You don't need a crystal ball these days to see things. Even old hippie rock stars like Neil Young can tell you a thing or two. To promote and test his latest album, Greendale (scheduled for August), Young has done a 22-date solo acoustic tour to premiere his songs. Philip Cheah heard a fan's live recording to tell you about Young's tale.


The town of Greendale...
 

Greendale is a song cycle, a story concept. You can see it as a gentler version of Lars Von Trier's film, Dogville. Both are about small towns. Both speak of the past with a view of the future. Both are about America, its hopes and dreams, and the horror buried deep within its breast.

As Young's manager, Elliot Roberts, said: "Greendale is about where America is now. It's a struggle out there. Unless you're a right-wing Christian, this government's not representing you. Which to me is a tragedy. To Neil as well. So Greendale is about passing the torch to a younger generation to pursue what we wanted to do in the 60s but never accomplished: better quality of life, more care for the environment and more care for each other. Old hippie principles."

In the songs, Earl Green is a Vietnam war veteran bringing up his children, Sun and Jed. In the first song, Falling From Above, he and his wife try to impress their children with this value: "a little love and affection in everything you do/will make the world a better place." But Jed runs into trouble dealing drugs (Coast Highway) and shoots a highway policeman (Carmichael). Then Young sings what must surely be the highlight of the album, a touching ballad with this refrain: "Someday, you'll find/what you're looking for." Perhaps, there is also self-reflection when he talks about a band he once had and opines: "So what are you looking for? /Another big score?" It's also quite clear that Young has no intention about Greendale becoming a big score. He is keen on passing on the torch.

Still, Sun learns her lesson well and when her parents pass on, she becomes an environmental and social activist. Here is the ultimate in lo-fi. To bring out the drama of Sun's protests, Young shouts into a mega-phone in alternate lyric lines: "There is corruption on the highest floor!" "They're all dirty!" "Power Co. is working with the White House to paralyse our state with fear!"

Interestingly, the concert ends with several Young chestnuts: Lotta Love, Expecting to Fly, Old Man, Don't Let It Bring You Down, After the Gold Rush, Heart of Gold. But they all sound more urgent than before. Lotta Love is less a throwaway love song than a plea for people to find the love in their hearts to care for others. Suddenly, After the Gold Rush is less loopy science fiction than Young's plea for the sanctity of the environment. In this version, he sings: "Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 21st century."

Greendale doesn't sound like a musical breakthrough, though a full-band treatment in the studio could re-define the whole work. But it does bring Young full circle. It's Young reminding himself what he used to believe in and his concern for whether we believe in those same things.


TRADE LIST (Click on the covers for a clearer view)
Greendale concerts which are being traded among Neil Young fans:
AN ACOUSTIC TALE OF GREENDALE
(Stockholm, Cirkus, April 22, 2003)
Disc One:
Love And Affection; Summer Of Love; Devil's Sidewalk; Coast Highway;
Carmichael; Someday, You'll Find; Grandpa's Interview
Disc Two:
Tender As A Mother's Love; Mr Clean; Be The Rain; Lotta Love; Expecting To Fly; Old Man; Don't Let It Bring You Down; After The Goldrush; War Of Man; Heart Of Gold
BIRDS AT THE OPERA
(Frankfurt, Alte Oper, May 1, 2003)
Disc One:
Falling From Above; Intro; Double Eagle; Intro; Devil's Sidewalk; Intro; Leave The Driving; Intro; Carmichael; Intro; Bandit; Intro; Grandpa's Interview; Intro; Grandma Brings Dinner
Disc Two:
Intro; Sun Green; Intro; Be The Rain; Lotta Love; Comes A Time; Long May You Run; Birds; Dangerbird; Old Man; Don't Let It Bring You Down; Only Love Can Break Your Heart; After The Goldrush; War Of Man; Applause; Heart Of Gold
SOLO 2003 STUGGART
(Stuggart, Liederhalle, Beethovensaal; May 7, 2003)
Disc One:
Falling From Above; Double E; Devil's Sidewalk; Leave The Driving; Carmichael; Bandit; Grandpa's Interview
Disc Two:
Bringin' Down Dinner; Sun Green; Be The Rain; [second set] Lotta Love; Expecting To Fly; Mother Earth; Don't Let It Bring You Down; Old Man; After The Goldrush; War Of Man; Heart Of Gold
SOLO 2003 AMSTERDAM
(Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam, Holland; May 8, 2003)
Disc One:
Falling From Above; Story #1; Double Eagle; Story #2; Devil's Sidewalk; Story #3; Leave The Driving; Story #4; Carmichael; Story #5; Bandit; Story #6; Grandpa's Interview; Story #7; Grandma Brings Dinner
Disc Two:
Story #8; Sun Green; Story #9; Be The Rain; Lotta Love; Expecting To Fly; Pocahontas; Don't Let It Bring You Down; Harvest Moon; Old Man; After The Goldrush; Like A Hurricane; War Of Man; audience; Heart Of Gold
ACOUSTIC TALES IN MANCHESTER
(Apollo, Manchester, England; May 21, 2003)
Disc One:
Falling From Above; Double E; Devil's Sidewalk; Leave The Driving; Carmichael; Bandit; Grandpa Interview
Disc Two:
Bringin' Down Dinner; Sun Green; Be The Rain; Lotta Love; Expecting To Fly; Old Man; Don't Let It Bring You Down; Harvest Moon; Cortez The Killer; After The Goldrush; Heart Of Gold



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