GM Place - Oct 1, 2000
copyright 1995 by Monte Nordstrom
from issue # 70 - Cosmic Debris Musicians Magazine - Dec, 2000
DID YOU SAY "NEIL YOUNG" ?
Sometimes things happen in your life that
seem to be directed by a Higher power, or
come about by what seems to be serendipitous
good fortune. Here is a recent example from my
One cool September evening, my wife,
MaryAnn & I were heading into Chemainus to
have supper at a restaurant when our car broke
down en route. The water pump had blown out
& all the coolant was gone. Bummer...
We walked down the railroad tracks to the
Horseshoe Bay Inn, trying to keep our spirits
up. On our way there we tried to figure out
what to do. We decided that after our meal we
would call our auto service to get our car towed
home & we'd catch a ride with the driver. It
seemed like a good idea. We were starving
when we got to the Inn & ordered a meal
with refreshments. Lots of them. Played
some Keno too.
Eventually we were picked up & taken
to our vehicle. The driver was a little
behind schedule since he had just started
his own dinner when he got the call from
dispatch. I guess he figured we'd be safe
waiting where we were. On the way back
home with our car on the hook he told us
about a concert he was going to attend.
We asked him who he was going to
see & when he told us that he had comp
tickets to Neil Young we were very excited
for him & told him how much we liked
Neil's music. I decided to be brash & said
"If you have any spare comp tickets we'd
love to go too". He said he'd get back to
us on that & dropped us off with our car
back home at square one.
We were happy to be home with our
broken car & celebrated by playing a
couple of our favorite NY albums (18 titles
at that time. 21+ now). We thought about
how great it would be to see Neil perform
but it seemed to be too farfetched that
we'd get tickets from a virtual stranger. Imagine
how excited we became when we got a phone
call a week later telling us that a pair of tickets
would be waiting for us at the venue on the day
of the show!
The next day I booked a budget hotel room &
figured out the ferry logistics for our trip. I
looked at my calendar & realized that I'd be
starting out from Port Hardy on the day of the
concert. That made things a lot more
challenging. Oh well. It was still do-able. I'd just
have to get started on October 1st at 7:AM after
a late performance & equipment tear-down.
I also had to get my car fixed for the 12-hour
round trip, up & down the Island. I called a
mechanic recommended to me by my cousin &
got a new water pump installed. The day after
I had that work done I had to replace the starter
as well. Again... Cars.
The day before I was to leave for my two
night bar gig in Port Hardy a fellow dropped by
to look at the derelict car that had occupied my
boulevard for 2 years or more. He gave me
$180 for the beast & drove it away. I was
amazed. I decided to celebrate by upgrading
our room reservation in Vancouver. I called the
Century Plaza & booked a studio suite.
The morning of the concert I loaded up my
gear & got on the highway. It was a brilliant
autumn morning & the trip was so inspiring that
I wrote a song during my venture south. I call it
"Going to a Neil Young Show". It was conceived
in the moment, y'know. About 6 hours later I
arrived home & unloaded my gear, humming
my new song.
MaryAnn & I loaded up our bags & I drove
back north to Departure Bay. We parked the
car, walked aboard the Fast Cat & purchased 2
bus tickets to downtown.
When we arrived at our hotel, our room
reservation was mysteriously upgraded by the
deskman to the penthouse suite. Sweet! It was
a splendid panoramic view from the North
shore to the South side. Awesome digs. We
cracked a bottle of vino & got ready for the
THE CONCERT: "Music in Head" Tour - Last
Show - Vancouver
We arrived in time to see the second half of
Beck's acoustic show. The partisan audience at
General Motors Place was obviously there to
see Neil, but Beck provided a great selection of
material that eventually won over the "Rusties"
despite a bass-heavy mix. The last couple of
numbers were particularly cool, especially with
the inclusion of a Coral Electric Sitar. Hopefully
Beck releases more of this kind of material in
the near future.
After a fairly lengthy break between acts, the
lights went down & the "Garage" vibrated with
anticipation of the impending Neil-ness. A
stunning cloud of cannabis smoke rolled
through the venue (not the last) as the band
took the stage & the preliminary chords of
"Motorcycle Mama" reverberated across a
deliriously ecstatic auditorium.
Neil's band for this tour consisted of some of
the top session players of the past 35 years.
Imagine having a line-up with Duck Dunn on
Bass (From Booker T. & the M.G.s); session
giant, Jim Keltner on Drums; Muscle Shoals
stalwart, Spooner Oldham on Keyboards; &
long-time Neil Young multi-instrumentalist Ben
Keith on lap-steel, Telecaster & pedal-steel
guitars. Stellar to be sure & what chops!
The back-up singers were Neil's wife Pegi &
sister Astrid. This was a truly amazing touch.
There's something extra special about hearing
harmonies done by siblings & obviously Pegi
has no trouble relating to the nuances of Neil's
material, having figured directly as the
inspiration of many of the songs!
On many of Neil's earlier songs, the
harmonies were double-tracked by Neil & later
material often featured Linda Ronstadt & Emmy
Lou Harris. In my opinion Astrid & Pegi were
more personal & effective throughout the show
as they provided sweet harmony & danced to
the solid beat provided by Keltner & Dunn's
rhythym section genius.
Right off the top I noticed how strong
Neil's often fragile vocals sounded.
There was no hesitation or wavering. He
wore a T-shirt & tweedy jacket with torn
jeans. Bobbing his head as he dug into
his muse he resembled a manic long-haired English prof... more than the rock
icon he is.
The polished ensemble was on the
last night of their North American tour &
they were obviously relishing their
enthusiastic Canadian audience. Neil got
a huge cheer for toasting Canada with a
sip of his beer. Hell, at one point he got
a cheer for just having a sip of his beer.
I AM CANADIAN.
This brings me to another point. In my
opinion there are but a handful of megastars on
the singer/songwriter scene from this country.
I mean international artists who have added
their songs to the fabric of the collective
consciousness of the world, transcending
borders, generations & genres. Some of them
end up living in the USA because their stature
is on the world stage & the music biz south of
the border is where their game is played. Joni
Mitchell, Robbie Robertson, kd lang & Neil
Young are whom I refer to. Not to mention
Lightfoot, Cohen, Cockburn, Sarah McLauchlan
& others who have chosen to reside mainly in
Witnessing this performance by Neil struck a
deeply resonant chord with me & the passing of
Pierre Trudeau on the same weekend further
amplified my feeling of Canadian patriotism &
national identity. Ironically, Neil Young has
probably lived in California longer than he spent
growing up in this country. But he is an example
of how far one can go & he continues to push
boundaries with his mercurial musical
Yikes, I digress, Neil & company rolled out of
"Motorcycle Mama" & rocked into
"Powderfinger" from the "Rust Never Sleeps"
album. This was followed by the uptempo
"Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" from his
second album. It was apparent that we were
going to get an eclectic menu on this evening.
By the time the ballad, "I Believe in You" hit
it's first chorus there were alot of dewy eyes in
the audience. We were in the palm of his hand
& he was tugging heartstrings alternately
playing that big White Falcon guitar & his Martin
acoustic. And those backup vocals by Astrid &
Pegi were positively angelic.
"Unknown Legend" & "Dance, Dance,
Dance" were followed by one of my favorites,
"Don't Let it Bring You Down". Spooner
Oldham's piano was particularily effective here.
Next Neil played a trio of acoustic numbers
from his latest release "Silver & Gold".
I didn't really care for the song "Buffalo
Springfield Again" when I first heard it on the
radio this summer, but having now acquired the
CD & hearing it played live, I've put it into
perspective. That's an excellent guitar break
between verses. "Daddy Went Walking" &
"Razor Love" were good too. How many songs
has this guy written anyway & when does he
get the time to do it?
Neil's harmonica sounded good also. He has
a wireless stereo mic system built into his harp
harness, with the transmitter antennae hanging
in a fabric enclosure down his back. The set-up
allows him the freedom to wander around the
set, digging into the groove & sharing stage
chat with the band.
Another thing that sparked my curiousity is
his massive red pedal board that he's been
using for the past few years. Whatever it is, Neil
has no problem nailing his signature electric
sound either on the Falcon or the Gibson. The
techies were on the ball getting his instruments
on & off throughout the extended set, apart
from one little glitch where the signal was
"Comes a Time", "Peace of Mind" & "Walk
On" made it clear that Neil was not afraid to
delve into his archives. But this really didn't
seem like an oldies event. The audience
crossed generations as much as Neil crosses
musical genres. White hair, long hair, purple
hair & no hair. Who else can attract bikers,
cowboys, skate boarders, farmers, Lexus
drivers & people using walkers?
After "Bad Fog of Loneliness" Neil cranked it
up a notch on that old big-bodied Gretsch White
Falcon guitar. There are some who don't care
for Neil's frenetic guitar scrabbling. I have
always found his attack to be a transcendent
zen-like treatment that owes as much to
post-bebop atonalism as it does to rock. It's no
wonder he has now been embraced by punk &
grunge post-modernists. Rock on Neil!
The progressive time signature of "Words
(Between the Lines of Age)" was treated to an
extended intro jam that
was getting pretty
psychedelic by the time
the cryptic lyrics
started. This was my
favorite of the night.
Neil did his crazed
firewalker hop around
the stage as the
sequence faded into
Neil let the craziness
subside for the next
beginning with his
"Helpless", tailed by
"World on a String"
before ending up on
the upright piano for
"Tonight's the Night". I
have never heard this
song sound better. Neil
rocked out on the
upright wearing a white
straw hat & there was a
before the double
encore ending of the
concert. "Tonight's the
Night" is a very
emotional piece & it
was obvious there was
going to be more. What
we didn't know was
how much more.
When the band
returned Neil had
strapped on his Bigsby-equipped black Les
Paul guitar that he has
tortured for so many
The opening strains
of "Cowgirl in the Sand"
is deceptive &
forboding. Who knew
that after three verses
the song would morph
into a wailing, gnashing
beast that would
stagger & stomp on for
a total of 16+ minutes
before ending in a howl
chaos. I looked around
at the elder folk in the
stands & many
appeared to be in a
state of shock. This
was heavy music for
Again the band left
the stage & the
audience went nuts
calling for more.
By the time the Neil
Young Band returned
to the stage, this concert had featured 20 songs and run over 2
& a half hours.
Neil prefaced the last song calling it a tribute
to "the Master". Which master? Dylan?
Hendrix? Jumping Jehovah? I knew where he
was going by now. "All Along the Watchtower"
is a vehicle that many people have added to
their repertoires & Neil has adopted his own
take on the folk-rock classic.
This selection was an extended set-up for an
amazing display of rock guitar overdose.
Twisted sheets of power chord crunching &
whammy bar excess ground the audience' aural
receptors into shards. Numbing as peels of
thunder. The meltdown ending was pure
feedback heaven & when it was over, it was
OVER. In his last sonic surge Neil had ripped a
handful of strings off his axe & as he walked
offstage he had a maniacal grin on his face.
There was no going back.
Walking out of GM Place amongst the
heavily blissed throng was like returning from
some sort of a religious epiphany. It was a
stunning performance that ranks at the top of
my concert going experience. Walking past the
loading bay on street level, the semi's were
already being packed by the road crew. I took a
couple snapshots of the Lionel Trains logo on
the trailers. (Neil recently purchased a major
chunk of this 100-year-old company... it's good
to have a hobby).
The band buses were idling across the
street & the tour was over. What a night... & to
think we wouldn't have attended if my car hadn't
broken down 2 weeks earlier! Not to mention
we had a rather ghostly encounter back at the
hotel later on, but that's another story. You have
to wonder sometimes...
Note: Monte Nordstrom has produced over 75 demos and has recorded 9 albums to
date (Dec '2000). He performs regularly at numerous venues on Canada's West Coast.
Email Monte at:
Back To Articles List
Back To Homepage