Neil Young’s ragged glory undermined by shitty sound in Vancouver

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The sound from the stage was great–until the band got up there.

By Steve Newton

Yesterday I wrote a fun little blog about how nice it would be if Neil Young topped off his show in Vancouver last night with one of my fave tunes of his, “Long May You Run”.

He didn’t do that–opting instead to encore with “Country Home”, the opening track off his awesome 1990 Crazy Horse album Ragged Glory–but I wasn’t too bummed out by that choice.

Neither was I ticked that he didn’t choose other, better songs he’s been encoring with recently, like “Cinnamon Girl”, “Powderfinger”, or “Rockin’ in the Free World”.

What burned me the most about last night’s Neil Young show at Rogers Arena was the subpar sound.

Hey, I realize the hockey rink isn’t the top spot for stellar acoustics, but I know for a fact that it’s capable of delivering decent guitar-rock sound because I was at that Foo Fighters gig a while back.

For some reason you could barely hear the drums last night, and the guitars/bass mix was a shambles. It even sounded worse than that time he played the cavernous B.C. Place with Pearl Jam.

Thankfully, at least you could hear Neil’s vocals okay–from where I was sitting, anyway.

The vibe-wrecking sound wasn’t that big of a downer early on because the Can-Am music legend opened with one of his mellowest tunes, accompanying himself on piano for “After the Gold Rush”. (In keeping with his current pro-Earth/anti-GMO stance, he altered the lyrics to sing about Mother Nature being on the run “in the 21st century” as opposed to the 1970s.)

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The Neil Young Village didn’t serve Monsanto’s GMO Pale Ale.

Then he grabbed an acoustic guitar for his solo hits “Heart of Gold” and “Comes a Time”, followed by the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young gem “Helpless”.

All those went over well, but by the time he had his current band Promise of the Real out there backing him on classic Crazy Horse stompers like “Cowgirl in the Sand” and “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” the sound quality had deteriorated to the point where the magic just wasn’t there.

As a massive Crazy Horse fan, it was painful for me to sit there and see my beloved Shakey grinding it out on the glorious “Love and Only Love”–which preceded the encore–and not be able to enjoy it.

We still love ya, Neil, but next time please consider the Queen E. or the Orpheum. Or send your soundman back to mixing school.

Sumpthin’.

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Ronnie Van Zant would have loved all those Neil Young t-shirts.

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