    Bootlegs? Anyone?

  13. James says:

    I can only hope. That first show back at Massey Hall will be a new must in any Neil bootleg collection. I certainly would love to experience those sounds and that emotion again.

  14. Rob Campbell says:

    Saw the Tuesday night Massey Hall show and it was fantastic! We had floor seats for my wife and kids who wanted to see this long time musical idle of mine. Talked to Larry Craig between sets and got one of Neil’s Herco picks. What a night!


  15. Tony says:

    I went to the two Denver shows. Hearing "Ambulance Blues" and "Motion Pictures" has made me list On the Beach as my favorite album over Tonight’s the Night, which is hard to do considering the personal history I’ve had with that album. How did you like "Mellow My Mind" on the banjo? It’s been my favorite for a long time and I am learning the banjo, so being surprised with that just made me love the song even more.

    First night he closed with "Like A Hurricane" and the second night it was "Tonight’s the Night." Hard to say which closer was better…

  16. georgie says:

    Its hard for my heart to say,in that we believe our hearts are sacred learning vessels.Music came along years ago,caught our attention or just kept playing if we deserted it out of …deppression.i use to be so sensitive scared deppressed,when i walked away from a neil young concert once a very long time ago.i could hear a man needs a maid over my shoulder as i made myself through mostly ignorant stoned people to get out.Cold wind as I found my car,barely making it.crying so hard..i had this heartbroken complexion that i and maybe a few others really heard neils music.I was upset so many dead beats filled his audience,druggies,farmers hawking snot drinking beer.A friend had told me the better way to watch Neil Young play was indoors in a nicer setting.I was hoping it wasn t a lie….

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