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Blossom Music Center (near Cleveland)
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Sept 4, 1996
The Gary Computer Cowboy Wilson Review
The Charlene Welfare Mother King Review
The set list
- Hey Hey My My
- Big Time
- Slip Away
- The Needle and the Damage Done
- Heart of Gold
- Sugar Mountain
- Cinnamon Girl
- Fuckin' Up
- Cortez The Killer
- Music Arcade
- Like a Hurricane
- Sedan Delivery
- Rockin' In The Free World
Blossom Music Center, Sept 4, 1996
review by Gary computer cowboy Wilson
So did you all catch Neil on the MTV? The Blossom fans paid for that - a
shortened show. What there was of it was intense - I can only imagine
Neil raising hell about being held up, then coming to us full-bore on
Neil, if you did the MTV thing to get the message out, then it's cool.
You gave me another great show. I'd have wanted more no matter how long
you played :)
Who says Blossom is in Cleveland, anyway? What a drive! For those of you
who haven't been there, try imagining driving through a national forest.
This could've been anywhere in Appalachia - the road follows a river
valley, so the trip was more hilly than you would expect from this
region. Densely overgrown, relatively sparsely inhabited. Quiet and
Banner news: Andy "Cutlass Supreme" Strote FEDEXed the
MORE BARN banner
to me for display at this show. Unfortunately, the US Customs Service
chose that package for inspection - and held it at the border until they
could get a "Textile Point of Origin" form. Unbelievable. Andy's
response - "it's from freakin Canada!" I guess the return address wasn't
a good enough clue :) Andy dutifully did the paperwork, faxed it to them,
but it was too late. They wouldn't get it to Cincinnati until Thursday,
after the show.
Well, the banner went up anyway -stage left, right by the speakers. A
crude approximation of the original, done in the parking lot on the hood
of my car. MORE BARN!!!!
Hopefully, the original will come today & I can get that to the Chicago
folks. Then again, I could drive it up there myself...
Moral of the story: Customs uses dogs to sniff packages. What precisely
did they smell on that banner, Andy? :) :)
OK, the show. Welfare Mother sat down right in front of me during Steve
Earle. Her seat had been empty when I checked it earlier, then all of a
sudden there's this "rust@death" jacket right in front of me. It was
good meeting up with you, Charlene, sorry I talked through the Earle set
- when I finally shut up you really seemed to get into it. Next time -
RustFest! Get my gabbing done before the show :)
I didn't know about the MTV thing - I was complaining to Preston about
how Earle was going way past 9:00, and I was afraid we'd run into a
curfew. A girl walking by overheard me, told us about Neil at the RnR
HoF, that he'd be on at 10.
It was 10:15, but it was worth it!
Hey Hey My My up first. A great way to start a show folks - full of
thunder and emotion. Jim Fox had arranged a terrific rust row - we were
in row 7, close enough to really see what the band was up to. Maybe the
intimacy of being so close, maybe the proximity of the speakers - I think
this was the best show for raw power I've seen on this tour. Really
As many have pointed out - the band is having a great deal of fun with
all of this. I hadn't observed it myself until this show - some glimpses
on the monitors at Pine Knob only. Still nothing like being right there
under the lights with them. Thanks Jim!
Pocahontas was second up again. "they killed us in our teepees..." I
liked the intro better than the other two shows - the melody line was
much more distinct. Again, it could have been where we were, my own mood
- it was easier to focus with the band right there, not a lot of crowd to
No I really think the intro was better. Neil was turned on.
Big Time was very good - pretty true to the album. Some ad lib o-o-o-o's
at the end, and I think he sang something, but it was very soft and I
couldn't make it out. I liked the o-o-o-o's, very soulful.
Slip Away. I slipped right into the jam at the end of this - a genuine
highlight of the show. I was captured - every note was ringing in my
head, my heart throbbing with the bass.
I was satisfied when it ended, which is a curious thing. More open to it
than usual maybe, I was right there from the start. Usually, like CITS
at Deer Creek, I have to be pulled in. Not that I'm unwilling, maybe just
that my nature is to be doing fifty things at once, something my life
frequently demands. It was a pleasure to do something so personal, so
singular, in such a quiet beautiful place.
I know, I know, enough of the philosophical crap. What you want to know
is whether he dragged Pancho off the stage by his hair during LAH. I'm
The acoustic set was up next - TNATDD, Heart of Gold. Sugar Mountain -
nice harmonica, again slow and mournful like the ending of Big Time.
Never heard it quite like that before.
The crowd was sitting a lot and I think this may have been a turning
point in the show. The crowd started to run out of steam. I think it was
the crowd - usually right down front everyone's pretty rowdy - but it was
Cinnamon Girl - again it was like a dinosaur stomping through the
pavilion - a lot of excitement - the crowd was pleased. I was hoping for
something a little different - haven't heard Loose Change or Dangerbird.
The Loner would be a good substitute for CG, maybe. Probably doesn't fit
Neil's line of thought through these shows. It would be interesting to
know if CG is included as a crowd pleaser only, or if there's a
connection that goes deeper than that. What the hell - I love this song.
Hope my singing didn't bug anybody.
F@#%in Up - Pancho went to special pains to recognize people on this one.
He flipped Neil off too. The crowd was coming alive again!
Cortez. It's been said - what a killer. The intro was again superb - Neil
was sort of herding his guitar through the tune. Seriously. Left to
its own devices, Old Black makes some very beautiful, sweet sounds and on
this night Neil let it have a certain amount of discretion. Zuma! More
Zuma... He added a pregnant pause - we were all waiting on edge - is he
done? No, not just yet :)
Actually, this and Music Arcade might have undone the show. Not they were
bad, they weren't. But everyone sat down of course, and the energy level
dropped. Everyone had worked all day, including Neil, I suppose. He was
feeding off of the crowd's energy early on, but now...
But now he did LAH. Bob ("Deep Forbidden Lake") declared it better than
Pine Knob - I would agree it's the best one I've seen, maybe ever. I
can't describe the music - primal might work. The feed back jam & candle
ritual are still integral - Neil pounding on the pickups with the
strings, singing into the pickups. I managed to remember my camera
during this - it was a distraction, but if they turn out it'll be worth
it. I didn't see what happened to Old Black - he dragged it back behind
some crates and I couldn't see. Sounded pretty ugly tho:):) Finally the
ElectroTech guy came up with it & Neil did the candle thing. Backing
across the stage, blowing on it, letting it come back to life, then poof.
Again he stalked off stage with it on his shoulder, like a prize of battle.
Sedan Delivery. Neil looked pretty surprised at the sudden, screeching
halt the Horse came to on this! Like "I'd have never believed you guys
would/could do that". He still had his axe up in the air, big old grin.
CH acted pretty non-chalant about the whole thing... I can't decide if
they were messin with him, or just messed up. The former, I think I prefer.
Rockin' In The Free World was last up. It was nasty & good.
:) I love that
Star Spangled Banner at the end - think it was in honor of the
MORE BARN banner? The land of the free, and home of the brave
was the piece he played.
No Roll Another Number. That was probably good, as I've said Neil had a
hard time whipping the crowd up at the end (yours truly excepted, of
course). RAN probably would have knocked them out.
A much smaller venue than Pine Knob - I thought that would have led to a
more pumped up crowd. Surprising number of empty seats down by us (we
were able to get a little closer!). What's up with Cleveland?
Oh well, the crowd was pleasant anyway - and the music was again a very
good thing. Hope I haven't made it seem like a bad show because of the
crowd - Neil may think so, but I was responding to what he was doing. His
extra effort put me over the top.
Gary Wilson - computer cowboy
Blossom Music Center, Sept 4, 1996
review by Charlene Welfare Mother King
Computer Cowboy wrote, "What's up with Cleveland?"
Now this is Welfare Mother, here to tell you the Rest of the Story from
Cleveland, from my point of view.
First of all, the Obligatory Zeke Content (which actually is relevant
to the whole situation out here, as you will see if you hang in)...
After the concert was over, the other Rusties left pretty quickly; they had
far to travel, and some had to work the next morning. But I warned them from
experience that even after hiking through the woods to their cars, they would
still have to sit in line for about 45 minutes or more before exiting the
parking lots. Of course, I was right... I stayed behind and walked down in
front of the stage and told the guards who tried to get me to leave that I
just wanted to wait a little bit before going to my car. They let me wait.
Meanwhile, this crazy bear-like guy from the front of the audience (another
of those whacked out toughs who, I swear, I remember seeing at previous Neil
concerts here) with all this real wild black Manson hair and a totally CRAZY
face, came charging down in front and tried to vault onto the stage, where
Zeke was out in front taking down Neil's mic.
Ol' Zeke didn't even flinch a muscle. He just looked up with that impassive
Neil-like gaze of his and shrugged as if to say, "Whatever next?" and the
guards tackled the guy and a little fight ensued, and they hauled him away.
He was this big bear of a guy, and obviously wasted. Should be in Fallsview
Hospital in a straightjacket, but they have deinstitutionalized all these
I suppose I'm supposed to feel sorry for the crazy guy, since he obviously
is sick, sick sick. Well, it would be easier to feel sorry for him if he were
in Fallsview where he belongs.
Glad nobody got hurt, so I just sat around a little longer, watching Zeke and
the rest of them take the stage down. A bunch of the guitar fanatics down in
front were calling out, asking for picks, and Zeke reached into a box of them
and scattered them, just like crumbs to the fishes, and these guys went away
happy. Some of them had guitar strings, too.
Most of those guys looked crazy, too, for that matter.
Strange thing is, after that concert, I have been feeling real crazy my own
self. I've now been back at work two days, and I'm still not good for
And it's not a satisfied Crazy Horse music high, either, exactly. It's
more like this concert shook loose some strange psychic shards in my head that
are cutting me up inside. That's the best imagery I can come up with; I know
it sounds f*#@ked up, but there it is.
It has got me thinking...
As I was driving back to my house through the woods (that's the Cuyahoga
Valley National Forest, Gary), I realized that the effort of being present
for all of us millions in a live tour setting is just bigger than Neil or me.
It's just too much, too long on the road... At least for me. It seemed
something was not right with that audience and that show. I was crashing,
emotionally, pretty bad by the time I got home.
It was good meeting the Rusties.
The Tour now has come and gone. I keep thinking what my sister told me after
she went down to the Polaris Show (Columbus) on Aug. 29. She, too, commented
that she was weirded out by the show, and said maybe it's because she is
spoiled from having seen all those other Neil shows here since 1978 -- about
8 or 9 shows -- in these huge venues, when we are more naturally accustomed
to listening to Neil by way of recordings back home in the country. We get
so excited to see him, she said, that it's like we can't handle it.
After the concert, I got this sad feeling again -- the same one I recall
always getting after his visits to us out here -- when I realize he's
gone... Maybe forever. (Catastrophizing, right Wolfgang?)
Wednesday night's concert experience was just pretty crazy, from my point of
I left work, feeling feverish, and hurried home to feed my children, then
Levi- the- World's- Greatest- BabySitter showed up. He told me he had just got
laid off from his job yesterday. Hoo boy. So we talked about his
predicament for a while...
By the time we had sorted out that situation, I got on the road, wind in my
hair, rode up to Blossom through the forest, and was feeling pretty darn
good. Beautiful night, traffic not too bad because I was way late for the
When I got there, after walking and walking and walking and hiking and hiking
and hiking (from one of the "outpost" parking lots -- having been one of the
last of 13,000 people to show up), I had to deal with those Blossom Music
Center guards at every step of the way as I tried to get down into the Rust
Row section to meet those people. I eventually managed it, with much sweat
I made contact with two nice Rusties who had brought the new
MORE BARN banner (CmptrCwby and Bob the autoworker; I forget his
new handle). I was finally just standing by the banner at stage left during the
break after Steve Earle's lo-o-ng but good set. Gary-the-Rustie told me Neil had
been held up at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland; we didn't know
at the time that he was being broadcast live on the MTV awards, but
anyway... That was when I first saw Zeke.
I was standing there sort of zombie-like, leaning on the ramp, when this real
tall fella comes striding out from behind the stage and walks right over my
shoulder on the ramp. He's walking real fast down to another backstage ramp,
and I glance up. It's Zeke, to be sure. I recognized him from his baby
picture, of course. The one that was published in one of my old Silver Fiddle
music books, where this blond-haired infant is sitting on Neil's lap, staring
at the camera with this all-encompassing glare. He does look more like Neil
now, but still has that same expression on his face.
It being so late (only 45 minutes to Blossom's official curfew), I didn't try
to holler at Zeke or follow him. The goons were standing about, anyway. Just
figured, oh, that's Zeke.
Little while later, Neil finally arrives. I am told now that he took a bus
down from the MTV gig out of Cleveland. (Who was it said he was too cheap to
even take the helicopter). Anyway. it's now Show Time, and so...
Preston had arrived, meanwhile, from Pennsylvania. He is a math professor at
a college there, and he was going to have to drive back about 100 miles to
teach an 8 a.m. class the next morning.
So, okay, Neil and Crazy Horse take the stage. Everybody is way happy...
Great beginning with HHMM. Oh, and I should mention here that I was
talking to the guy who does rock criticism for the local newspaper; he was
sitting right behind the Rust Row and refused to trade seats with me to allow
me to avoid the Blossom guards, but anyway, he only likes rap. As the music
begins I wonder how he will like it; at the last concert (his first of Neil)
in 1993 with Booker T, he was totally clueless... Anyway, turns out from the
next day's paper he did like this...
You saw the setlist, I assume, so I won't try to repeat it. I was
getting pretty rocked out by the time they got into that Slip Away jam.
That was great. Neil was into this really unusual movement for him, a sort
of fluid snakelike whipping up and down as he picked out chords.
On the whole, the music was very ZUMA-like, to my ears. The great
whale-diving chords and liquid rhythm. I like that a lot. They sounded
It was loud, but certainly not too loud. They did end up playing a full
two-hour set, hang the Blossom curfew, anyway. Let the neighbors complain
about the noise, even the Blossom Authorities were not going to shut down
Neil looked great, much thinner and *I thought* younger than he did last time
he came here. He looked much like he did in 1978, to me. It was weird, that
way, what with Zeke and I having gotten older in the intervening years.
Neil has got good control of his faculties.
Now the bad news.
I was not able to get into the stage show aspect of this concert at all. By
that I refer to, especially, Like a Damn Hurricane. I mean, when
they started with all the strobe lights and thunder, it was so uh, like being
pounded into submission. No, that is not why I come out to stand under a
shed with 13,000 other idiots.
The worst moment, for me, was when Neil went into his love-sacrifice mime
with Old Black. First he let the strap fall off, then he was holding the
guitar up in front of his face and crooning endearments to it, and then he
ripped off the strings (or something like it; his back was to me right then),
and then we had this feedback fest (WHICH WAS GOOD), but then he did the
thing where he drags Old Black off the stage.
I mean, what is THIS? Marcel Marceau?
Excuse me. Sorry for the lapse of respect, Don Grungio.
But truth to tell, I never HAVE liked the Hurricane song anyway.
I just fail to GET IT. Sorry. I honestly don't even know what the song
is ABOUT. Let alone what that pantomime was about. Maybe RAM>ROD can
clue me in here. Or Lookout Mama, who seems to have ahem rather enjoyed it.
It troubles me, because the thing about this ungodly long tour is that there
are so many thousands of us out there, and unlike Kurt Cobain, Neil says he
has gotten over that problem of going on at a certain time and "faking it."
Well, what IS THIS? What's all this theatrical stuff?
I felt the same way about Fuckin' Up, except with that song I at least
could appreciate the sentiment.
Face it, I just wanted to hear Dangerbird, and that is what I wanted.
Tough luck, chick. Like, get over it.
During the encores, Molina and also Poncho threw a total of four sets of
drumsticks -- including two sets that were not even used -- to the crowd.
Crazy Horse and Neil ended with the usual set and usual encores, very very
well done.. They are, definitely, the Best Band in the World. IMO.
But since I had been reading all the reviews of the concerts before, I
guess I was too well primed to find everything predictable. HOW CAN THEY DO
THIS ALMOST EVERY NIGHT? Can anybody answer this?
And then came the moment when I realized it was over, and the lights came up
on this shed full of crazed backwoods people, all beered up and whatever, and
the rusties I was standing with just sort of looked at one another like,
Then the next morning, as I was driving to work feeling very crazed,
something put it all in perspective. I was listening to my usual local news
station and the morning talk-show guys were talking about how they had all
gone to hear Neil the night before, and they were ragging on the concert big
time. (This is the news channel, not the rock station. I have no idea what
they thought of it on the rock station.) Anyway, these guys on the news
station are all fans, but old enough to not be real impressed anymore by
anything that happens at Blossom. They were just as bummed as I was. Ha ha!.
The one announcer, Stan P., made me laugh when he was talking about the
concert and decided they would have a contest for everybody to call into the
station and tell them, "What SUCKS about rock and roll?"
It's good to be back to my real life, listening to my tapes on the truck
We may be insane out here, Neil, but that's why we love you so much.
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