Imagine a big kid, alone in his basement, singing and dancing and playing instruments to an imaginary audience. That is what the Neil Young show at Avery Fisher Hall reminded me of last night.
Neil had his Buddha (or whatever that wooden statue is that he travels with and plays to throughout the show) with him, and his baby grand piano, organ with candle burning, multiple guitars, and his handy harmonica. He seemed somewhat spiritual, bowing to the Buddha, and stroking his baby grand before playing her.
He wandered around the stage between songs, seemingly deciding what to do next, though he had a clear play list which mirrored his performance on Easter Sunday. He cheered for himself after certain songs, holding his arms high in the air and clapping excitedly.
Neil Young’s voice is incredible. None of that raspy burnt out sound like we hear from Bob Dylan. Neil’s voice is young and fresh and melodic, a singular sound.
Who needs a band when you have Neil Young on stage? He played his guitars as if they were a full orchestra, recreating many of his classic hits, like “Cortez the Killer”. He went from quiet acoutics at the beginning of the show, seated at the front of the stage, to all out rocker for most of the latter part of the concert.
Some of his fans were thrilled and some were upset. Those who wanted classic Neil Young were not pleased, as even his tried and trued songs took on a life of their own here. It was as if he said to himself, “I’m so bored of playing ‘Ohio’. What can I do to totally shake it up?”.
Seeing him at Avery Fisher Hall was great. You don’t expect an aging rocker on stage there, but he filled the entire stage beautifully with his musical gear and his dancing, meandering self. He deserved Avery Fisher, and he got it. Sold it out two nights in a row.
Neil Young is adorable. He’s 65 years old I believe. His jeans are baggy in the back. He wore a hat, which he took on and off each time his harmonica came on or off. His face and body still remind you of the Neil Young of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (that band I idolized in my teens), if you can just ignore the sagging chin and the bald spot on the back of his head.
The best song of the night, in my opinion, was “I Believe In You”, which he played on his beloved baby grand piano. It was a romantic and emotional performance, unfettered by any of the electric rock thrashings that wove their way throughout the evening.
He still has energy. He still has talent. I would see him any time. But Neil, next time, please don’t forget to play “The Needle and the Damage Done”. It’s my favorite.