Shut Up & Listen: Neil Young at Fox Theatre in Detroit, July 3rd 2018
Updated: Feb 2
Last night, Neil Young paid a visit to the beautiful and historic Fox Theatre in Detroit. With a setlist rich in back catalogue tracks and a few heavy hitters, the evening was a beautiful showcase of what Young has to offer beyond his so-called Golden Age. Gorgeous acoustics combined with Young's ever-present soulful playing made for one special evening of music that unfortunately went under appreciated by much of the audience.
Young opened the evening sitting in a round of his own guitars and picked up an old acoustic. Quietly, he slid into a Buffalo Springfield tune, "On the Way Home". "Homefires" and a simple "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" followed suit as Neil soldiered through a set list he handpicked despite jeers from the audience for "Powderfinger", "Cortez the Killer" and other 1970s hits. He crafted a setlist full of emotion.
Young however was an absolute champ about it- taunting the audience in a good natured way about their requests: "I hope you're not expecting me to keep track [of the requests]." "I'm glad you all like those songs but I'm not going to play them." Finally, "Who's the loudest guy in here?"
Six songs in, Young switched to an electric guitar. He told a story of his experience being in a cabin in Red Wood when he and David Crosby heard about The Kent State Massacre. "I saw Time Magazine and a photo of that girl Allison kneeling over her friend. We were really confused because we'd never seen anything like that before."
Still facing the confusion, Young launched into a harsh version of "Ohio" to the crowd's delight. The song still rang hauntingly true last night. Young slowly backed up from the microphone at the end of the song shouting "four dead in Ohio" until he could no longer be heard. Just like that, a wave of shivers snapped through the audience.
Through out the evening, Young popped himself behind all kinds of instruments including several acoustic guitars, one electric, two pianos, an organ and a uke. A honkey-tonked up version of "Are You Ready for the Country" had the crowd swaying while "After the Gold Rush" was transformed into a psychedelic, mellow madness with new organ licks that added life to the song.
The highlight of the night for me however was when Young headed back over to the old acoustic to play "Needle and the Damage Done". Slowly moving through, the emotion that's always been present in this song seemed to ring even richer in the hallowed Fox Theatre.
Appeasing the crowd for an encore song, Young carried his ukulele on stage and serenaded the crowd with his song "Tumbleweed" which he said was for his sweetheart (Darryl Hannah) before he goes on the road. Floaty and light-hearted, this romantic uke ballad closed the evening in a unique and lovely way.
So all that left me confused when we crossed the boarder and the guard told us most people told her they didn't enjoy the concert. Part of me wonders if it wasn't hit-heavy enough. Part of me wonders if they weren't engaged. As I looked (and listened) around the theatre, people were chatting rather than listening,trying to be heard rather than hearing and burying their faces in their cell phones. Hence, the name of this post. I was dazzled by last night's Neil Young performance (and for that matter by his opening act John Hammond as well). The grit, talent and the heart exhibited on stage was something you can only find at a Neil Young show.
If you'd like to check out last night's playlist, here it is all together on Spotify for you! Please note the song "Homefires" wasn't available.
Peace, love & history.
Want more Neil Young? Check out this review of Neil's Hometown Show.