Sunday, July 31, 2005

An Evening With Neil Young Solo-The 1999 Tour

Easily one of the most important rock n' roll events of the decade took place just as it was closing. Neil Young's all acoustic tour of 1999 will go down in history as an event of epic proportions, despite it relative simplicity. Covering nearly the entirety of the United States and a portion of Canada, the tour started its first of 3 legs in Vancouver moving down the West Coast, across the Mid-West and East Coast, and finally wrapping up south of the Bible Belt in my hometown of Houston.
I have a number of field recordings from this tour and each is filled with its own surprises with songs covering the bulk of Neil's almost 40 year old recording career at the time. Each night was filled with classics like 'Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing' and 'Flying On The Ground Is Wrong' standing side by side with newer compositions such as 'Looking Forward' and 'Out Of Control'. A repertoire of almost 80 songs on this tour required that he have a notebook at his feet each night to keep him aware of his options.
There is a beautifully filmed official DVD of this tour released by the name of, you guessed it, Silver & Gold. It chronicles a magical night of music at the Bass Music Hall in Austin, Texas on May 29, 1999(Neil calls the venue a "music church"). It's just Neil alone on stage surrounded by a semi-circle of stringed instruments ranging from 6 and 12 string guitars of varying ages(including one of Hank Williams') with a guitjo(a six stringed banjo) thrown in for good measure. On one of the evenings I saw the show in Houston, he told the story of one of the guitars that had a bullet hole in it from where the original owner had been gunned down as he played it(yikes!). Flanked on his left and right by an upright and grand piano with a magnificent pump organ upstage center. The only bummer is that the DVD only showcases 13 of the 28 songs played on that evening. Maybe someday we'll get to see the rest in digital clarity.
This was a 'no frills' musical experience. With only a simple white scrim as his backdrop, Neil performed all the musical acrobatics needed to take your mind to that heavenly place that most performers fill several eighteen-wheelers to try and accomplish. A variety of pastel and primary colors were projected on the backdrop as the mood changed with each new song. A truly elegant, yet simple, approach. He let the songs do the talking and did not rely on gimmicks to dilute the ambrosia.
In one of the more beautifully organic moments of the DVD, while singing the song 'Daddy Went Walkin' he accidentally comes in a bar too early with his vocals but catches himself just in the nick of time. In that brief moment, someone in the audience gives a cheer of approval and Neil can be heard ever so quietly saying to himself..."yeah". Yeah, indeed.
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Songs performed on the 1999 solo tour:
Tell Me Why
Looking Forward
War of Man
Out of Control
World On A String
Shut Up Asshole
Don't Let It Bring You Down
Daddy Went Walkin'
Distant Camera
Ambulance Blues
Southern Pacific
The Needle and the Damage Done
On The Way Home
Goin' Back
2Time Spent In Detroit
Long May You Run
Old King
Old Man
Harvest Moon
Heart of Gold
Last Trip to Tulsa
After the Goldrush
Good To See You
Lookout For My Love
Unknown Legend
Razor Love
Lotta Love
Cortez The Killer
Dreamin' Man
Expectin' To Fly
Horseshoe Man
Love Is A Rose
I Am A Child
One Of These Days
Cowgirl In The Sand
Throw You Hatred Down
White Line
Mansion On The Hill
Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing
Comes A Time
Railroad Town
Flying On The Ground Is Wrong
Dance Dance Dance
Down By The River
Mr. Soul
Mother Earth
From Hank To Hendrix
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Cinnamon Girl
In The Great Divide
Lotta Love
See The Sky About To Rain
Southern Man
Silver and Gold
Only Love Can Break Your Heart
On The Beach
Sugar Mountain
Last Trip To Vegas


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