I feel a little uneasy. Looking around the room I can see I’m surrounded by hippies, and my blinding-white Nikes and frutti-frappe-super-skinny-latte seem a little out of place. Still, the cover charge was paid and they seem a passive bunch.
As a young man mocking his long hair and naivety about the record industry puts us all at ease, I begin to make out a face free of the lines of doubt and sorrow, and witness a talent apparently still emerging, yet clearly already formed.
In fact, the Neil Young I’d come to know via boring clichés of distant stars obscured by mountain-sized speaker stacks, no longer able to connect with a faceless mass, is surprisingly forthcoming, perhaps even cheerful.
Having already basked in later concerts unearthed from the annals, it seems we’re going through a career in reverse, a technique sometimes used by movie makers, first showing a painful experience to get us hooked and sympathetic with the characters, then stepping back to happier times, so we’re left relieved but filled with dread at the inevitable tragedy.
I guess the only thing for it is to sit back, laugh at his jokes and enjoy the music, and at 70 minutes, and without having yet released an album under his own name, it’s an impressive set, but even by his own admission there’s already an unavoidable proclivity toward the melancholy, which is as much expressed by his wavering falsetto as by his lyrics.
His introduction to ‘The Loner’ is the clearest example, which he follows with a helpless chuckle and a mock gun shot to the head. Hard to take it too seriously though as it’s quickly followed with a farcical tale of his failure at the 9-5 due to ‘inconsistency‘, or more accurately the ‘red pills’ he was buzzing on at the time.
It just won’t go away though. That feeling. As ‘Birds’ and ‘The Old Laughing Lady’ wow with a melodic beauty that’s as much his calling card as the abrasive guitar sound would become later, sitting in on the Massey Hall gig only three years after, it’s impossible not to be struck by how less enthralled he sounds in the role as entertainer.
As a mere spectator, his future is already written, and with every low there obviously was a high, but no matter how great the art composed out of the ashes of despair, you wouldn’t deny him a trade, not for a second.
As the impending damage done becomes almost too much to bear, I find myself wanting to hug the young Young, telling him not to take it all to heart, and to remember it’s not the fans who write the reviews. I think I’ve been around these hippies too long and my frutti-frappe needs a top up. Thanks for the invite though, it blew my mind.