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...
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
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."
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.
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!"
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."
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