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Saturday, September 13, 2003

Hey hey, no, no, cliched rock has got to go

Laura and I took a break from the endless line of boxes to be packed and joined my brother and his girlfriend Friday night for a concert by Neil Young and Crazy Horse at our local large suburban semi-open-air amphitheater. Young is touring his latest album, a concept piece called "Greendale" about a family in a fictional north California town. The music was pretty good, even if the story was kind of thin, at least until the last two songs, when the story completely fell apart in a mass of incoherence not usually seen outside of major Hollywood motion pictures. The thing I found most interesting was that the use of actors to mime the parts Young was singing about was surprisingly effective. The mix of video and live action worked quite well. But I found myself cringing during the last song in particular, the chorus of which was something like "We've got to save Mother Earth" repeated over and over. If that wasn't bad enough, one of the cast members took the opportunity during the rave up at the end of the song to bring out an American flag and prance around the stage waving it. It felt like a cheap, manipulative gimmick designed to extract the maximum amount of applause from the audience as if the story wasn't enough, and quite frankly the whole display went against the thrust of much of the rest of the story. It kind of soured the entire story he was trying to tell for me, and left me in a foul mood at least a couple of songs into the second part of the concert. Oh well, nobody ever said Neil Young had a coherent worldview.

After they finished playing the album, they went all Spinal Tap on us, playing mostly tunes from the album Rust Never Sleeps. That's a great album, and it's even the only Neil Young album I own. But I found that part of the concert pretty much excruciating. I was disappointed when the drummer failed to explode at the end of the song "Rust Never Sleeps". It seemed like he ought to have. I think I OD'ed on overwrought rockanroll cliches in the second part of the concert. Oh well, now I don't have to go to another such show for another twenty years. (I think my last Big Rockanroll Show experience was about twenty years ago when I saw The Kinks at Penn State. That was a similarly manipulative experience that left me with a desire to only see bands that play clubs from there on out....)

Laura had an interesting take on it. She decided that it's good that musicians like Neil Young exist, since so many of our favorites seem to be influenced by him, but that the ones who fit that description who we really like, like Chuck Cleaver of the Ass Ponys, are much better, so we're probably better off spending more time listening to them than to Young, who was merely OK-to-good Friday night.

Posted at 11:52 PM

Comments

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Well, this is one of the things I don't like about blogs. I think your brother will probably read this, and he treated us to this concert, and I think this makes us sound like ungrateful jerks. So I, for one, would like to say to your brother, "Thanks. Even though this post makes us sound like ungrateful jerks, we were still glad to go and enjoyed ourselves. Really." I think Ralph gets a little overdramatic in his descriptions and the fact that he did have a good time gets totally lost. At least, I think he had a good time (and I know I did), even though there were some *parts* of it we didn't enjoy.

Posted by Laura at 7:56 AM, September 14, 2003 [Link]

Laura shouldn't be so worried about how I take this post. I had similar problems with the show, especially the flag waving part. If that flag were a Peace flag, at least it would have been consistent. I think Ralph's tolerence for Rock n Roll cliches is awfully low though because I thought Neil Young kept it way below a Ray Davies level of manipulation. And to be honest the worst of Rock 'n Roll cliches I ever saw was Elvis Costello on the Mighty Like a Rose tour.

I think you should remember that Neil Young used to tour with 100 feet oversized Fender amplifiers (obviously for show, not out of necessity). I like that Spinal Tap extravagence. That and 5 minute denouements are what Crazy Horse does best. So much so that Neil Young put out an album of "the best parts" called Arc which of course turned into an unlistenable dirge less palatable than Metal Machine Music. There is a lot of irony in Neil Young's music, unfortunately it is hard to be sure when he is being ironic and when he is being serious, and he plays it both ways for all its worth.

At one point he put up a billboard that said "Support Our War" with a Clear Channel heading on it. Earlier in the year the irony was a little clearer in the context of Clear Channel and other radio stations burning Dixie Chicks records et al. Still, even then it was unclear unless you knew that Neil Young was strongly against the War in Iraq. And the disturbing part was that he took the ill-gotten appluause from hawks in the audience. His anti-war sentiments all night consisted of wearing a Peace symbol guitar strap and adding a line into "Rockin' in the Free World" where he said "We got boys who are dying, cause we didn't have a plan." Kind of buried in the whole presentation.

Overall, I still kind of like the Greendale thing even with all of its goofiness, and I don't take offense that there were parts of the show that were unpalatable to you. There were parts that were unpalatable to me too. Just not the Spinal Tap like part. I liked that.

(by the way, the name of the song is Hey, Hey, My My (Into the Black)).

Posted by lilbro at 9:43 AM, September 14, 2003 [Link]

I didn't really say that I was offended by the Spinal Tap-ness of the second part of the concert, just that one concert of that nature every twenty years is enough. I found it hard to enjoy in the wake of the ending of Greendale that I found so unpalatable, but after a couple of songs managed to. But I still feel the drummer should have exploded.

For the most part, I liked the Greendale thing, too. But as 95% of all Hollywood films demonstrate, it's really hard to write an ending that keeps with the spirit of the story to that point. Most get it wrong. I thought Greendale got it wrong. But I thought the presentation was audacious, and it kept my interest. It was something I'd never seen before, and all the better for that. With a better-written story, something like this could really kick ass.

(Oh, and the title of this post was adapted from a song by Neil Yuck, the chorus of which goes "C'mon baby, you know I'm Neil Yuck, Hey hey, no fuck.")

Posted by ralph at 1:11 PM, September 14, 2003 [Link]

How did Neil Yuck get away with those lyrics? The only place I ever saw him perform was on TV, right after Bruce Stringbeen, and right before Davie Jones, I think.

Posted by lilbro at 1:20 PM, September 14, 2003 [Link]

Well, many Uncle Floyd songs had both a "nightclub version" and a "TV and all ages show version". "Nightclub version" was used for performances at places like the Bottom Line. The TV version equivalent of "no fuck" was "no fun."

Posted by Laura at 1:26 PM, September 14, 2003 [Link]

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