I saw his Greendale show at Radio City Music Hall a few weeks back. I bought the CD some months before but promptly lost it in some stack of papers or something, so I was completely unfamiliar with the new music. It’s a rambling song cycle about three generations of a family living in a small coastal town, and he presents the music onstage accompanied by deliberately primitive video animation and live actors lip synching the lyrics. I’ve been listening to Neil Young for an awfully long time now, and I’ve seen any number of his self-re-invention tours the synth/computer stuff, the various forays into hardcore country, the time at the Fillmore when he played an entire set of unfamiliar blues and rockabilly material, took an hour and a half intermission and then came back out and played the same set again (he was recording it for what would eventually become “This Note’s for You”). Anyway, I don’t go to a Neil Young concert expecting him to be Fat Elvis in Vegas, playing his Greatest Hits for the ten millionth time, but a lot of people apparently do in between each song, as he set up the next one with a rambling narrative, there were morons in the audience screaming for “Down by the River” or whatever to the point that he finally lost his patience and snapped, “Shut up, asshole!” Most of the audience applauded the sentiment, to their credit.
He had me for most of the set, though I have to admit my attention started to lag toward the end it’s a lot, asking an audience to sit through an entire set of mostly-unfamiliar material. So by the time he did get to the greatest hits, my energy was drained. But that’s what I admire about Neil Young he does what he wants to do, and you can either come along for the ride or not.