Saturday, December 6, 2008

Neil Young with Wilco & Everest

In an act of spontaneity last night, my roommate and I attended the Neil Young show at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. This would be my first time seeing Neil, one of my favourite artists. What's more, it would be my first time seeing another favourite of mine, Wilco. We grabbed the tickets no more than 10 minutes before the show began and headed to our seats which turned out to be fantastic, just to the left of the stage. The relatively unknown indie-rock outfit Everest played a short thirty minute set to start off the night. It's easy to see why they were picked to tour with Neil and Wilco. Their alternative rock sound is heavily influenced by both bands, with most of the songs ending with drawn out feedback jams. Although the songs were not very original sounding, they were certainly well played. The highlight of the Everest set was a wonderfully sung version of You Ain't Going Nowhere by Bob Dylan. Everest brought out a few of their friends (which were impossible to identify due to the lack of lighting) for this particular number which ended their set. Next up was Wilco, and thankfully the A.C.C was starting to fill up. As the band took the stage, I noticed that Glenn Kotche was absent behind the drums. The band played a few older numbers acoustically before acknowledging their drummers absesnce. Jeff Tweedy playfully joked the Glenn had fallen down a well, a la Bart Simpson, this would be the first of many jokes as to his absence. A few songs in, Tweedy announced that numerous "contest winners" would be filling in on drums, and this would cue Donny's entrance to the stage. The band played a few more simple, older numbers which lacked the excitement of Wilco's later material. Handshake Drugs was the highlight of Donny's playing, adding a new sound to the song's ending feedback jam. As Donny exited the stage, the next contest winner Steve took his place. Steve ambitiously requested Impossible Germany, from 2007 release Sky Blue Sky. He played the song with expertise and recieved much praise from Tweedy and the crowd. Finally, a final drummer came out and led the band through a couple more older numbers including a fantastic pairing of I Got You (At The End Of The Century) which segued flawlessly into Outta Mind (Outta Sight). Just like Everest, the Wilco set ended in a superb cover of Dylan's I Shall Be Released. Tweedy even sang the last verse in soaring falsetto, an homage to Richard Manuel of the band. On the whole Wilco's set was certainly odd and definitly not what I was expecting, given their general reliance on post Summerteeth material, but was fantastic none the less. Next up was the main event, Neil Young. Neil came out looking as hip as ever, sporting a black paint splattered blazer, graphic t, and jeans. He opened with a new song, but really drew the crowd in on an extra-grungy version of My My, Hey Hey. The first part of Neil's set was laced with heavy guitar solos and feedback jams which would turn out to be the theme of the night. The second part of the set featured a few acoustic numbers including a fantastic rendition of Oh Lonesome Me, and a sing-a-long version of Needle and the Damage Done. Neil then strapped on his electric once again and continued to rock our socks off. The highlights of the third part of the set were Cinnamon Girl and Cowgirl in the Sand, in which Neil mistakingly repeated the opening verse in place of the third and final verse, extending the already monstrous version of the song. After a standard Rocking in the Free World, we recieved the last song and final cover tune of the night, an amazing rendition of The Beatles' A Day in the Life. The song culminated in yet another drawn out feedback jam that ended with Neil ripping off every string from his jet black Gibson Les Paul. As he made his way off stage, Neil made a pitstopbeside his wife Peggy and her xylophone, striking one final note and giving us the thumb's up before finally leaving the stage and ending a night of epic music.

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