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Neil Days In Canada (1996)
Mark Klus a.k.a.Powderfinger
posted to Rust in November, 1996
Part 1: "Back in Canada spend my days
riding subways through a haze"
Having gotten into Neil in the fall of '74 when I was living in north
Ontario ("When you were young and on your own"), I had always been hoping
to see the man in action at this time of year. So it was great to be back
in Toronto pounding the sidewalk, kicking the red and gold leaves around
and breathing in their pungent, autumnal smell. The only drawback was
that my better half, Vampire Babe, was not with me this time around. But
for that I was to meet a ton of terrific Rusties and Rustettes.
Oct.31, Toronto: I dropped in to see Zain (Love in Mind), my
good buddy for almost 2 years now, late in the morning (but early for him.
:) He was playing the Harvest Moon album.
I arranged, by phone, for a ride with our classy Lookout Mama of the North,
Mary Maguire (Lonesome Whistle) who was heading down to Chester's
in Hamilton earlier that afternoon. Riding subways with Zain and chatting about
the state of Rust, and then plugging in Neil Young (Emperor Of
Wyoming, Loner, Old Laughing Lady) and ATGR (Tell Me Why,
Only Love Can Break, Southern Man, Cripple Creek Ferry) on the discman, I headed
over to Mary's place. I was experiencing a strong sense of autumnal deja vu,
On the way, we picked up from their hotel two other Rusties, from Glasgow: Rob
and Joyce Hudson. We had a great chat in the car about things Neil and Canadian,
with the odd snowflake flying around outside. :)
Oct.31, Chester's: We decided to park near Copps right away and
headed, with Shroud in hand, to Chester's. There were several
Rusties gathered already (about 5 pm) in the back. Little time was wasted
in hoisting The Shroud on the back wall, and adding many more signatures.
Among those I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time (or meeting
(Speaking of Hamilton, should I add that as a summer student at the DOFASCO
steel mill, this was the place I first experienced the Rust Never Sleeps
album in '79. In my basement room then, I played the hell out of 4 songs:
My My Hey Hey, Thrasher, Powderfinger and Sedan Delivery. And
now the man was in town.)
- Mike J. from New Jersey. This dude had already seen a
good dozen shows earlier this year, starting things off by driving all the
way from Jersey to Charlotte by his lonesome! He was now about to go the
distance again, from Hamilton clear through to Buffalo.
- Matt D. and Rick St. from Michigan.
- Tony W. (Country Home) and Barry G. (Seven Year Warranty) from Rochester.
- Dave F. (Slug) from Kitchener.
- and last but not least, Dave Y. (Electric Needle) from Hamilton,
who organized this scene in the first place. Many thanks, Dave!!!
After us, various other folks rolled in: Kato, John Carter and
Kat, Darren Mc, another sweet Rustette by the name of Trish (please come
back to Rust!) and her friend Brian, Zain, his cousin, and Allan T. from
Toronto, Mike C. and a few buddies from London, then Andy St. with a few
more folks in tow from T.O.
The music at Chester's wasn't much to speak of, but that changed real fast
when I heard them play my favourite non-Neil song: Light My Fire by
the Doors. The blood vessels were getting pumped. :)
I noticed Andy bobbing and weaving all around taking some pictures. I hope they
turned out! It's always nice to have an international gathering of Rusties.
:) Sorry if I forgot to mention anybody, but as always,
the time zoomed past and before we knew it, Neil Time was drawing nigh.
Oct.31, Copps Coliseum: There were about four Rustrows 12-15 rows
back on the right (when facing the stage) side of the floor. My sister Karen
and her hubby John showed up, still miffed that they the missed the Barrie
show, I took the aisle seat beside them and in front of Slug. Before the
show Trish was passing out sparklers which were lit as soon as Neil & The
Horse launched into Hey Hey My My shortly after 10 pm. This was right
after Neil said "Boo!" to begin this
unforgettable Halloween evening.
Right away I realized how good and well-rounded the sound was, no matter
what the volume. When a venue is built right, indoors is definitely better than
outdoors for sound. And Neil and hockey have always been good friends.
I was wondering whether Neil was going to treat his "hometown"
crowd with something special when I heard those strange and beautiful
chords live for the first time. My eyes popped. I yelled to Slug,
"Cowgirl!" and then immediately ran up to Zain, Dave Y., Kato and
their buddies in the front row of our section yelling "Cowgirl!" and
gesticulating like a madman. Thus was my first secret wish fulfilled in a
thunderous, doom-laden, then bluesy version of the song. It sent me somewhere
into the stratosphere where I stayed the rest of the night. I was so
happy I didn't care what Neil played after that.
More "standard" fare followed in the form of Big Time (it was so
satisfying to hear those low drones, those eternity notes at the end of
BT for the first time again), Pocahontas, Needle. After a brief
and fascinating acoustic ditty that Neil explained as the beginning of a
new song, I heard live for the first time another fave, Helpless.
Though for some reason, I couldn't hear the crowd's backup vocals very well.
More fine songs followed, including my first I Am A Child and
Scattered. Then Neil & CH launched into The Loner, by which
time Slug and I were (trying to) high five at the beginning of just about
every song -- 'cause something special was going down.
Just how special was revealed when we heard what we thought was
supposed to be the beginning of Cortez, except that Neil kept hitting
the "wrong" notes of the opening chord again and again. We were scratching
our heads ("Natural Beauty?" "Naw, couldn't be.") and so were the Horse.
Finally Neil motioned Larry Cragg to bring him a harmonica and he began
playing both ol' Black and the harp *together*, something he would do for
most of the song (when not singing the words.) This seemed to be for ages
and ages -- yes, who woulda thunk it: Natural Beauty.
It was so slow, so intense, so beautiful. And so *draining* on the spellbound
crowd. When this incredible aural vision was over, I kept wondering where Neil
gets this energy from. On top of that, I found the Horse's harmonies for the
words "natural beauty" spot on as well, adding a nice touch to a monument
to sheer musical genius. Talk about unexpected fruit from Neil's recent
Bridge performances of this gem! One of Neil's & CH's finest moments ever.
Now just in case things were becoming a little too rarefied, Neil
ricocheted into a rather "musical" F*ckin' Up (with hardly any bumping
on stage or giving the finger, just a lotta jammin') and then ricocheted yet
again into a concentrated Musical Arcade.
Now, what next? I had the feeling Neil wasn't ready to play Hurricane yet,
and sure enough we got two brief chestnuts: Everybody Knows (a first
for this year!) and Stupid Girl! By this time I was running up to the
front about every second song trying to share my excitement with Dave Y. and
clasping Zain's hands -- but Dave Y. was too far gone into his own outer space.
After back to back rollicking versions of Rockin' In The Free World and
Prisoners of Rock'n'Roll (no harp this time around, but what an *up* song
with Neil going higher and higher and...), we got another "breather" and nice
surprise in a fine Losing End. This made FOUR songs from the
EKTIN album. :)
Somewhere around this point, Neil said, with arms outstretched to the crowd,
"Hamilton, alright!" In retropsect, I was
told that Prisoners kicked off the encore part of the show, but I was
too far gone to notice. :) Since the beginning with
Cowgirl, the whole night was one encore after another!
Then came the tripple dazzler of the show (a bunch more secret
wishes fulfilled :) ), 3 of my all-time Neil faves: Dangerbird (!),
Powderfinger (!!, and a fine version) and Slip Away (!!!).
A haunted Neil intoned the title words of that song more often towards the end.
By this time (well over 2 hours of non-stop Neil magic), even the Horse were
getting tired and began walking off the stage, which didn't stop the man
from launching into his goodnight number: Roll Another Number, at which
point they quickly got back into the saddle. The song count now stood at
24, a number Neil and the Horse hadn't played since 1986, and certainly
not with such style. This was as close to the OPL as we were going to get,
and then some. I waited 22 years for this kind of show, and was so satisfied
that even if I never saw another Neil & CH show again, I was a happy man.
After the show, I talked to a few more Rusties, all of us walking
around in a kind of daze, including Jim Burgess of Guelph whom I hadn't
seen in a while. Hugs of joy went out to Zain and Mary and probably
others whom I can't remember. The whole night is still one blissful blur
in my mind. When Rob from Glasgow told me his being there was a "good
omen", I told him to make sure and be in Ottawa as well. :) Karen
couldn't believe that Neil could play for so long and so well and Jon was
speechless. They may have missed Barrie, but Hamilton more than made up
A group of us went to Tim Horton's for doughnuts and refreshments
before heading back to Toronto where the ride back was a little faster
with Mary's pedal to the metal. She dropped me off at my pal's, but I was
so high that I slept 3 fitful hours if that. Thanks Mary (and Sonya! and
Sheila!) for the great tickets and the hospitality. Never to be forgotten,
I'll tell ya.
A final autumnal note: as I walked out of Copps Coliseum with the
gang, I noticed a half moon hanging above us in the clear sky and cold,
bracing air. Blue blue windows indeed.
Part 2: "Amazo-o-o-on,
you had so much, now so much is gone"
Nov.1, Toronto, pre-MuchMusic: With the unforgettable electric
Natural Beauty still echoing inside me, I woke up from an exhausted
sleep, feeling more wired after the Hamilton show than before it. And it wasn't
even 7 am yet! It was way too early to call Zain. :)
But later on I did phone Mary (who was "at work" in body if not in mind) for
MuchMusic rendezvous details.
After talking with some old confreres and consoeurs at Robarts Library,
I met my dad -- a spud farmer at heart (I'd love for him to hear
Country Home live) -- for lunch near the General Hospital where he'd been for
a brief checkup. He found it hard to believe the stories he had heard
from my sister. "You sound kinda hoarse there, lad!" &160; :)
I headed down Queen Street way about 3 pm where the interview with Neil was to
take place. Ever so often I poked my head out of the cold and into the
CityTV/MuchMusic studios, where I noticed through the window a
nice train set complete with mountain-type landscape being set up for the man.
Zain came by about a quarter to 4 and we went into the coffee shop across the
street to warm up a little. Already by then I'd I spotted a few youngsters
clogging the window facing into the studio, so I occupied a spot myself towards
the right side when we came back out. Soon after, short Mary came by and took
over the spot. Then followed Dave Y. whose height proved to be an advantage this
time around. :)
Before I knew it, this other, unshaven fellow in wire-rimmed
spectacles and skullcap, another Mark, appeared out of the blue beside us
and began talking Neil stuff, some of it sensible, some of it nonsensical
("The Canandaigua show this year was no good." "Whaddya mean it was 'no
good'?! I was there too, pal. You'll never hear another Prisoners like
that."). Turns out he's another mad Pole and a Neilhead since '71. Been to
dozens of shows, but has no computer access. Doesn't want any either. So
we didn't mind arguing a little bit, though Zain seemed a little
apprehensive at our sharp tone. No harm done. :)
BTW, this Mark, hippie-era agitator that he is, managed to work in the TV
question about Neil and Randy Bachman that's been reported.
Speaking of which, that Prairie Town video smokes!
("Portage & Main 15 below!")
Now the lineup for the chosen few formed on the other, left, side
of the doors, and I decided to head over there with Zain and Darren Mc
(who had won the spot beside Zain) and see what happened after they went
in. I had phoned Tracy from Philly a few days before on seeing Zain's
post, but was told that only 45 places had been made available, and that I
was too late. Maybe so, but in this kind of cold weather, I had my doubts
that all 45 people (many of them sure not to be Neil fans) would show up.
Mark and the small group he was with were just as determined to get in, so
I took the chance and hung out with them. I motioned to Mary and Dave to
stand with me, but for her a bird in the hand was worth 2 in the bush and
who can blame her? There was no guarantee I was getting in. Besides, she,
Dave Y., and, later, Trish had unique, front-row places to see Neil
through the studio window. I just wish it hadn't been so frigid!
We noticed Neil's tour buses roll down Queen St from the east and
into the side of the station and not long after 6. we heard shouts of joy
and excitement. The show had started.
Oh yes, before that, Denise D. had come out a few times to rehearse the
intro to the show. She seemed rather nervous and excited. Finally, Tracy
came outside to let one "beggar" in but shot right back inside. A member
of our group knew someone else at MuchMusic who just happened to come outside
for a breather and noticed us. When asked if we could get in, she said it was
tough but that she'd try. Sure enough, a few moments later Tracy came out and
told us to go in fast, but not to bring in anyone standing by the studio
window. So unfortunately, Mary, Trish and Dave Y. had to freeze outside.
:( I still made sure to thank Tracy, though.
Nov.1, Toronto, MuchMusic studio: I took up space at the back
left of the studio, able to see Neil playing with the train set, Zain
beaming and Darren all concentration. I could also see Mary and Dave Y.
outside the window.
Only later on did I realize members of Crazy Horse were in the
studio as well. At the risk of repeating myself, it was so nice to see
Neil in a living-room type atmosphere. I think it helped him feel at
ease. Restless guy that he is, he could move around, play with his props
(train set, guitar), play around with CH, play for the folks with faces
glued to the window, sit down on the floor and chat with the audience
gathered inside. I will never forget that unique, high, haunting voice of
Neil's trying different lines from When You Dance. This was better than
a live performance, 'cause it was like eavesdropping on a session at
the Broken Arrow ranch. And warm lighting added to the homelike glow.
Given all the directions and different media the questions came
from, Neil did pretty well with his answers, seasoned with his fun, ironic
sense of humour (e.g., Piece of Crap as karaoke video. :)
Sure, some of his answers were facetious, but others were well thought out,
from the heart.
A few points to consider, if I may, now that I've seen the video
(thanks Kato! and thanks Trish!):
After a while I could feel things start to drag a little and I
noticed Elliot R. giving the MuchMusic folks a signal to start winding
things down. So Neil was definitely not cut off, but he wasn't going to
play a regular song ("We're practicing for Ottawa,
I said.") either. How could he, when they were piping music in whenever
they broke for commercial and Neil was trying to rehearse. I mean, he's
reluctant enough to begin with!
- Neil was asked point blank what he thought about bootlegs. So
here, once and for all, was his big chance to tell the world what he
really thought, to really slam them if he so chose. And you know what
his answer was: no answer. The question was tied in with "when are
the Archives coming out?", which he chose to answer instead with
"July!" and which remained a running
joke for the rest of the show. To me, that pent-up silence says a lot.
Namely, that for Neil there's no clear-cut answer to the bootleg question.
("I won't attack you but I won't back you.")
- Later on in the show, Scottish Rustie Ian's question about
the Internet's effect on Neil was asked, and Neil mentioned, after some
hesitation, that the dissemination of tapes of concerts he'd rather forget
took a little of his freedom away. But here we're talking not just
bootlegs, but unofficial tapes and the general instant nature of
information nowadays. For instance, I'll bet that Neil will wish that the
Hamilton show not be treed (*if* it comes to that) because there were some
notes that he was looking for without finding them (as
Kato pointed out),
and more than once he and The Horse were a bit out of sync. But to
expect people not to want to listen to the many high points of that show,
not to mention the unique Natural Beauty, is not realistic either.
It's just that, without the Internet, word about that show would have gotten
out much slower. All great artists need privacy, real or imagined, and
that's harder and harder to come by.
- Very often in the better interviews, the interviewee will reveal
as much about him- or herself as about the subject at hand. Example: Neil
was unfortunately put on the spot with a silly question about his
favourite female Canadian artist of all time. Of course, we knew he would
mention Joni Mitchell. Doh! But after some thought, he mentioned
k.d.laing and her various styles, asking "Which
one of those personalities do you like the best?" (Brought to mind
right away Neil's long history of assorted personalities himself. Question
for all of you: which one is the real Neil?) Excellent answer.
- Speaking of things Canadian, there came the almost inevitable
question: "How come you don't have more Canadian acts, bands open for
you?" Neil replied that he never really thought about it, when taking on
Pearl Jam, for instance. A little later he added:
"Music really doesn't have national boundaries...
The line is only there if you don't cross it."
Another, courageous even, answer to remember, an interesting take on
(national) identity, and my favourite part of the whole interview. Of
course, this didn't prevent Neil from being a little mischievous with
those Canadian and American flags next day in Ottawa. :)
At the show's end I noticed there was only one exit and headed
over there pronto, where I was fortunate to shake hands with Ralph (my
favourite member of CH, a guy who don't get no respect) and Billy, who
both seemed pleased with my "Thanks for the great show last night. Thank
you for everything." And a suggestion (harking back to Neil's comment
about Hamilton): "Play what *you* guys want more often," which they seemed
to like as well. In between them strode Poncho with his head down, intent
on getting out.
Soon after Zain came out, but before I knew it, I was
hustled over to his side and we turned around just in time to see Neil in
his cap walk past. When we yelled out "Thanks, Neil!" he kind of turned
his head and smiled as if to say, "Okay, you crazies. I know you're there
and that's close enough." Chalk it up as a fitting ending to a unique,
extremely interesting near Neil encounter. Who woulda thunk it.
But an even better end is there for everyone to see on the video:
just before MuchMusic launched into "Neil's favourite videos", the folks
outside that studio window were given one last TV spot. Amid the hand
waving, you can clearly see Dave Y., and Trish, and Mary in between them,
waving, beaming and shouting "Hello Rusties!" clear as a bell. Yowza!
Way to end the Neil portion of Neil TV!
Toronto, Nov.1, post-MuchMusic: Darren said goodbye to us at the
MuchMusic door and the next order of business was to get some hot drinks
and victuals for half-frozen Mary, Trish and Dave Y. ASAP. We found
a small place farther along Queen Street and hashed over the state of
Rust and the past 2 days' events, still only half believing that all this
was really happening. Here's hoping the pictures taken there turn out!
Zain came up with the great idea of
posting our impressions from Robarts --
I love those tag-team posts. :) I noticed they were
playing Pearl Jam's latest (No Code) in the restaurant, which
gave Zain and Mary the chance to stand on either side and accuse me as we
were putting on our coats, "Hey Powderfinger, how come you don't like Pearl
Jam???" "Hold on a minute, I said I didn't know them very well. Give
a guy a chance!" :)
Zain, Mary & Dave Y. took a taxi to Robarts while I rode the subways
again, this time accompanying Trish to her stop. It was strange for me
to be posting from Robarts, this time with our illustrious trio, and being
swept with another strong feeling of deja vu in a place where I had worked
for 10 years. After that "4 Horseman" post was sent, Mary and Dave Y.
headed for the subway, and Zain and I walked to his place, from where he
gave me a ride to my place of "rest". We just kept looking at each other
and grinning. :)
The next question now was: after the incredible Hamilton extravaganza, what
would Ottawa bring?
Which reminds me, I hereby move that every Halloween Neil & The Horse play
Copps Coliseum, preferably to a Rustie (and friends) audience only. The
place would *rock*!!!
Part 3: "Down the
highways all across the nation..."
Nov.2, Toronto-Ottawa: After I had another less than restful
sleep :) Zain dropped by about 10 am to pick me
up for the big trip to the nation's capital. On the way there, we also
picked up Kato, Dave F. (Slug) and Zain's cousin (still in high school),
Zubin, for what would be his first (but not last, let's hope :) Neil
Again the weather was on the cold side: mainly sunny with the wind pushing
the cumulus clouds along. Now and then some snow clouds could be seen in
the distance, but nothing serious. Slug has already reported on the best
poutine place in the world on Hwy 7 near Silver Lake. Just make sure you
have plenty of gas before you make the trip there. :)
The conversation was great (comparing Journey Thru The Past with
Human Highway for instance) and so of course was the music. Zain
made a compilation tape of Neil hits from his albums through the years and
it was neat to hear and (try to) sing along to Helpless while heading
through the now leafless terrain on the way to northern (Canadian Shield)
Ontario (even if it was the eastern part).
Another highlight was a great acoustic version of Everybody Knows from
one of the Nov.'92 shows. (Slug insisted on singing "I'm still living
the dream we had" to the "lalala la la" melody of EKTIN. :)
The Barrie show also was sampled. My appetite for the new Pearl Jam No
Code album had been whetted from the night before, and Zain happily
obliged by playing his copy of that as well. I must say that PJ seems to have
more variety and "light" in their songs, which is all to the good, and is
(IMO) no small thanks to Neil. Nice to see that PJ have learned more
from Neil than Kurt C. did. The song There He Goes, yet another tribute
to Neil, is a real gem IMO.
We rolled into Kanata (west of Ottawa) about 4 pm and noticed the
Corel Centre right away. We drove by to make sure we spotted Marshy's,
site of another soon to be RustFest. First things first, eh! Finding the
Comfort Inn was not so easy, but after a quick impromptu tour of Kanata we
prevailed. :) The landscape (Laurentian Mts.) around Ottawa
is much the same as Mattawa, that north Ontario town where I grew up (just 200
miles up the road from Ottawa). So I had the feeling that Neil & CH were about
to play in my back yard more or less. I kept asking myself: what kind of
a dream was I living anyway? Who woulda thunk it!
Nov.2, Marshy's: We parked the car and made our way to Marshy's
where, unlike Chester's, we didn't have any spots reserved for Rusties.
It was rather larger and packed with people, but several Rusties and Neil
fans had occupied a back corner below a TV anyway, and we stayed put until
the show started. One nice touch was the Neil music they were playing over
the sound system, got me wantin' to rock already.
It was great to meet up with "old" acquaintances from Chester's/Hamilton
and Toronto again: Dave Y. and Mary, John Carter and Kat (who praised Dead
Man to the skies over certain objections I had), Trish (what did she have
up her sleeve today?) and Brian, Rob (Good Omen) Hudson and Joyce who had
enjoyed their time in Niagara Falls the day before.
Andy St. had his family with him this time and was reminiscing with me about
the good ol' days when the NHL had only six teams, as we were looking at the
walls covered by hockey pictures. Detroit was playing at Toronto on the tube,
and I let a yelp of delight when the Leafs took a 1-0 lead. Could that be a
"good omen" too? :) Nothing beats watching a hockey game
and seeing a Neil show the same night, in the same building no less.
I congratulated Andy on his brilliant idea of the More
Barn banner, now a.k.a. The Shroud of Tourin'. It was now
hanging on a nearby wall and being covered with yet more signatures. I
was relieved to meet Mike J. as well, who made the trip from Hamilton to
Ottawa by himself.
Once again I had the pleasure of meeting for the first many other
Rusties and Neil fans from Rochester, Rhode Island, Connecticut
(sorry if I forgot anyone and sorry for forgetting your names). I do
remember meeting Tom St. from Reading PA who made the trip up with his
wife, Kate and 2 friends, Elaine and Jim. Funny how though we're more or
less neighbours here in Pennsylvania, only now did we meet, north of the
border. Then there was the local Rust contingent of David (Bog Turtle)
Ostrosser who is a real hoot with a great sense of humour, and the man
responsible for this here RustFest: Adrien Comeau, an altogether too
modest individual who, if I'm not mistaken, was about to see his first
Neil show. :) Thanks for the hospitality and
the accommodations, Adrien, merci bien, mon ami! And huge thanks to
Trish, Mary and Sonya for procuring and getting great tickets (yet
again) to us!!! A big cyberhug for these Rustettes, please.
Part 4: "Now that you've find yourselves
Nov.2, Corel Centre: As usual I straggled in pretty well behind
everybody, partly because I got an updated white t-shirt with three
tipis on the front and both the U.S. and Canadian tours on the back.
Couldn't resist that! I showed the shirt to Mary as an idea for
something for Kim M. (Unknown Legend) who, to my great regret, did not
make either the Hamilton or Ottawa shows.
losing your minds, Are you here agai-ain?"
BTW, other Rusties who were at these shows but whom I wasn't able to meet were:
Dave Bolan from Brampton, Ron Pretli from Meaford, Brad Leonard from Kingston
and the Quebec Rusties who were sitting near Zain, I think. Sorry I missed
The Rustrows were to the left (when facing the stage) and about 10-15
rows back, which meant we could see more of Neil's facial expressions this
time around. I ended up in the front with Mary, Dave Y. and Dave F. to my left,
and Jody, a new or soon-to-be Rustie from Mary's part of Ontario, if
memory serves, on my left. Now I don't have anything against Joni
Mitchell, but he kept asking me when she was coming on and I tried to find
different ways to say: "Fogetabowdit!" Maybe some other time, but not
tonight. On the other hand, he did keep hoping Powderfinger would be
played and all I did was smile. :) That, however, was
not to be.
What was to be was an awe-inspiring display of primal rock 'n'
roll, with tremendous power, sweep and intensity from the get-go.
Part of this stemmed from the pure, rich, deep, full sound that only Neil
& Crazy Horse can deliver, and that hit me right in the solar plexus
thanks to the great sonic ambience. When we saw Neil launch into his first
solo facing the boys in the band, and heard him inflect the words "hey
hey, my my" with a kind of humorous emphasis, it was easy to see how happy
he was and that he and the boys were tight.
Whereas Hamilton had its ups and downs of sorts (but what highs they did hit!),
Ottawa had no such peaks and valleys. Just one long, extended and exalted plateau
of electric magic (aside from the "usual" acoustic interludes). Mind you, I think
that had something to do with less adventuresome setlist, but to expect another
Hamilton setlist-wise would be asking too much. Where the Hamilton show
might be described as apocalyptic rock (Cowgirl, Natural Beauty), the
Ottawa show was archetypal r'n'r to these ears.
Aside from the uniform excellence of all the songs, there was
plenty to be happy about in the Ottawa setlist. By the 4th song we
were treated to Don't Cry No Tears, and in the acoustic set came
Long May You Run -- better than in Canandaigua! When Neil launched into
another solo Helpless this time, I heard the crowd backup vocals clear as
crystal with Mary's sweet voice leading the way. A moment to treasure.
Then a stunner: When You Dance! and with the same feel as on After
The Goldrush! So Neil and CH really were rehearsing this song the day
before on MuchMusic! That made it even more special. I must say that, even
though Mary dubbed me a "dancing fool" :) it's too bad
my wife Tish (Vampire Babe) wasn't there. There would have been some real body
contact during that song (and maybe a few others! :) Anyway, I was
already a happy camper again, 'specially when we heard Scattered and
The Loner for the second show in a row.
Neil had given Cortez and Hurricane a rest in Hamilton, and it
showed tonight with a truly soulful rendition of the former, and some nice
new (to me) hard-hitting riffs in the latter. The riffs could bear repeating,
instead of some of the other overworked Hurricane licks IMO.
The thing about this show, though, was a rather passive audience. I call them
(after the fun B-52's song) the Deadbeat Club. :)
Of course I'm a regular member -- but NOT at an electric Neil show!
Especially when he's in top form! The folks in front of us were often sitting
down for instance, allowing us great sightlines to Neil and the boys. But I
would much rather have had them stand, though! To give Neil something to feed
And sooner or later it had to happen: we were told from behind to SIT DOWN
in very rude terms. Though I didn't hear this personally, I kind of went
with the flow. But how the hell do you sit down during Cortez when Neil is
pouring his heart and soul out to you?
Now just before this happened, I looked back to see if I could
spot Zain, but without any luck. I figured he and Zubin must have snuck
up to the "mosh pit", though it was really pretty statuesque with a few
rockin', swaying exceptions.
I gave Trish the thumbs up ("Great show, eh!"), but she replied with an
enigmatic smile and handed me the banner via Tom St., which I promptly
shared with Mary and the 2 Daves. I thought that maybe Cortez wasn't the
best song to hoist it, what with the red lighting and it being one of Neil's
more inward songs. But Mary was not to be deterred and she made her way in
front of me to the left aisle, with me following along, hoping to hoist it
there. But that wasn't going to be allowed by the security types.
So we headed back to our seats and realized that we had been told to sit down.
Mary's depression was palpable and I was really wishing I could do something to
lift it. :( Again I looked back every now and then during
Music Arcade and noticed that Trish was the only Rustie standing, gently
swaying to the music with a quiet dignity. It would have been nice to have a
camera right then.
Now most people, even members of the Deadbeat Club stood during Hurricane, but
to see Mary stand so still was a little chilling to say the least. I
guess she had been thinking of leaving, but I'm glad she changed her mind
and stayed. She certainly wasn't going to get away on my side! I told
her (and hereby tell all you folks bothered by rude "fans" who are unappreciative
of Neil live): "Don't let the 'bastards' get you down!" Don't Be Denied!
At this point the "regular" part of the show had finished, and
Neil indulged in another one of his mischievous antics that I think helped
raise our spirits: on the right side of the stage (from where we stood)
Neil picked up and showed a large Canadian flag to general cheers from the
audience, then mysteriously an American flag surfaced right in front of
him which of course he picked up and showed to a less than positive
response this time. He then headed over to Poncho and Billy and made a
few mock obsequious and very low bows to them by way of an "apology".
:) I guess it was something he had been wanting to
do for a long time. :)
Then in a complete change of tone, he walked up to the mike and intoned in
a soft, low, disc jockey-type voice something like,
"Well, we hope you enjoyed the show tonight folks. Now we're gonna play our
next really big hit." :)
Whereupon they launched into This Town. By now Neil had of course
ripped the strings on Ol' Black to shreds during Hurricane. It was Gold
Tops from hereon in. Then came a second Dangerbird in a row, which Neil
played straight through, even though he ripped at least one string (it
seemed more to me), he was so into the zone. I was thinking he was wanting
to play a guitar with just one string. Who needs the others anyway?
Somewhere in here I think Mary was coming around too, as I remember
getting an elbow in the side of the face. That was fine with me,
definitely a good sign! :)
And when Neil launched into a *massive* Rockin' In The Free World
with that simple, elemental riff, enough was enough and we hoisted
the banner every time those lights came on, and were definitely noticed
and appreciated by Neil. In here Mary and Dave F. switched places so she
could see from beside the banner. I was content to hold it up and feel
this song's inexorable, sonic tidal wave (experienced *live* for the
first time) wash over me. I didn't care what I saw, so long as I was
standing in a sweet spot.
Dave F. and I lost no time in "perfecting" our high-5 techniques again.
Apparently one of the reasons Neil kept manically repeating that mesmerizing
riff was the appearance on stage left of a scantily clad gal who was on the
point of fainting or something. :) Larry Cragg, as
usual, came to her rescue.
No sooner had Neil finished this than he immediately went into
an intensely lyrical version of Down By The River with 3 long solos,
staying mostly in the lower and middle registers where he dug down deep
into his and our souls for what seemed to be the first time. Finally, as
usual, he rounded things off with an upbeat Roll Another Number. Wow!
How does he do this night after night?
Though the show was undoubtedly one of the best of the tour,
we were still feeling outta sorts partly because of the Deadbeat Club, and
partly because, only now did I learn, that Zain and Zubin had been given
the boot without *any* warning for smoking something or other. Hell! I
was smelling a *lot* of that stuff by the end of the show, so what gives?
It was decided not to tell me (which explained Trish's odd look when I
glanced back) and probably with good reason, as I most likely and
paradoxically would have walked out in protest. But by now it was too late.
Fortunately, Zain had contacted Zeke before the show and he agreed
to try getting the banner signed by his Neilness. It took a while and
some dickering with the security types until Zeke called them off, but he
did it! Neil signed the thing
in large writing to boot and Zeke got a round of applause from Team Rust sitting
in the stands. But he seemed to have eyes for Mary only, who had handed him the
banner to begin with. :)
That definitely put a positive ending on a decidedly mixed evening feeling
wise. Way to go Zain! Way to go Mary! & Way to go Rusties!
Nov.2/3, Comfort Inn: The next thing to do was to find Zain
and Zubin and try to pick their spirits up. We looked for him in Marshy's
but not finding him there, I headed for the car and sure enough he and
Zubin were reading the papers (studious guys, these! :) I won't
rehash our arguments here but we ended up going back to the Inn where we
had booked our rooms previously.
We made Slug's and my room available for a Rustie post-show pizza party of
sorts. Zain was glad to see Mary, Trish, Brian, Adrien, Mike J., Dave Y and
the rest of us mindless drifters that rode up with him stop by, rehash the
show and give some moral support. The banner was brought in and displayed
in all its glory and a group picture was taken. I hope it turned out and need
a copy, please.
Mary, Dave Y., and Mike J. all left with Adrien who was offering them his
gracious hospitality. It was kinda hard to say goodbye. Then the rest of
us split up into our rooms. After Slug and I chatted some more, we
finally called it a day after 3 am, and hit the sack. Some day!
Nov.3 morning, Comfort Inn-Pennsylvania: First thing I did after
waking up (too early again) and dressing was take a walk outside to
breathe in some of that cold, fresh, invigorating northern autumn air one
more time. I also got to chatting with a young woman (from Timmins)
behind the desk who was wishing she had gone to the Neil show. "What
about Shania Twain?" "No, Neil's the man." :)
She mentioned that in the area it was pretty common for people to get tossed
from shows and bars with no warning or second chances. I guess Zain's quick
"slip away" was nothing unusual in these parts. :(
Noticing a newspaper on the counter, I headed back outside to the box where
I jumped when I saw a pic on the front page of Neil from the night before.
The rest of the newspapers immediately disappeared. :)
As you've seen from Andy St.'s posting of the review, it was definitely one
of the more appreciative and understanding of Neil's place as the essence of
rock 'n' roll.
Jim B., Tom St.'s friend and neighbour from Reading PA was kind
enough to offer me a ride back to Pennsylvania. So I said some quick
goodbyes to Slug and Zain. Kato was incommunicado still. :)
I headed down the road in the back of a nicely furnished van where Tom, Jim,
Kate, Elaine and I exchanged stories and views on things Neil and otherwise on
a very interesting ride back through eastern-central Ontario, including
Almonte, the home of my high school history teacher -- more deja vu! -- who
had taught me the meaning, along with Neil, of "Don't let the bastards get you
down!" Then the 1000 Islands, and the Adirondacks, and back to the Keystone State.
Along the way I heard the spiffy sounding Mobile Fidelity remastered CD of
Old Ways for the first time. :) Thanks, Tom!
BTW, there are some great colour pics of Neil from International Harvester
days in the CD booklet.
From Reading to Philly I rode the buses, listening to Neil Young, ATGR,
Freedom and Sleeps With Angels, overflowing with
memories of 3 of the most unforgettable days of my life, all thanks to
Neil, the Horse, and you rusted out folks. I'm glad to be back home, but
miss all of you and Canada terribly!
From now on, seeing a Neil show without Rustie company won't be the
same. However, as the changed saying has it: "Don't Let The Post-Neil
Blues Bring You Down!" This has been one helluva Neil year, one huge
Big Time for everybody, following the man from near and far. When
1996 began no one but no one was expecting such a treasure trove, such a
rebirth of Neilness. Even now it may not be over yet! The road goes on
See you somewhere down that road. God bless, and long may you all
rust, in peace.
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