Neil Young Concert Review - Portland, OR, 3/9/1999

Neil Young Delivers Impassioned, Flawless Solo Performance Rare Portland tour stop showcases new material alongside wealth of classic songs

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Neil Young Concert Review - Portland, OR, 3/9/99

  By Curtis Waterbury

With just a single candle burning onstage, Neil Young quietly appeared in a blazer, T-shirt, and jeans, and sat down in the middle of 10 acoustic guitars, which were fanned out around him in a large circle. An upright piano was stage right, a grand piano stage left, and an old pump organ rose up like an altar from behind him.

The setting couldn't have been more peaceful or intimate for the 53-year-old rock icon, who is spending the next couple of months getting back to his country roots with several solo acoustic concerts. This was his second night of a two-night stand (3/8 - 3/9) at the Schnitz (Portland's Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall).

After he opened with Tell Me Why, it took Young another two songs and a few more pulls on his Sierra Nevada Pale Ale before he spoke a word to the audience. But once he did, he seemed comfortable and in good spirits. Pointing out the scratches and patchwork on one beat-up guitar, Young said dryly, ''There's a hole here, this entire piece is new here, and this part has been replaced. I think the original owner was shot while he was playing it.'

Young, who hasn't performed in Portland for seven years, kept the banter to a minimum, but he did push the song Old King out to 10 minutes by intertwining the story behind the song with its verses. Playing banjo, Young told the audience of his old dog Elvis -- ''who was later named King to avoid any confusion'' -- and how he had once lost the dog while on tour. The bus was leaving a rest area and Elvis was nowhere to be found. Young left his flannel shirt on the side of the road, thinking the dog could sniff it out and he would pick the pet up after the show. As Young came out of the concert hall a few hours later, Elvis was waiting for him in the pick-up truck of a local who had found the dog.

Old King was just one of many songs from the album ''Harvest Moon'' that Young performed. He also gave stirring renditions of Unknown Legend, War of Man, and the title track, Harvest Moon.

His renowned high-pitched voice was impeccable and hung on every note like dew on a twig, especially during a moving version of Philadelphia -- for which he received an Oscar nomination.

Young previewed quite a few new tunes, such as Looking Forward, Out of Control, Slowpoke, and Daddy Went Walkin', which, as a group, varied from teary-eyed piano songs to stomping country/blues on the acoustic guitar. If these tunes appear on his next album as they were performed here, Young is definitely getting back to his acoustic country roots.

Young also gave the audience what it wanted by singing several classics. ''Aren't you downsizing the homeless in Portland?'' he asked before breaking into a passionate Don't Let It Bring You Down. Other highlights included the banjo ditty, Love Is A Rose, a lilting Albuquerque, World On A String, and Last Trip To Tulsa -- not to mention an incredibly powerful After The Gold Rush, which he pounded out on the pump organ, and a great version of Buffalo Springfield's Flying on the Ground Is Wrong.

After he'd already played for more than two hours, exultant cheers brought Young back to the stage for not one but two encores. For the first, he played a poignant Good To See You and a rousing Old Man. For the final encore, Young put everything he had into an amazing 12-string rendition of Pochahontas, which brought a close to what is sure to be regarded as one of the best concerts of the year.

Curtis Waterbury is the music editor of's sister site, CitySearch Portland. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The best news out of this review for me was that Neil was not drinking Budweiser--I have to say I lost some respect for Neil in 1983 when I found out he drank that crap! Sierra Nevada is definitely a step up!


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