By the final night of Neil Young’s stunning three-show run at Toronto’s storied Massey Hall in celebration of his newly-released archival recording made in the very same room over three decades ago, well, I was pretty worn out and was ready to just sink myself into a folding soft seat, close my eyes and be lulled by His greatness.
And that’s precisely what I did. On this third night his opening acoustic set was like a priceless lullaby, Neil’s soulful voice and poignant guitar playing blended to become a serene music box, tinkling with a soft familiarity that comforted my very bones.
November 29th, 2007 was the night I finally “got” A Man Needs A Maid. Previously I had just heard overdramatic lyrics shoved into a naive orchestral setting, but after this third straight solo rendering featuring Neil on his funky grand piano and synthesizer I saw the song for what it was: a brilliant and dare I say innovative elevation of the mundane. Neil’s plaintive melodic treatment and lush orchestration of a casual daily observation (that he could use some help around the house) is almost Warholian in placing the everyday into such a blatantly artistic setting, much like putting a Campbell’s soup can in a frame.
Neil’s electric set was wonderful once again, but I let it wash over me much like his acoustic set did, as an aural massage on a tired and strained pair of eardrums. I sat there and let one of the world’s greatest rock and rollers throw his best at me and took it as comfortably as was possible in one of Massey Hall’s tiny balcony seats.
When Neil followed the obligatory encore-opening Cinnamon Girl with Tonight’s The Night I sank even farther into my seat, if that was possible, and enjoyed Young’s most numbing epic with my eyes tightly closed and my musical heart wide open. I knew I was nearing the end of a string of shows the likes of which I might not experience again and I wanted to feel each repeated chorus fill every pore of my musical sponge.
When Neil launched into a third encore – for the first time on this run – the rocker from his Squires days felt like a soundtrack running behind the credits at the end of a long movie. The Sultan was a chance to get up and shake myself awake and reflect on the meditative three-night retreat I had just shared with one of my favourite living musicians, a song to half-pay attention to as I danced and clapped and reached for my jacket, ready to re-enter an unfortunate reality that didn’t revolve around daily Neil Young concerts.