Let me start out by saying that my attitude towards the music of Neil Young runs hot and cold. There have been both records and shows of his that I have liked and those that I have not. Based on reports of his recent shows with backing band Promise of the Real, I went to his Nashville show with high hopes. I made the right call.
Young has put together an exciting and entertaining career-spanning show that kept me on the edge of my seat for two hours. With a catalog full of so many familiar tunes, the ones he left out could make for a greatest hits record. But, the ones he did play were more than enough to keep things from ever getting dull.
Starting with a solo set, Neil moved around on the piano, acoustic guitar and pump organ. Seven songs in, he was joined by his young band that is led by two of Willie Nelson’s sons. As things got cooking, it was chilling to watch the 70-year old Young duel with these youngsters on their electric guitars. The high intensity fervor of a 22-minute “Down by the River” was surely the night’s showstopper.
Young was chatty throughout the evening although perhaps a bit odd in some of his commentary. At one point he never quite got around to telling a joke after a big buildup. His repeated references to “Mapquest Arena” were also lost on me. He did speak fondly of his memories of Music City and seemed fascinated by some of the new skyline additions and the nearby illuminated bridge over the Cumberland.
It was a beautiful evening to be out listening to live music in the open air, and the sound at the Ascend was nothing less than perfect. Even the “classic rock” audience paid attention and listened for the most part. Add to that a solid 40-minute opening solo acoustic set from Steve Earle, and I certainly couldn’t think of a place I would have rather been.
Perhaps my only regret was that due to the shadows of the dark stage and Neil’s droopy hat, we never saw his face and good photo ops were impossible.
Seeing an artist at Neil’s age playing and singing as well as he ever has is a fortunate blessing. And as he sang in one of his solo songs on this lovely spring evening, I say to you Neil Young “long may you run.”
- After the Gold Rush (solo)
- Heart of Gold (solo)
- The Needle and the Damage Done (solo)
- Long May You Run (solo)
- Pocahontas (solo)
- Mother Earth (Natural Anthem) (solo)
- Out on the Weekend
- Unknown Legend
- One of These Days
- Okie from Muskogee (Merle Haggard cover)
- Walk On
- Words (Between the Lines of Age)
- Down by the River
- Seed Justice
- Country Home
- Fuckin’ Up
- Roll Another Number (For the Road)
Neil Young—Vocals, Acoustic and Electric Guitars, Piano and Pump Organ
Lukas Nelson—Guitar and Backing Vocals
Micah Nelson—Guitar and Backing Vocals