Neil Young

6 September 2000

Mesa Del Sol Amphitheatre, Albuquerque, NM


My first time at the Mesa Del Sol Amphitheatre. I drove 350 miles to see the main act, Neil Young, as well as the Pretenders.

Walking on stage at 7 PM sharp was an acoustic duo that calls themselves Tegan and Sara. Two singers, each strumming an acoustic guitar, and occasionally harmonizing. As with many acts, one often has to absorb repeated exposure in order to really latch onto a group you've never heard of before. Nothing really caught my attention about this duo, though that may change with time.

I would have attended this concert for the second act alone, and they definitely made the evening special. The great Pretenders walked out as a five-piece, including both surviving long-time members, Chrissie Hynde and Martin Chambers, as well as a lead guitarist, bassist, and percussionist. Chrissie danced out in black pants and a sort of Martha Stewartish light, long-sleeved shirt.

Traveling under the "Young Americans" tour banner, Chrissie and band started with a Neil Young song, "Loner", and did it good justice. Next came "Talk Of The Town", with vocals much smoother than the new-wave squeaky vocals heard on the 1983 studio version. Chrissie then dedicated "Kid" to the two Pretenders who tragically passed on in the early 1980s, Peter Farndon and James Honeyman-Scott.

The Pretenders performed a famous song that wasn't included in their Singles compilation, "My City Was Gone". Working their way to the end, the Pretenders performed an excellent "Back On The Chain Gang" and "Middle Of The Road". I was hoping for "Show Me", with no luck, however.

Chrissie kissed the stage in honor of the main act, as she apparently has done for the duration of this tour. The Pretenders followed that act of honor by covering Neil's "The Needle And The Damage Done".

Overall, Chrissie was in great form and voice; it was nice to see her and Martin Chambers (complete with trademark pointy sideburns), and the rest of the band this evening, just one day before Chrissie's 49th birthday.

After a mandatory stage shuffle, Neil Young walked out in a black t-shirt with off-white shorts, strapped on his black beauty electric, and started his band off with "Motorcycle Mama", featuring sister Astrid and wife Pegi on co-vocals. Pegi demonstrated how she could keep her notes close to the studio version of the same song (1978).

Neil then forced through about 20 songs, most of which I recognized, including Crazy Horse gems like "Powderfinger" and "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere", and Silver And Gold compositions. Neil introduced "Daddy Went Walkin'" by talking about how most of his family still lives in Canada, including his father, who still lives on a farm. Neil also performed the long "Razor Love", and "Buffalo Springfield Again", complete with a striking acoustic guitar riff, from the new album.

Mostly, Neil dug into songs from Stray Gator territory, such as "Harvest Moon", "From Hank To Hendrix", "Unknown Legend", "Peace Of Mind", and "Words (Between The Lines Of Age)". But, Neil also picked out a few lesser-known compositions of his, like "Winterlong", "World On A String", "Dance Dance Dance", and "Bad Fog Of Lonliness". No "Old Man" or "Heart Of Gold", though.

Througout the evening, we noticed that the stage was missing one member of the band, keyboard player Spooner Oldham. Though his piano and Hammond B-3 were set up and ready to go, Neil announced that he could only be there tonight in spirit, as he was spending the night in a Santa Fe hospital. At the end of the set, Neil walked over to the piano and tickled the ivories for "Tonight's The Night".

As was the case for the CSNY2K tour, bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn and drummer Jim Keltner played well enough to become almost unnoticed--meant as a compliment. Had the band not included steel guitarist Ben Keith, the absense of Spooner would have been unbearable.

The Mesa Del Sol Amphitheatre is nice, and very much resembles the Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre in Englewood, CO--reserved seats in front, wide lawn in back. Mesa Del Sol, though, actually offers a decent view of the city on either side of the stage. Prior to the first encore, Neil offered the following criticism of the place: "Being the amateur architect that I am, I have one suggestion for this place--put up some adobe on both sides of the seats, to cover those obnoxious Coca-Cola advertising signs--it's hard to perform when there are those two bright posts on the left and right-this is an amphitheatre, not a f@#$in' billboard!"

Neil offered a second encore with "Mellow My Mind". Overall, Neil seemed very energetic and also enthusiastic, moreso than, for instance, the times I've seen him with Crazy Horse.

Good show.

[****] - Steven T.

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