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Thursday, December 14

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Concert Wed Nov 14 2007

Review: Neil Young @ Chicago Theatre, 11/13

I have a theory that pertains to shows like last night's at the Chicago Theatre: the more high profile an artist, the more annoying the crowd. Maybe it's because the majority probably only go to one or two concerts each year or that they think they're entitled to yell out whatever they want because they paid an absurd admission. Whether it's the fat dude wearing a sleeveless button-down shirt and sweatpants or the soccer mom in her best Lane Bryant, it typically comes down to many oldsters trying to relive their glory days while totally forgetting what they were all about. What unites this riff raff is thankfully the same thing that keeps them quiet at least during the songs. When Neil Young plays, people listen. However, between songs is a different story.

On Tuesday night, on tour to promote Chrome Dreams II, Neil Young took a page from Rust Never Sleeps by performing acoustic and electric sets that wound through his deep discography. The acoustic set highlights were old album tracks like "Mellow My Mind" and "Cowgirl in the Sand" that drew huge ovations. Obviously, the 62-year old's voice isn't the same as it was when he recorded many of these songs, so he wavered a bit on the high notes. But his guitar-playing is still subtly fantastic.

Now, one great thing about a concert by an artist with such a rich history is the element of surprise. Any next song could potentially be one of hundreds. But that didn't exist on this night because a painting depicting an interpretation of each song was displayed on the side of the stage. So everyone in the audience knew at one point that "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere" would be next. There was no chance for pure elation when identifying the first notes. (And the artist made at least one spelling error - "Bad Fog of Lonliness.") With 4 songs from Chrome Dreams II at the core of the electric set, "The Loner" and "Oh, Lonesome Me" sounded like gold to the ears of anyone wanting to hear classics. A 20-minute jam on "No Hidden Path" ended the set and gave way to the encore of "Cinnamon Girl" and "Tonight's the Night." Both were tremendous, naturally.

Tuesday's audience was in for a special treat - "The Sultan." You may ask, "What are you talking about?" Well, "The Sultan" was an instrumental recorded by Neil Young's first band, the Squires, in 1963. The record is very rare and it's doubtful the song's been performed live in 40+ years, but we heard it. Overall, this was a performance that clearly showed the range of Neil Young through the years. Between forgotten album tracks, hit singles, political attacks and good-natured anthems, he treated the audience to a hint of where he's been and what he's done through his career. And what a career it's been.

 
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