On November 26th, 2007 I sat down for the first of three almost-consecutive nights of Neil Young performing live at Massey Hall. The shows were a bit of a homecoming for Neil who has a history with not only the city but the venue itself, having at the time just released a gorgeous recording accurately titled Live at Massey hall 1971*. It was a bit of a homecoming for me too, having been born in the Big Smoke just a few years before Neil’s new album was recorded.
Zoinks! To think that if only I had been raised by hippies I might have been at that very 1971 concert, a three and-a-half year old out for a night off the commune. The mind reels.
Anyway, m’lady and I had been fast on the draw when tickets went on sale and were so excited with or success that we eagerly threw aside all the blatantly obvious financial concerns and purchased tickets for every show we pulled. Which, as referenced earlier, was all three.
And though the cost of the tickets (and the hotel and the time off work etcetera and so on) was rather astronomical all I could think of as I sank into my seat was how wonderful the show(s) was (were) going to be (and wonder how long Pegi Young’s opening set was going to last. How’d she get the gig anyways?). And wonderful it was (and relatively short her set was, and it even featured a sit-in from her then-husband), starting with a full set of solo acoustic music that had Neil jump between an army of acoustic guitars and a pair of painted pianos scattered among the comfortably cluttered stage in service of such gold as Harvest, Old Man, Cowgirl in the Sand, and From Hank to Hendrix. My gosh, it was all so beautiful. I’m sure I held my breath for the full fifty minutes. I got so lightheaded I almost thought it was 1971 again.
The second set featured a band…geez, what was he calling the band? It wasn’t Crazy Horse or the Stray Gators though it featured members of both…anyways, he had a band behind him for another set of magic that made me wish I was standing up instead of being bonded to my soft seat by the crazy glue of the Toronto crowd. What is with Ontario and sitting down at concerts? Imagine sitting motionless through Neil Young playing Cinnamon Girl? Imagine!?!? C’est impossible! (Excusez mon français.)
I somehow remained seated throughout the iconic raucous and roll song and a whole lot more besides. When it was over I walked out of Massey Hall thrilled to have witnessed such glory, and buoyed to know that I was going to be sitting through it twice more over the next three nights.
Todd bless Neil Young.
*And what a record it is too! If you are one of those people who bemoan Neil’s voice and insist he can’t really sing this record WILL change your mind. It’s Neil at the top of his youthful game playing brand-new iconic songs with a nervous swagger and his eyes shut tight. It’s bee you tea full.
Moreover, once you finally hear the beauty in Neil Young’s voice you’ll always hear it. It’s like those optical illusion posters from the ’80’s. Once you can see one you can see ‘em all.