Sunday, June 06, 2010

Neil Young Solo at the Bass Concert Hall

SxSW 2006

Ever since my junior high school days, I have been a Neil Young fan. Unfortunately, I had never seen him play live, having to satisfy myself with seeing him deliver the keynote speech, at SxSW 2006. I was disappointed at that time, because Neil didn't perform during the festival.

Afterward, I purchased a copy of the Jonathan Demme documentary, Neil Young: Heart of Gold on DVD. While watching the film, I made a mental note to myself, to try and catch Neil soon.

Fast forward to 2010

When they announced that Neil was playing a solo show at the Bass Concert Hall, I made plans. However, I anticipated problems getting tickets, since UT's ticketing system sucks, when there's high demand.

Initially, it appeared my prediction was correct, and my friends and I failed to get into the website. Miraculously, I was able to secure a single ticket in the Orchestra section several hours later. Sometimes it pays to be lucky.


Several days before the show, a email was sent out by the TX Performing Art Center. The note advised ticket holders that they would only be allowed to be seated during song breaks (a policy I actually liked). In addition, the note said that cameras and recording devices would be prohibited, and the artist had asked that people not use cell phone cameras either.

This seems to be a growing trend now by some artists, beyond just Robert Fripp and Van Morrison, now. I honor these requests when they're made, but looking around, not everyone complied.

As I entered Bass, I discovered that my 10th row seat was right in the middle, which was absolutely perfect for both the visual and auditory experience.

Opening Act

The opening act was Bert Jansch. Bert is a relatively unknown, but highly influential Singer/Songwriter from Scotland. Neil lists him as an influence, and after hearing Bert perform, it's easy to see why. The packed house gave him a well deserved, standing ovation at the completion of his set.


The stage set for Neil's show had four stations:

  • Front and center there were two microphone stands, one for seated performance, the other for standing performance. There were 3 or 4 Fender or Mesa Boogie Amps, I was just far enough away, I couldn't tell what they were.
  • In the rear and in the center on a riser, there was a small Reed Organ, the type you pump with your feet.
  • Stage right, there was a console/tack piano.
  • And finally, stage left, there was a weathered Baby Grand.

As for the guitars themselves, Neil used 4 different guitars. Playing whatever was appropriate for the particular song.

  • Neil used two acoustic guitars. The first appeared to be a Martin, and was used to open the set with My, My, Hey, Hey (Out of the Blue). The second guitar had a dark finish, and an absolutely incredible deep resonant tone, on the lower strings.
  • A Black Les Paul was brought out, as he played Down By the River.
  • Last but not least, a Gibson Hollow-body, was used to introduce the very recognizable intro to Ohio.

Along with the guitars, he also had the requisite harmonicas, as well, with appropriate neck straps. The tack piano was used starting with Leia, and the organ made its appearance with After the Gold Rush


Surprisingly, the setlist for the Bass Show was already posted at the Sugar Mountain site, by the time I had arrived home. While slightly disappointed that I didn't get to hear Heart of Gold, Sugar Mountain, or the The Needle and the Damage Done, there was enough material to keep any Neil Young fan happy.

I would also like to add, that I was awed by Neil's stage presence. Even performing solo, his performance almost demanded your attention. I'm anxiously looking forward to seeing Neil again.

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