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Mike Lost Dog Currie's End of Tour Report
Chris Lawrence's extensive review.
(more reviews coming)
The show details.
A Vancouver Sun review.
There is some life in Vancouver after all!
The final few foreign visitors have now departed, the empties are all cleaned up and the bags of unused potato chips are stacked up. What can I say but that it was one hell of a party and one hell of a concert... Among the best Neil I have heard any time any place. The band pulled out all the stops for their final show last night, and they left nothing on the stage. They gave it everything they had. And I've still got the grin to prove it!
The pre-concert fest was great. Thanks to all of you who joined us, especially those of you from a long way away. Basically we had about 25 visitors, most of whom had never met before. But we weren't strangers -- it just happened that we hadn't met before (whatever that means!).
We were especially fortunate to have live music, thanks to three fine rusted guitarists. I wish I had more time to talk to everyone, but the time just seemed to slip by in a blur. After a somewhat hasty BBQ dinner, most of us convoyed to the show by rrrrrrrapid trrrrransit.
Beck was enjoyable, but a little too subdued on this occasion for my taste. Neil seemed to make us wait a long time before he brought out the band, but I attributed this to a little last night of the tour party action. It must have been a special night for the band as you never know if they will play together again.
It was during the second song, Powderfinger, that I really started to appreciate what we were about to receive. I'm not a huge Powderfinger fan as it seems to get played a little too often, but to see and feel it performed live with this much intensity was a much greater experience than a recording could ever offer. I guess that is why we go to the shows!
The set list had a few surprises compared to the Gorge show I saw a few weeks ago. Out with Harvest Moon, in with Helpless, Don't Let It Bring You Down, and Comes A Time.
The closing sequence of Tonight's The Night, Cowgirl In The Sand, and All Along The Watchtower was as fine as any live music experience of my life. I was back to that special zone where I once heard Dangerbird in Sacramento in 1996. I was happy that Neil didn't close with Mellow My Mind, because on this night, even though I love that song, it just wouldn't have been appropropriate as the energy level was just too high.
When Neil kicked into Watchtower, after thanking the tour team, he said that it would be appropriate to close the tour down by paying tribute to "The Master" through one of his songs. But the way he played Watchtower, one wasn't sure whether it was Dylan or Hendrix who was receiving the tribute. I think they can both take some of the credit. Neil was over the precipice and there was no coming back. You had to see it to believe it.
During the show it was great to look around at all those smiling Rustie faces in the crowd. But being a last show, there was a bit of a downer thinking that I was probably witnessing the final live Neil performance of at least some of these songs. Only time will tell.
Thanks for another great tour Neil, and thanks for a very special night in Vancouver. And thanks to all of you for being there to experience it with me.
Now the centre of the universe shifts back to its rightful location down in the Bay area.
Lost Dog (and TLE)
Aloha folks! Just got back from Vancouver, and man... what an amazing experience it was. Let's examine the ingredients of the evening:
Scalpers out front wanted $500 for a front row ticket. No thanks, buddy. I personally believe that there is a circle of Hell assigned to ticket brokers and scalpers, but whatever. As it happens, the box office released at least 5 front row tickets directly before the show (I bought mine at the pre-sale, but the folks I met there informed me that they'd just purchased theirs).
It seems I am an alcoholic-magnet, however. Although the experience was nowhere near the realm of horridness of the Gorge drunks, there was a couple sitting next to me that clearly had a little too much. The woman was standing up and screaming all night long, I'm sure anyone who was there noticed her at least once. Well, imagine sitting next to her and her equally as inebriated husband. He would try to get her to shut up, and then end up caterwauling every lyric in my ear. Nice couple. They did not, however, ruin my evening, thankfully. A choice quote -- "Oh man, they stop selling beer at 9, we'd better go stock up!". I swear they each returned with 3 glasses apiece.
There will always be drunk assholes at shows, though it's my personal opinion that if you choose to drink that excessively you should just stay home. But I digress. Let's get to the music...
Judging by the lack of reviews of Beck at past shows, I almost expected to be sitting there alone while he played. But a fair amount of people showed up for his set. Beck was very mellow. Very. I can understand why people unfamiliar with his music would be disappointed in his performance, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
He opened with a very light, almost jazzy version of Asshole, backed by a guitarist, bassist, and percussionist (who also played a fair amount of keyboards and other things). Next was a song listed as These Days on the set list, which was apparently a cover of a George Jones song entitled These Days I Barely Get By. He followed this with Dead Melodies, off of Mutations, and then a Hank Williams cover entitled I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow. Beck is a great folk singer and he plays a mean harmonica. I love hearing the guy play acoustic music. If you've never seen his full electric show, though, you're missing out. I last saw him at the PNE in '97, so it's been a while. Great performer though.
His band left the stage briefly for a solo rendition of Hollow Log from One Foot In The Grave. They returned for a Mississippi John Hurt song called Creole Belle. He then played a trio of wonderful songs, We Live Again from Mutations, Beautiful Way from Midnite Vultures, and the final song, a haunting Nobody's Fault But My Own. A very nice, pleasant set, certainly more entertaining than Tegan, Sara, or any of those Pretenders. But that's my opinion.
Now, onto Neil. The first six songs were literally a carbon copy of the Gorge show, right down to the pinch harmonic intro solo of Dance, Dance, Dance. I was almost disappointed, hoping it wouldn't continue like that, so I was pleasantly surprised when he treated us to Don't Let It Bring You Down. Astrid and Pegi depart for this song, for whatever reason.
The trio of Silver & Gold songs was nice. Razor Love hit me just as hard as it did at the Gorge show. After Daddy he tuned up (no hope for You & Me, I lamented), put in his G harp and then started strumming a G chord. I'd actually forgotten that From Hank To Hendrix was usually in the set, so I was completely baffled as to what he was about to play. The aforementioned drunk next to me had been hollering for Comes A Time, and I had privately chuckled to myself... ...and then, what do you know: Comes a Time! A damn fine rendition of it, too. Really lifted me up.
At this point, by the way, everybody was seated. I felt weird, because I hate sitting at concerts, and having stood in front row for 10 Sonic Youth gigs this year, it was a little odd to be seated. I actually consider it insulting to the performer, it's as if the audience is watching a movie and not a live rock band.
Comes a Time was followed by its album buddy Peace of Mind, a startling wonderful beautiful version (as always, I'm sure). The show had been slowly picking up since the initial 6 songs were through, and it hit its stride with Walk On. My god, this IS the tour comp version. It has to be. Neil was clearly having the time of his life, everybody was smiling and dancing, and the audience was just electrified. They did an extra long ending, it seemed, with Astrid and Pegi doing their "Vegas style vocals" and Neil just grinning and singing along. Some dude up front got out of his seat when they were doing the "Walk, walk on" part, and start strutting up and down the aisle with a beer in his hand. It was damn funny (and very appropriate). Amazing performance!
So amazing that I said "Fuck it, I'm not sitting down just because everyone else is". I stood up an approached the stage, leaning against the barricade and doing my best not to obstruct the view of the people behind me. As it turns out, others shared my eagerness and joined me along the way (including a few 2nd row ticketholders, you naughty folks...) Neil skipped Winterlong (thank goodness -- Hank To Hendrix and Winterlong are two of the weaker songs in the set, in my opinion) and went right into a precise version of Bad Fog Of Loneliness.
Another thing I noticed immediately was that the monitor mix on the stage (which I could hear leaning up against the barrier) was SPECTACULAR in contrast to the audience feed. Everything sounded so much louder and clearer and richer.
Words was absolutely tremendous. Life-altering. Neil was just attacking that Falcon like a savage beast. The final doublestop bend in the last chorus was approached with a vicious determination, and a maddening look on Neil's face I'll never forget. (As a side note, Duck Dunn mouthes the sound of each note he plays, he gets really into it.) Mind-blowing song, Neil was just out of control. Another tour comp contender?
After Words, Larry brought out Old Black, so I knew Harvest Moon was being bypassed. And thank God, because Helpless was the most beautiful thing I've ever witnessed. All of the lights were off except for one halo-like glow above Neil's head, shining radiantly during the entire song. Words can't describe how incredible it was to stand a mere few feet away from Neil at his calmest and most touching. An experience I'll never forget.
World On a String has never been a fave, but it's a quick rocker and I can dig it.
Tonight's The Night had disappointed at the Gorge -- I felt like it never really took off -- but at this show it was a whole different story. This song really showcases what an incredible band Neil has. Ben playing that fantastic, dagger-like steel guitar. Dunn seemingly improvising half of what he was playing, but sounding so damn good. I watched his face a lot, he'd smile and chuckle with Ben everytime he hit an off note. I had expressed disappointment with Keltner after the Gorge show, but I take it all back now. The guy can PLAY. His percussion on this song is so precise and impressive -- he really carried it away. I especially like the little bell effects he's added since the Gorge. Spooner gently droned away on the Wurlitzer, providing a subtle backdrop for the other players. At one point, Ben began hitting all of the open strings in a subdued anti-rhythm, and Dunn joined in, really locking into a groove. Neil at the piano, sunglasses and lounge hat firmly in place, swaying with the microphone, that shaky shaky voice...
At one point Neil was sitting there while the band played, and he was almost plotting his attack on the piano, lurching both fists forward at the keys and then pulling them back directly before contact. It was a frightening view that really drove the song home.
I had privately hoped for a Down by the River to compliment the Gorge's Cowgirl, but when they returned and Neil began his standard Am-based drones, I knew what I was in for... or so I thought. Nothing could have prepared me for the earth-shattering 17-minute-plus Cowgirl that followed. Nothing. He was just in a zone unlike any I've ever witnessed, furiously flailing away at Old Black. Make no mistake, that guitar is not his friend, it's his worst fuckin' enemy, and he makes no attempt to keep this a secret. He was poised at the foot of the stage, just teetering on the edge and completely obliterating everything in his path. An unforgettable performance, absolutely stunning and brilliant.
It's very interesting to see how Neil leads the band with hand gestures and facial expressions. I learned a whole bunch, like the 'finger dive' ("bring it down a bit"), the 'upright swivel' ("I don't know where I'm going but hold on tight"), and the 'childlike smile' ("man, we fucked that up, but let's see where it leads us"). At one point, Duck and Ben were almost clueless as to where Neil was headed, but they held their own and made it a remarkable, remarkable performance. Kudos to Keltner, Spooner, and the Young women as well -- everybody participates in making the music work, and everybody gives 100%. Actually I'd say Neil gives 110%...
I wasn't sure if we'd get a second encore due to curfew, and I was kind of hoping Neil would finally pull out One Of These Days which is included on the printed set-lists. But rather than go out Mellow, Neil informed the crowd that there was really no better way to end the tour than by paying tribute to the master. And the band ripped into All Along The Watchtower, tearing it to shreds. I've never seen Neil put so much effort into a song. He clearly gives it an extra boost for Dylan, and nobody in the room could deny the power and conviction with which he spewed forth "Two riders were approaching...", while hopping up and down gleefully. There was no "And the wind began to hooooowwwwll" maelstrom as at Gorge, but the song did dissolve into a feedback hurricane of Arc-esque noise before Neil finished off by tearing five strings off his guitar (the A remained, for whatever reason), and triumphantly departed.
I've seen a lot in my 18 years on this planet, but never have I witnessed a musical experience on par with last night's show. Absolutely amazing. If anyone says otherwise, I'd love to know why, because I can't imagine how anyone could walk away from that show without a complete sense of satisfaction.
(more reviews coming soon... --RE*AC*TOR)