Last Night: Neil Young at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center

Neil Young
Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center
June 7, 2010

Better than:
Almost anything. When I'm old and grey I'm pretty sure my shortlist of best life experiences will go something like this: my wedding day, the birth of my children and the night I saw Neil Young at the Meyerson.

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Danny Hurley
Neil Young
First of all, please forgive us for the slight tardiness of this review. I didn't really have my reporter hat on last night.

I paid top dollar for my tickets, and, considering I'd never seen Neil (who might as well be God to me), I just wanted to sit there and let it all wash over me, ya dig?

He pretty much covered the $300 and change I spent for 3 tickets with the first three songs, though,  playing exquisite versions of  "My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)," "Tell Me Why" and "Helpless" that left this writer in tears.

(See? Not professional.)

Switching to another acoustic--played through amps heavy with low end--Neil then played a number of new songs, presumably material from his upcoming Daniel Lanois-produced album. One could easily see how droning, spooky numbers like "Peaceful Valley" and "Love and War" would benefit from Lanois'  touch, but, lyrically, they're far from his best work. For instance, "You Never Call" was a touching ode to a long-time associate Larry "L.A." Johnson, who passed away in January, but unless you're the type of fanboy who'd know such things, you'd probably just hear an endless string of dad jokes ("You're in heaven with nothing to do/the ultimate vacation with no back pain," etc., etc.).

That being said, it's still pretty cool to hear Neil Young tell dad jokes.

When a roadie brought Young's trusty Les Paul "Old Black" to the stage, the audience knew it was in for a different kind of solo show. As Neil himself put it: "I said it was solo; I didn't say it was acoustic."

What followed was easily one of the top concert moments of my life, as Neil pinned us to our fancy soft-cushioned chairs with an epic "Down By The River," with waves of oscillating feedback reverberating through the Meyerson, proving definitively that a) Neil Young is a god and b) the Meyerson should book more rock bands. The room can handle it, and I'm pretty sure most Dallasites would dig the occasional ear-ringing from a night at the symphony hall.

(My Morning Jacket with the DSO, anyone?)

The unreleased "Hitchiker" was essentially a five-minute electric book report on Neil's life (and his favorite drugs), while "Ohio" was no less spine-tingling to hear 40 years after Kent State. And while dragging along an upright piano, a pump organ and a baby grand for the purpose of playing one song (one!) on each is the ultimate pretentious rock star move, it's OK for someone who wrote "After the Goldrush," a song that seems more and more relevant with each passing year. "Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 21st century" got one of the biggest cheers of the night, although my hopes for a "Look at Mother Nature on the run from the assholes at BP" verse were sadly dashed.

The double-shot of "Cortez the Killer" and "Cinnamon Girl" ended the set, and while I'm no fan of watching bald white guys fist pump, I can't really judge them.

I was doing it, too.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias: Neil's catalog from '69 to '79 (Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere through Rust Never Sleeps) is pretty much my favorite run of albums by any artist, ever.

Random Note: The joint was full of local musicians there to pay their respects, including Nicholas Altobelli, Brent Best and members of A.M. Ramblers, The King Bucks and Midlake. 

By The Way: Opener Bert Jansch wowed the Meyerson audience with his acoustic guitar playing--a heavy influence on Neil since the '60s--though it was abundantly clear that the majority of the crowd had no idea who he was. His expansive, droning Brit-folk numbers seemed to wear on some audience members, but the crowd was nevertheless respectful. One teenage kid next to me even fell asleep, though he later complained about Neil's set, too. Obviously, he has a lot to learn.

Setlist
My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)
Tell Me Why
Helpless
You Never Call
Peaceful Valley
Love and War
Down by the River
Hitchhiker
Ohio
Sign Of Love
Leia
After The Gold Rush
I Believe In You
Rumblin'
Cortez The Killer
Cinnamon Girl

Encore
Old Man
Walk With Me

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