If there’s a musical reason to be a proud Canadian, his name is Neil Young. And if there is a single venue I associate with the great Mr. Young it’s Massey Hall in Toronto. So of course it was the perfect place for the Neil Young tribute concert on June 10th, 2009.
Tribute concerts are by nature under-rehearsed and consequently they are generally hit-or-miss. There is often magic in spontaneity, but often there isn’t. Luckily this show leaned pretty heavily on the hits and while the misses where few (singular?), they were significant.
Steven Page, The Cowboy Junkies, Carole Pope, Holly Cole, Colins James and Linden; there was no complaining about the lineup. I remember the great Bill Frisell delivering his usual understated brilliance, Chocolate Genius was a surprising treat, and Luke Doucet did this really neat thing on Helpless (I believe it was) which involved playing a tape recorder into the microphonic pickups on his big fat Gretsch and looping the result into a backing track.
The amazing Kevin Breit was in the house with his band the Sisters Euclid. I seem to recall them being the house band backing up several of the performers but that might be just a dream I had. Either way the Sisters were there and they can only be fantastic so I assume they were.
Issa (formerly barely known as Jane Siberry) stood onstage and delivered a the only true miss of the evening, but her “performance” was so blatantly horrible it counts for at least four misses. Mercifully my brain has blocked most of it out – I think she butchered through After The Gold Rush, which is such a crime. I’m sitting here trying to remember how exactly she was so offensively awful but I’m scared to death that I’ll actually remember it, and clearly my musical soul has gone to great lengths to keep this memory deeply buried.
So just take my word for it – to say it was an embarrassment is to grossly under-exaggerate.
I’m actually reminded of a time at the old Ottawa Folk Festival when she took part in a song circle with Trout Fishing In America and some others. Whenever it was her turn she just plunked a few random chords on her electric piano and anytime the others caught her chord changes and jumped in she stopped and changed the patches on her stupid little keyboard, “Maybe I’ll go with ‘harpsichord’…” The other musicians were looking at each other like Siberry was crazy, which she clearly was. I forget, what is she famous for anyway?
Well, as you can see the one stinker of the evening went a long way towards balancing out all the good of the evening, but in the end beauty vanquished all and the night was a success.