So we went to shoot Neil Young at the Paramount last week.
Did I just say that sentence? Haha. Hi. I totally did.
Anyhow, we may or may not have interacted with some excellent folks who may or may not have walked us up to the third floor after we put our cameras away. To watch the last hour of the show. If, you know, it was okay for people to do that kind of thing at a show like that. Which it isn't. So, theoretically, had all of that happened, and had I possibly been bleeding out my ears from all the amazingness that ensued, these are the notes I would have submitted to City Arts. Which, theoretically, would have wound up (in part) on their blog.
Right. You know, if I had been at the show.
Rock writers are prone to using sweeping, heavy-handed adjective to convey a series of moments -- be it those witnessed through a pair of headphones, or with fingertips grazing the edge of a stage -- and in most cases, the performances themselves are worthy of said adjective, even if to no one but the person penning the experience. For example, a three-hour set with John Roderick at the Triple Door can indeed be epic. A sweaty, engulfing, post-midnight performance by The Head and the Heart at the Comet might certainly be life-altering. Favorite albums at full volume, blaring through the speakers -- cinematic, surely.
Even Britney Spears, at a certain angle, in just the right light, is capable of being awesome.
And when someone iconic like Neil Young takes over the stage, as he did at the Paramount last night, the same series of adjectives can, must be used: epic. Life-altering. Cinematic. But to properly convey the very weight of such a performance using these same small words proves difficult: to say the room itself sat motionless, mouth agape; to insist that applause was futile, to describe the way his voice had barely changed and indeed seemed to lift the very roof off of the venue -- none of this comes close to being of appropriate scale to convey the utter awesomeness of it all. In fact, nothing that can be placed here in ten-, twelve-, or even fourteen-point type seems like enough.
Young started his near-flawless 2+ hour set by slaying close to three thousand people into absolute silence with a single strum of an acoustic guitar. He delivered his songs from the lush, warm recesses of the livingroom-like stage, where an array of instruments had been purposefully strewn atop well-worn, ornamental rugs: a half-dozen guitars (with as many amps) in a crescent shape behind a stool placed center-stage; a faded white baby grand piano stage left. A jangly, 'Old-West'-worthy upright stage right. Incandescent lights suspended from invisible wires, with a single candle burning off in the distance. And where a drumkit would typically reside sat a riser with an antique organ, worthy of use in the finest church (if that church were, say, in a speakeasy, and opened every evening's sunset service with a rendition of "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and/or "Get Back").
Three-quarters of the set held larger-than-life songs, illustrating (and further cementing) the role Young has played -- continues to play -- in the very foundation and formation of rock music as a whole: selections like "Old Man," "Ohio," "Cinnamon Girl," "I Believe in You," and the bookends of "Out of the Blue" and "Into the Black." And aside from an endearing vocal crack during a full-lung delivery of a high note or two, it was as if not a single hour had passed since the start of his heyday.
As the evening progressed, the chairs themselves grew reverent, experiencing some kind of transference from the people who had happily paid to be perched in them. Enraptured fans two rows from the back of the top mezzanine would wave furiously when caught in the spotlight, almost as if the personal ties his music held to their heartstrings would enable their hero to catch sight of them and return the greeting -- and in a way, he did. Young assaulted the room with anthematic selections from our collective youth, singing every single song to every single person, to their memories and their far-off moments -- moments held close to the heart, moments tucked inside the front covers of books on a decades-old shelf, all viewed from the window of a train speeding cross-country in the late-day haze, all back seats of cars under perfect starlit nights.
Yeah. So, that's what I would have said. You know. If I'd like, seen the show.
PS, I <3 you, Seattle. Seriously. xoxo