Concerti on Love in Minor Keys

TULSA — We left Okla­homa six days ago, but the mem­o­ries are fresh, details helped by notes on the Oct. 14 Neil Young con­cert. The show, over­all last­ing 3:40, amazed me. I expected a great time, and it sur­passed that.

Crazy Horse, Tulsa, 14 October 2012

Crazy Horse, Tulsa, 14 Octo­ber 2012 Photo by Christy Pollock

Reviews remain a par­a­sitic genre: You should’ve been there.

Care­ful essays on Young’s cur­rent Alchemy con­cert tour are a flick of the mouse away. All to be found in this Brick, after days of con­sid­er­a­tion, is an anno­tated set list, with links to the songs.

Song 1. “?” reads my notes.

Here is the set list of an afi­cionado, and it’s con­firmed by an offi­cial, com­mer­cial one:. So Song 1 is “Love and Only Love.” This YouTube record­ing is from ear­lier in this tour, and is sim­i­lar to how Young and his band Crazy Horse per­formed it at the Tulsa Con­ven­tion Cen­ter. We see on the jumbo video screens that Neil’s right wrist is taped up in an elas­tic bandage.

Yes, this is about 15 min­utes long. That explains how Young’s sin­gle set lasted two hours — he didn’t even take a drink of water — with only 13 songs. The song was new to me. Knock me: It came out in 1990, 22 years ago.

Song 2 — “Pow­derfin­ger” an old hit I knew, though only from its first line — “Look out, Mama, there’s a white boat comin’ up the river” — and not the title. It’s from 1979’s Rust Never Sleeps, the one Young album I ever bought,* not count­ing my big brother’s col­lege cas­sette col­lec­tion that he gave me, con­tain­ing Deja Vu by Crosby Stills Nash & Young.

Song 3. “Born in Ontario” — a new song. It may be on the upcom­ing album from Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Psy­che­delic Pill.

Song 4. “Walk Like a Giant” — the best song of the night. It’s also new. There’s an offi­cial video. It’s inter­est­ing and not too long, but the live, over­long ver­sion drills into your soul. All the musi­cians whis­tle in the refrain: Neil, gui­tarist Frank “Pan­cho” Sampe­dro, bass player Billy Tal­bot, drum­mer Ralph Molina.

Song 5. Another oldie, real old, “Nee­dle and the Dam­age Done.” From about 1971. Crazy Horse left the stage for this, and Neil played an acoustic gui­tar. It’s short, and Neil didn’t extend it with any riffs.

Song 6. “Twisted Road,” a new song. It’s about nos­tal­gia for the best early rock­ers — Dylan, the Grate­ful Dead, Roy Orbi­son and oth­ers. I am pos­i­tive I missed ref­er­ences to other musi­cians. Maybe we can hold a contest.

Song 7. “Singer With­out a Song” is what I wrote down, and that is its most likely title, blog­gers at this point agree. Neil accom­pa­nied him­self on piano.

Song 8. “?” Turns out this is “Ramada Inn.” A new song. A sad love bal­lad, it has this refrain, “She loves him so, she does what she has to,” alter­nat­ing with “… does what she needs to.”

View of Neil Young off the jumbo video screen

View of Neil Young off the jumbo video screen Photo by Christy Pollock

Song 9. “Cin­na­mon Girl.” The band now has returned to the stage, and they’re all back to elec­tric. I know it was a hit, but it was new to me Sun­day night. This post’s title occurs to me dur­ing this song. Even when Neil sings about global or philo­soph­i­cal issues, he’s singing and play­ing gui­tar (or piano or har­mon­ica) about love. Actu­ally, most of his songs would be con­sid­ered set in major keys, but the impro­vi­sa­tions, and cer­tainly the feed­back loops, roam all over.

Song 10. “?” The skilled set lists say this is “[Effin’] Up.” All I knew was at the end of a long gui­tar duet or maybe it was a duel with Pan­cho, Neil said, “That was [eff’ed] up.” I thought he was apol­o­giz­ing, but it must have been the title, eh? Any­way, it’s from 1990.

Song 11. “Mr. Soul.” Another old yet unfa­mil­iar song that has a “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” beat. Ah, it’s 1967, and with that early band Buf­falo Springfield.

Song 12 and the last song. “Hey, Hey, My, My,” from Rust Never Sleeps. I still have the old cas­sette, but all that’s left is some bass, all the highs have dete­rio­r­i­ated. Yes I still own an audio­cas­sette player. “Rock and roll is here to stay,” yet cas­settes don’t really “burn out” — turns out they “fade away.”

Finale: “Tonight’s the Night.” From 1973. I’d heard this one before, at some point in my mem­ory. Inter­est­ing that Neil and Pan­cho chose to close with a reflec­tive song.

Ben and Christy, after the show

Ben and Christy, after the show Photo by Christy Pollock

Show’s over, and we look tired, don’t we? And we didn’t do any­thing more stren­u­ous than stand in line 35 min­utes for beers dur­ing the open­ing act, a retro heavy metal group called Infantree. Within its first 15 sec­onds, I chose to save my ears for Crazy Horse (famous for going to “11”) and the listed open­ing act, the won­der­ful Los Lobos.

I wish Los Lobos would play Fayet­teville. We’d show them a great standing-room-only crowd. (Tulsa Con­ven­tion Cen­ter was just over half capac­ity — pretty sad for Neil’s stature.) And: Los Lobos in the Ozarks needs to be some­place where peo­ple could dance.

Note on theatrics

We had the­ater. I don’t mean Neil did moon­walks. Hang­ing on either side of the stage as the audi­ence entered– hung a pair of two-dimensional (flat) giant ren­der­ings of the front of a old-fashioned pow­der blue portable TV set. Each screen depicted a ver­sion of the old black-and-white “Indian Head Test Card” — coin­cid­ing with the Crazy Horse logo. At 9 p.m. exactly, Los Lobos was off the stage and these screens went live — the jumbo video.

The road­ies at this point were in cos­tumes — about a third in the black T and denim tra­di­tion, another third in day­glow orange vests and hard­hats (props, not needed) and the remain­der in white lab coats, walk­ing like B-movie sci­en­tists. On the backs of the coats was embroi­dered “Alchemy,” the title of Young’s summer-fall 2012 tour.

The lead “sci­en­tist” pre­tended to use an iPad. He was an older fel­low who despite his beard and long frizzy curly hair reminded me of the comic Pro­fes­sor Irwin Corey (who has straight hair and appar­ently is still alive at age 98!). His pan­tomined role was of stage manager.

Sit­ting on the stage the whole evening were gigan­tic, 20–30-foot-tall ship­ping con­tain­ers. With the entry of the crew, the back­ground recorded music turned to the Bea­t­les’ “Day in the Life,” with the sound of chains and winches. The boxes were pulled up, reveal­ing giant, old-model Fender ampli­fiers. While these were obvi­ously fake, due to their huge size, real amps were inside them, behind the brown tweedy grills, so Neil could aim his gui­tar at them and do his feed­back thing.

* The Tulsa tick­ets came with a CD of Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s sort-of tra­di­tional album from this spring, Amer­i­cana. I do intend to buy Psy­che­delic Pill when it’s released later this fall.

Copy­right 2012 Ben S. Pollock

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