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(Note: There are two reviews on this page...)

The Catalyst. Santa Cruz, May 8, 1996

by Gregory Hernandez a.k.a.Calistar
posted to Rust on May 9, 1996

Amazing. Thats the only word that can describe last night's show. Here it is 12 hours later and I am still IN AWE. For me, last night was a dream come true. I have so much to tell you all. I will probably have to break this review into two parts...

Part I

Yesterday when I got home from work I did what I always do. I checked my e-mail and caught up on my RUST digests. I was cruising yesterday afternoon's digest when I saw a post by Rustie Homegrown (my newest, most bestus friend) saying that Neil Young was going to be playing in Santa Cruz (which happens to be 45 miles from my home!). I couldn't believe it! I immed- iatley grabbed my coat, swung by the teller machine, and headed for Santa Cruz. I knew that the tickets were sold-out, but I also knew that if I tried hard enough...that somehow...I would get in. I *had* to get in...this was Neil.
THE ECHOES. May 8th, 1996
The Catalyst. Santa Cruz, California
When I got to the club (6pm), there were about 200 people there that had previously bought their tickets earlier that day. They now had wristbands and were lined up waiting to get into the place. I also noticed another line of people that were stationed in the "Hope Line"... people that were "hope-ing" that more tickets would become available. I got in that line. A big burly, but cool, club employee came out and said that "No other tickets were going to be sold". And I could tell by his face that he meant it.

Even with that, I knew I had to get in. Then, I noticed a third line. This was a line for people that had little blue vouchers that guarenteed them a wrist band. They had been there early that morning, got the vouchers, left and came back. I focused on them.

I went down the line asking if anyone was selling their ticket. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.... And then... Maybe, how much are you offering?


I made a monetary offer that she couldn't refuse and CHA-CHING! I was in.

The club holds 800 people, but when I got in, there were only about 200-300. Most of the people were sitting at tables on the sides of this big dance floor. The stage is elevated to a height of 5'6. I know this because, there in front... in front of Neil's microphone stand... maybe two feet to the left... was an empty spot with Calistar written all over it. I dashed for that spot and there I would stay all night. In the front row with my arms on the stage.

The stage had a variety of old mis-matched amps and antique guitars. I scanned the area, knowing full well that I would be writing this review and wanted to absorb as much info as possible to tell you all about my experience. Directly in front of me (maybe 6 feet or so...) was Old Black. There was the guitar that has sung so sweetly for so many years. The neck was worn to a dark brown color. It waited patiently for its partner.

Old Black was attached to an old Fender deluxe amp. I am not a guitar player, but the guy next to me was, and he said that next to old black was a '59 Les Paul, which Neil never touched. Neil's foot peddle board had 15 buttons and lights to see which sounds had been turned on.

On every amplifier was a candle and incense was burning. On one of the amps was a model of an old cadillac convertible... presumably a tiny version of one of Neil's cars. Underneath it was a fishing stringer (I don't know what the signifigence of that was). On one of the bigger club amps on the sides was a small flyer that read "THE ECHOES - March 18th - repeat performances". I thought it was cool then.... but I think it's a lot cooler now that it hangs in my house :-)

At 9pm the stage was set. The crowd was psyched in anticipation. Then, at 9:21pm... Neil Young and Crazy Horse walked on stage. My god... what exhilaration. It had always been a dream of mine to see Neil in a small club... But to see Neil in a small club and to be standing within FIVE FEET was just too much. Neil strapped on Old Black and instantly jumped into a BLISTERING version of Country Home... complete with feedback filled chorus and soaring solos.... maybe 10-12 minutes worth.

It was like a dream to me, but there I was...and there he was.

Part II

Neil wore a Geronimo T-shirt, ripped jeans and work boots. (He would eventually change his shirt twice during the three hour show.) His hair was just a bit shorter than I remember from the Bridge show.

I thought he looked great... healthy and in good shape. He and the band just ripped through number after number. Although I thought the entire show was superb, there were five songs that were "the highlights" for me. Country Home started things out right. It was a great warm-up song and the band got tighter as it went along. Bite the Bullet had a driving beat and I really enjoyed it. In the second set, Dangerbird was just amazing.

Just when you thought you couldn't go any higher... along came Barstool Blues. WOW!!! Absolutely THE BEST version I have ever heard. The band rocked and Neil wailed. I was totally and completely blown away.

DBTR is always great to listen to and ended the third set. After the road crew started to break down, Neil and Co. came out to do Prisoners of Rock and Roll. Rustie Tom called it "The perfect song to sing in that situation" and he was right. It was really the icing on the rock and roll cake.

During one of the breaks I was able to talk with "someone close to Neil". I don't know "how close" this person is or "how reliable" the information is. In my opinion, this person was fairly reliable.

I asked the following questions:

Q. What about the New Album?
A. Oh, its in the can. It'll be out in a month or two. Its great. It'll blow your mind.

Q. I heard that its pretty psychedlic...
A. Yeah, its very very cool.

Q. Have you ever heard of RUST, the Neil Young Internet Discussion group?
A. Yeah.

Q. Does Neil monitor the List?
A. Yeah... I mean, I know he has a computer... I'm sure he's aware of you.

Q. What about the reissues...? When can we get On the Beach and the others on CD?
A. Oh, thats up to Geffen.

(Editor's note: Geffen?)
Q. What about the Archives...? Will they be out soon?
A. *laugh*... The problem is that as soon as the project gets moving, Neil does something new that should be on it. It could be a while.

So there you have it folks. Take this Q and A with a grain of salt. Of course I cannot dilvulge the source, but like I said... I consider the source to be somewhat knowledgable.

During Down by the River Neil tossed down his pick...that somehow....ended up in my possesion. :) What a great momento! I've carried it around with me all day and have shown it to all my friends. For you guitar players out there it is a nylon pick that says "Herco flex 50" on it. I'm sure that has meaning for someone out there in Rust-land.

Lets see, what else...

Oh yeah. There was a sign on one of the amps of an Indian chief's head with a big number eight in it. On the top two corners were an "N" and a "D". I asked one of the crew members what it meant and he replied that is was a sign from North Dakota that marked Route 8. I asked "Well, what meaning does it have for Neil?" and he said "nothing, he just likes Indians". :-)

Well, thats it Rust-land. What an amazing experience. Its an experience that I will never forget.

Oh, and I also wanted to thank all the Rusties out there that sent me kind messages. You people are the best.

. . . . . . . . . . Calistar (ggh4@pge.com)

P.S.: If anyone would like to ask any questions about the show... if there is something that I left out that you would like to know about... feel free to e-mail me and I will do my best to answer.

The Horse Rocks The Cruz

by fontainebleau
posted to Rust on May 10, 1996

Thursday's show at the Catalyst was incredible as Neil and the Horse blazed through a remarkable performance.

The scene was set when all candles were lit, about 15 in all, when the miniature Cadillac convertible was placed atop a wooden box on which was inscribed in imperfect lettering The Traveling Echoes (yes, that's Echoes and not Echos as is typed on the advertisement - - maybe Neil wrote on the box the Canadian spelling) and the North Dakota road sign was hung up displaying the Indian Chief. The band were imminent when Larry Cragg carefully placed Old Black and the back-up Les Paul on their stands and took up his position for the event at stage right behind a large monitor.

Around 9:15 the taped sounds of the remarkable David Lindley faded away and Neil, Poncho, Billy and Ralph quietly assumed their positions and delivered unerringly a solid Country Home. Don't Cry No Tears was next and was called to a halt early by Neil as he appeared somewhat dissatisfied with this rendition. The look on his face was ominous, but served merely to fire the proceedings into serious action and an excellent Stupid Girl followed. Continuing with Bite The Bullet provided the first highlight of the night - a full frontal assault of meshed electric sound with solos shooting chunks of shrapnel in all directions, punctuated with Billy's goldfish in an electric chair imitations that ended up with him on his knees on the stage thumping the Fender bass with his fist -- generating dirgelike moans from his hardware. Jimi would have been proud, Jaco envious. The set was closed with Drive Back delivered with equal frenzy, the BIG sound of Ralph's kit tuned to perfection. Neil said "we'll be back" and all left the stage. Larry resuscitated Old Black, massaged it and returned it to its stand and himself to his niche to peer out at his charge.

The second set opened with a moving version of The Losing End. Subsequently, Poncho took out an orange Gretsch semi-solid, although the holes were imitation, and started to caress the strings gently as Billy pulled a few harmonics - Old Black took up the groove and Dangerbird was set free, soaring to heights far above the planet on the strength of a flock of pinch harmonics and pull-offs that were laden with Icarian spleandor. When Your Lonely Heart Breaks brought everyone back to terra firma, Neil's touching melody/solo laid perfectly on Poncho's flowing keyboards. Poncho remained at the ivorys for Like A Hurricane - they could do no wrong at this point. The machine was fine-tuned and running better than ever. The set was closed with Homegrown amid bellows of smoke from those at the front of the congregation. Neil used the back-up Les Paul for this one and the usually intense Larry cracked a smile towards the end.

Set three opened with Pocahontas, again beating on Old Black with his palm to generate the drum-like quality of the guitar sound. Roll Another Number followed and was succeeded by Barstool Blues, a major highlight of the show. After flogging Old Black into submission Neil played the main chord riff about 12 times as he appeared to be formulating a strategy - what followed was an anthemic- like solo somewhat akin to the strength of, but not the music of, Mother Earth that appeared to be interupted briefly at one point by the melody of Soul Of A Woman (but I may have been delirious by this point). A barrage of foot-stomping on his effects board allowed Neil to broaden Old Black's vocabulary in the seriously-dangerous registers during an unprecedented version of Keep On Rockin' In The Free World. At this point the equilibrium between sound mastery and total chaos was perched precariously in favour of the former - I was more than a little scared of what might happen if this barrier was pushed even a little more. I read somewhere once that Neil said he sometimes had out of his body type of experiences when playing live, I don't know whether this still occurs to him or not but this time was a real prime candidate. Frank brought out the Gretsch once more for a Cortez The Killer that seemed to last forever. Reality had long departed when Neil switched to the back-up Les Paul to finish the third set with Prisoners Of Rock 'N' Roll. Larry took some photographs (sans flash) around this period and smiled for the second, and last, time of the evening.

The crowd made a humungous racket over the next 10-15 minutes as Larry blew out all the candles and switched off some of the instrumentation. The band returned around 12:15 and launched full tilt into Powderfinger as though all energy stores had been re-stocked. Neil donned this straw-type cowboy hat reminiscent of the International Harvesters days. The evening ended with an outstanding visit to Down By The River that had Poncho and Neil laying solo upon solo on top of each other as Billy and Ralph filled-in the background vocals.

When it was over it felt like a dream...

. . . . . . . . . . fontainebleau

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