Sunday, September 24, 2017

Neil Young’s Perfect 10 @ Jazz Fest

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Posted by teibs On November - 26 - 2009

neily@ZackTeibloom This show is from New Orleans Jazz Fest in May ’09. For some reason, I never finished it until Thanksgiving Day. I’m so thankful for being at this show I felt compelled to finish it today. Enjoy.

A perfect 10. I honestly wasn’t sure I’d ever see one. A perfect 10 requires everything to be just right on stage and just right from where you stand.*

On stage you need: a tight band with a immense stable of songs to pull from. A front man who knows when to keep it tight, when to sprinkle in banter and when to solo. A well-paced set filled with crowd favorites, but not a best-of catalog, building to a dynamic finish and epic encore. 

Off-stage you need the right spot: (5-10 rows from the barricade, near the center so you get the sweet spot from both speakers, but don’t get your ear drums blown out.) The crowd should be familiar with the songs enough that they can sing along, but not so obsessed that they trample each other, making you uncomfortable.

You need the right people around you: a friend (or, in this case, a cousin) you can turn to, smile and nod when a classic starts, a fatherly figure to provide for you,** two cute girls to talk about crowd surfing and all-time lists with before the show starts, and a motherly figure.***

I had everything in place off-stage. I just needed Neil to bring it on stage. Did he ever.

Whenever I struggle with where to start when asked “What kind of music do you like?” from now  on I’ll just say Neil Young. More specific? Guitar rock with fuzz. Songs filled with generation-bridging lyrics and sing-a-long choruses. Songs that meant something to me when I was growing up, songs that mean something to me now.**** Songs that will always mean something to me. And solos. Endless guitar solos.

Neil Young is rock ‘n’ roll. There’s Neil and then there’s everyone else. I used to think it was Paul. It would be hard for Paul to put up a 10 show that matched Neil at Jazzfest. I’d love to see him try.

Neil rocks back and forth, taking wide, lurching steps toward his band as he strums, hunched over stomping around in his jeans and boots for the opening to “Love and Only Love” before moving up to the mic. He lifts his right knee high, tapping his right foot to the beat as he sings. His wispy hair flowing behind him as dark sunglasses block his face, though you can still see a protruding vein on his forehead.

“Thank you, it’s great to be here with all of you today,” Neil tells us before “Hey, Hey, My My” comes next and sets the tone for the rest of the set. Young took a classic rock anthem and jammed it out to no end, leaning into his band members as he lumbered around on stage, tearing his axe apart as a gusty wind ripped through the crowd. He slowed it down for “Are You Ready for the Country” on piano before throwing down again on “Everybody Knows this is Nowhere.”

Young was gentle and intimate on the acoustic gems like “Needle and the Damage Done,” “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man,*****” but the roaring electric numbers pushed it into the 10 zone. The “Dance, dance, dance!” build up and eruption on “Cinnamon Girl” and the wailing of the last 40 seconds or so are chilling. He solo’d to each side of the stage before settling on mine. At this point I wrote the note “BJ, ice, Neil.” I wish I knew what that meant.

As Neil sang “Maybe Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me,” a flock of birds flew by slowly, hovering around the 10th row, center. If I had wings, I would have flown to the exact same spot. The sweet spot. I’m telling you, this was a show that even birds could understand was special. The weather reacted the same way with huge gusts of wind during powerful solos and the sun shining through with freakish timing.

“Down by the River” was a show stopper. A 15-minute marathon with Young taking strolls around the stage, soloing near every member of his backing band, leaning in, feeling them out and soaring over them. “Rockin’ in the Free World” would have been more than enough, but you just know he’s coming with one more.

Then there was that encore. The quintessential cover of “Day in the Life,” which could only be topped by Paul showing up for his verse. (Yes, that’s happened before) Neil roars through the ultimate closer, the shearing the strings off his guitar, using the frayed ends to play the drums in an explosion of feedback before making his way to the xylaphone to play off the final chord as the feedback rings in our ears. “I’d Love to Turn You On.” He most certainly did.

10/10

Set-list (highlighted ones have video)

  1. Love and Only Love” (Electric Guitar)
  2. “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) (Electric guitar)
  3. “Are You Ready for the Country?” (piano)
  4. “Everybody Knows this is Nowhere” (electric guitar)
  5. “Pocohontas” (electric guitar)
  6. “Change Your Mind” (electric guitar)
  7. “Cinnamon Girl (electric guitar)
  8. “Mother Earth” (pump organ)
  9. “The Needle and the Damage Done” (Acoustic guitar-solo)
  10. “Light a Candle” (acoustic guitar)
  11. “Heart of Gold” (acoustic)
  12. “Old Man” (acoustic)
  13. “Speakin’ Out” (piano)
  14. “Down by the River” (electric)
  15. “Get Behind the Wheel” (electric)
  16. “Rockin’ in the Free World” (electric)

Encore

“A Day in the Life”

*And I do mean standing. If you’re sitting down, it’s not a 10. I’d love to hear an exception.

**This guy who ended up next to us was a bald bull of a man who brought everything to the table. We’d been waiting 40 minutes to see Neil, but he came 5 minutes before he went on stage and got that close because he handed a beer to everyone he passed on his way to our spot. He then had a flask of vodka, a canteen of wine and cigars on hand and was almost forcing us to enjoy all of his goodies. No complaints here.

***The woman next to me told me she was going to cry as Neil started “Old Man” and looked over our section with kind eyes.

****Neil writes songs that make you think they were written just for you. “24 and there’s so much more. Live alone in a paradise that makes me think of you.” Does it get any better than that?

*****How do you not text your dad during this song?

1 Response

  1. Festival Crashers » Blog Archive » Zack’s Concert Leaderboard 2.0 Said,

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