PUBLICATIONS > Articles > 1970s > Ain’t Nothing Like The Neil Thing

Ain’t Nothing Like The Neil Thing
N.M.E.
April 3rd 1976
HAMMERSMITH ODEON

 

WELL, it wasn’t anything like the “Tonight’s The Night” show, other than the fact that Neil Young’s sense of the absurd was still very much in evidence and this time it added something to the music, rather than detracting from it. But let’s take it from the top… Neil Young walks on stage not that long after eight o’clock. seemingly very reluctant and very listless. He’s about as thin as anybody you’ve ever seen in front of an audience and his great height, stoop and sloppy clothes emphasise his emaciated state all the more.He wears patches on every thing — his jeans, his blue campfire shit which hangs limply outside his pants and his tired old brown suede jacket. As the audience greets him he waves a languid hand as by way of acknowledging them, sits down on a stool and nursing a light blond acoustic guitar, his right leg twitching, goes straight into “Tell Me Why”. Young’s face is as clean shaven as it’s ever likely to be and his hair is long and. yes you guessed it. straggly. In other words it’s pretty much the Neil Young of your “after The Goldrush” days,.the loner hurt in love, etc., etc. And one wonders just how much of it is simply Young playing up to a large proportion of the audience’s image of him. He sends just about everything else up, particularly the show business aspects of the rock biz, so why shouldn’t he send him-self up as well.

As the acoustic set progresses you get the feeling that he isn’t liking playing these songs too much at all. Some of them are distinctly hurried, particularly “The Needle And The Damage Done” which receives the biggest audience reaction so far in, and the closing “Heart Of Gold’ which is executed with a lot of Very strident strumming. Everything’s pretty much in tune and the sound is excellent. Neil Young is singing and performing.well Unsurprisingly he doesn’t attempt to sing “After the Goldrush” itself in the same high key it appeared in on the album. There’s no French horn either, instead Young’s ramshackle mouth-harp takes the part, so that nothing about the song is pretty anymore. In fact the only thing which comes near to being pretty is one of the three new songs he plays in the acoustic set.”Don’t Say You Win. Don’t Say You Lose”. He plays it up at the piano, using the top end of the keyboard, playing fragile petite phrases. Lyrically it’s on similar Young ground – lost Love and the instability of it all. It’s a short song, and is followed what seems a heart-felt version of “A Man Needs A Maid”. The two other new songs are “Too Far Gone” (his own song and not Billy Sherrill’s country song) and “Day And Night We Walk The Aisles”. They both sound fine, the former vaguely traditional in design with an intentionally banal rhyme scheme “We went to my favourite bar/And we went there in my favourite car” and “We had drugs and we had booze but we still had something to loose.” He dedicates “Day And Night We Walk The Aisles” to the late-comers who’re stumbling around blind looking for their seats, and in the song he uses a movie cinema as a metaphor for life. Throughout the show Young doesn’t include anything from his last-but two album, “On The Beach”, but does include that song with its plea for contentment, “Mellow My Mind” from “Tonight’s The Night.” For “Mellow My Mind” he plays banjo which is noticeably out of tune with his mouth-harp. Let it be said that Neil Young’s no great shakes as a banjo player and approaches the instrument like he does a guitar. His humour this side of the beer-break is demonstrated by the way he keeps his mouth harps in a glass of water and on taking one out shakes it vigorously like a nurse shaking a thermometer. After the opening “Tell Me Why” he stuck his mouth-harp in the harp-holder upside down. One wonders whether stunts like these are merely stunts or another part of Neil Young playing up to the roll of the shambling drunk/stoned buffoon? Whatever, he picks up more than the odd chuckle. Although there was nothing wrong in terms of the way Neil played and sang his songs or the quality of them, the whole thing left me feeling depressed. Maybe it was their content or perhaps it was the fact that the old boy didn’t seem to be having too much of a belt up there Everything seemed such an effort.

Whatever, Young looked a good deal happier during the electric set with the excellent re-vamped Crazy Horse. The line-up reads: Bill “boom-boom”(Young’s words) Talbot on bass, Ralph- Molina on drums, and rhythm guitarist Frank Sampedro, Young’s replacement for the late Danny Whitten. The ubiquitous Talbot and Molina are truly one of rock’s great rhythm sections and play like no one else. They’re, tight and yet retain a certain looseness. And the entire electric set had a strictly bar-room vibe. Get these boys together at the Nashville on a Sunday lunch-time, tanked up on a few jars of Fullers and there’d be no stopping them. Again the sound is excellent. like a scaled-down replica of the ‘Zuma” sound: big and bright with a lot of cymbals, but by two thirds of the way through with more excitement, energy.and pizaz, as they say…

As before there’s three new songs. First up is something most likely titled “Thank You For My Country Home, a raging mid-tempo work-out. Young etches out those inimitable guitar lines, attacking and trebly from a black Les Paul, in the lyric he’s contented, and the home gives him an opportunity to be alone. Wonder who he’s thanking, though Young plays a Gretch White Falcon (probably one of Stills) for “Down By The River’. The version is good but the band does not quite get it on. From the same album “Everybody knows this is Nowhere” Comes “The Losin’ End” which again doesn’t quite fulfil the promise of this version of Crazy Horse. The following Hurricane does, and it’s a great new song, a beautifully sprawling melody line with an ascending chorus, Sampedro playing Mellotron. During it an electric fan is switched on presumably to simulate the effects of a hurricane. It’s a great satirical device. Young lunges around mid-stage during a lengthy improvisation. From there on it’s all down-hill and if your spirits hadn’t quite recovered from the acoustic set, they’re in fine condition by the time they close on “Southern Man” taken a little faster than the recorded version. This song really emphasises the dexterity of the rhythm section who charge head long on and then ease back on the space, allowing Young to sketch out more lyrical images with his guitar before accelerating the rhythm again. Between “Hurricane” and “Southern Man”. there’s a great Version of”Zuma’s” “Drive-hack”. Talbot laying down a genuinely throbbing bass pattern, it wasn’t anything like the “Tonight’s The Night” show, other than the fact that Neil Young’s sense of the absurd was still very much in evidence and this time it added something to the music, rather than detracting from it. But let’s take it from the top… Neil Young walks on stage not that long after eight o’clock. seemingly very reluctant and very listless. He’s about as thin as anybody you’ve ever seen in front of an audience and his great height, stoop and sloppy clothes emphasise his emaciated state all the more.He wears patches on every thing — his jeans, his blue campfire shit which hangs limply outside his pants and his tired old brown suede jacket. As the audience greets him he waves a languid hand as by way of acknowledging them, sits down on a stool and nursing a light blond acoustic guitar, his right leg twitching, goes straight into “Tell Me Why”. Young’s face is as clean shaven as it’s ever likely to be and his hair is long and. yes you guessed it. straggly. In other words it’s pretty much the Neil Young of your “after The Goldrush” days,.the loner hurt in love, etc., etc. And one wonders just how much of it is simply Young playing up to a large proportion of the audience’s image of him. He sends just about everything else up, particularly the show business aspects of the rock biz, so why shouldn’t he send him-self up as well.

As the acoustic set progresses you get the feeling that he isn’t liking playing these songs too much at all. Some of them are distinctly hurried, particularly “The Needle And The Damage Done” which receives the biggest audience reaction so far in, and the closing “Heart Of Gold’ which is executed with a lot of Very strident strumming. Everything’s pretty much in tune and the sound is excellent. Neil Young is singing and performing.well Unsurprisingly he doesn’t attempt to sing “After the Goldrush” itself in the same high key it appeared in on the album. There’s no French horn either, instead Young’s ramshackle mouth-harp takes the part, so that nothing about the song is pretty anymore. In fact the only thing which comes near to being pretty is one of the three new songs he plays in the acoustic set.”Don’t Say You Win. Don’t Say You Lose”. He plays it up at the piano, using the top end of the keyboard, playing fragile petite phrases. Lyrically it’s on similar Young ground – lost Love and the instability of it all. It’s a short song, and is followed what seems a heart-felt version of “A Man Needs A Maid”. The two other new songs are “Too Far Gone” (his own song and not Billy Sherrill’s country song) and “Day And Night We Walk The Aisles”. They both sound fine, the former vaguely traditional in design with an intentionally banal rhyme scheme “We went to my favourite bar/And we went there in my favourite car” and “We had drugs and we had booze but we still had something to loose.” He dedicates “Day And Night We Walk The Aisles” to the late-comers who’re stumbling around blind looking for their seats, and in the song he uses a movie cinema as a metaphor for life. Throughout the show Young doesn’t include anything from his last-but two album, “On The Beach”, but does include that song with its plea for contentment, “Mellow My Mind” from “Tonight’s The Night.” For “Mellow My Mind” he plays banjo which is noticeably out of tune with his mouth-harp. Let it be said that Neil Young’s no great shakes as a banjo player and approaches the instrument like he does a guitar. His humour this side of the beer-break is demonstrated by the way he keeps his mouth harps in a glass of water and on taking one out shakes it vigorously like a nurse shaking a thermometer. After the opening “Tell Me Why” he stuck his mouth-harp in the harp-holder upside down. One wonders whether stunts like these are merely stunts or another part of Neil Young playing up to the roll of the shambling drunk/stoned buffoon? Whatever, he picks up more than the odd chuckle. Although there was nothing wrong in terms of the way Neil played and sang his songs or the quality of them, the whole thing left me feeling depressed. Maybe it was their content or perhaps it was the fact that the old boy didn’t seem to be having too much of a belt up there Everything seemed such an effort.

Whatever, Young looked a good deal happier during the electric set with the excellent re-vamped Crazy Horse. The line-up reads: Bill “boom-boom”(Young’s words) Talbot on bass, Ralph- Molina on drums, and rhythm guitarist Frank Sampedro, Young’s replacement for the late Danny Whitten. The ubiquitous Talbot and Molina are truly one of rock’s great rhythm sections and play like no one else. They’re, tight and yet retain a certain looseness. And the entire electric set had a strictly bar-room vibe. Get these boys together at the Nashville on a Sunday lunch-time, tanked up on a few jars of Fullers and there’d be no stopping them. Again the sound is excellent. like a scaled-down replica of the ‘Zuma” sound: big and bright with a lot of cymbals, but by two thirds of the way through with more excitement, energy.and pizaz, as they say…

As before there’s three new songs. First up is something most likely titled “Thank You For My Country Home, a raging mid-tempo work-out. Young etches out those inimitable guitar lines, attacking and trebly from a black Les Paul, in the lyric he’s contented, and the home gives him an opportunity to be alone. Wonder who he’s thanking, though Young plays a Gretch White Falcon (probably one of Stills) for “Down By The River’. The version is good but the band does not quite get it on. From the same album “Everybody knows this is Nowhere” Comes “The Losin’ End” which again doesn’t quite fulfil the promise of this version of Crazy Horse. The following Hurricane does, and it’s a great new song, a beautifully sprawling melody line with an ascending chorus, Sampedro playing Mellotron. During it an electric fan is switched on presumably to simulate the effects of a hurricane. It’s a great satirical device. Young lunges around mid-stage during a lengthy improvisation. From there on it’s all down-hill and if your spirits hadn’t quite recovered from the acoustic set, they’re in fine condition by the time they close on “Southern Man” taken a little faster than the recorded version. This song really emphasises the dexterity of the rhythm section who charge head long on and then ease back on the space, allowing Young to sketch out more lyrical images with his guitar before accelerating the rhythm again. Between “Hurricane” and “Southern Man”. there’s a great Version of”Zuma’s” “Drive-hack”. Talbot laying down a genuinely throbbing bass pattern perfectly simple, over which the rest of the band raunch it up.

Perhaps the only “criticism” of this set is the band’s insular attitude. They appear to be playing primarily for themselves and not for the audience, and Young almost says this with, “it’s really weird I keep forgetting” he whines not ending his sentence, but it’s obvious that he means he and Crazy Horse are forgetting they’re playing to and for an audience or at least they should be and when they’re all hunched around each other their oblivion is obvious. The encore is a disappointing version of”Zuma’s best cut “Cortez The Killer”, which is taken too short. The following “Cinnamon Girl” makes up for it,since it’s charged with such brutal energy. When Crazy Horse are hot, they really know how to play. All in all, another episode in the constantly evolving story of Neil Young one of the handful of rock’s major talents he might be playing music from old albums, but he certainly isn’t looking back. You know the rest. — Steve Clarke.

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