Neil Young is a regular fixture on my daughter's college radio show playlist, never mind not-to-miss listening on our mother-daughter road trips. So we decided to pop for the hefty-priced tickets for last night's performance at the Northrop.
My first trip to the Northrop since moving here I was impressed with the grand columns, the lofty sayings chiseled in stone and the beautiful plaza for pre-concert conviviality. I hate to describe the scene out there in the fading light of a perfect Minnesota summer evening as mellow but it was. The tour t-shirts that used to hang on bony shouldered boys now rest softly on the mature paunches of men.
Eventually everyone filled their seats to the each-song-similar tunes of Bert Jansch.
It's obvious the seats in the Northrop were originally arranged for a more genteel and perhaps smaller-boned crowd. The passages are narrow and every bathroom break is an occasion to arise and reassemble the entire row. Still though they are staggered sensibly so that everyone can reasonably see the stage.
That is, until the couple in the late arriving threesome in row #21 decided to express their love and affection by standing together in one seat area, her blond bob just to one side of his much much taller frame, therefore creating a unified blob that obliterated my chances of seeing much of the opening act. Things improved when she sat down and only cuddled into his shoulder at a lower level, yet you couldn't help but think they might have been more comfortable on a sofa...at home.
I spent the first four songs leaning to my far left into the aisle, probably skewing the viewing system all the way back, as people adjusted themselves in order.
Neil didn't disappoint. His strong, woeful timbre as clear as ever, his guitar mastery and magic more evident in person. He works the reverb as though you are being launched from a rocket into the story of his songs. And you always sense there's another story beyond that story. He really rattled the rafters of the Northrop, in fact I think he had those interior Corinthian columns quaking as I gazed above at the hovering balcony.
I could have done without the war whoops from the crowd at every dated drug reference. A veteran of Lollapalooza and countless music shows, my daughter thought the old folks were a little unruly. The silhouetted idiot standing at the front with outstretched 'rock on fingers' even warranted a quick sideways glance of incredulity from the singer. Sit down.
Watching Young work his way around the set to the various instruments he seemed like a kid deciding which playground equipment to try next. He, at times, bemused himself with and then communed with the cigar-store Indian statue on stage. He was otherwise a man of few words, but we didn't mind.
I then forgave him for coming to our old stomping grounds in Wichita, just after we moved away, to find help customizing his 1959 Lincoln Continental into a hybrid Lincvolt. I'm closer to forgiving him for also making a music video while driving it down Douglas Avenue past all our hangouts in the same town.
I feared I would find his latest music harder to access or follow, but it is the last song of the evening, "Walk With Me", that is still haunting me. Most musicians are anxious to seem one with their guitars, yet in this number Mr. Young had you thinking his was possessed of its own intelligence and soul as he left it to hum and echo beside him and standing alone. Truly unique.
It was admirable that the single seat lady behind me in row #23 knew the lyrics to every single song, such was her loyalty to the man. But did she have to sing along?