REVIEW: Young mesmerizes with once-in-a lifetime show, Performed Sunday at the Jack Singer Concert Hall by Mike Bell, January 20, 2014, Calgary Herald
Neil Young performs Sunday night at the Jack Singer Concert Hall. It was somewhat fortuitous timing. Earlier Sunday morning, one of the Canadian stations carried locally was playing The Simpsons Movie, a film that is, at its very core, under the guise of road trips to Alaska, subplots about the need for family, second chances and redemption, and hidden beneath spider songs about pigs named Plopper, an environmental film. They make the statement from the outset about the direction they’re headed and the route they’ll travel when a cartoon version of punk band Green Day (redundant, possibly) is shown performing the show’s theme on a barge/stage floating on a lake in front of the enthusiastic citizens of Springfield. “We’ve been playing for three and a half hours,” says the animated version of frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. “Now we’d like just a minute of your time to say something about the environment.” The band are, of course, booed and bottled and met with angry calls to just shut up and sing.
Which brings us to Neil Young’s sold-out show Sunday night at the Jack Singer Concert Hall.
It follows a complete, sometimes divisive week of interviews, press conferences, pro and con op-eds, attacks, counterattacks and rhetoric as Young and his Honor the Treaties benefit tour made their way across the country to raise money and awareness for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Legal Defense Fund as they get set to battle oilsands development in northern Alberta.
After a somewhat feisty press conference earlier in the day, in the petroleum-stoked belly of the beast, the evening concert, the final one of the jaunt, was, for the most part, the opportunity for the legendary artist to shut up and sing. And us to shut up and listen. Or, to quote lines from the opening song from his performance, From Hank to Hendrix, “Here I am with this old guitar, doin’ what I do.” What he does best. And, oh, how magically he did it for those lucky enough to find themselves among the few to make their way into the intimate, once-in-a-lifetime, solo acoustic gig.
Young was in remarkable form, in exquisite voice, in a warm, comfortable and giving mood as he sat on the Singer stage, amid a handful of guitars, pianos and other well-worn instruments, plucking from the collection, talking to them, telling some of their stories and histories, and picking tunes from his timeless, well-worn catalogue that still has all of its power intact. In fact, perhaps even more so thanks to the passage of time and effects they’ve had on the man from whence they’ve come.
For proof, all you had to hear were the opening words of Helpless or the dreamy chorus of Only Love Can Break Your Heart — both sending shivers, walking the line between beaten and beatific, haunted and heavenly, sad and sanguine. The rest of the evening, the bottomless offering of classics saw Young walking those lines with a skill and ease which were disarming and frankly awe-inspiring. Be it at a piano for Love In Mind, on both banjo and harmonica for Mellow My Mind, playing a pump organ for a dirty and steamy Mr. Soul or the tour-appropriate Pocahontas (which he gave an appropriate lyrical reworking), seated front and centre for Harvest, an unforgettable version of Old Man, the stark and devastating Ohio and a howling take on Southern Man, or standing for the area appropriate cover of Ian Tyson’s Four Strong Winds, it was as if he was crafting the songs for the very first time, in the moment, on this night, in this building, and in our presence. And if you didn’t feel that, you weren’t listening.
Perhaps the only criticism of the evening could be that while Young kept his part of the bargain, there were some in the audience who had a hard time doing the same. He, for the most part, shut up and played — and when he spoke, did so about the music and his past without agenda — but there were a handful of idiots who refused to keep quiet and listen, yelling out inanities at inopportune moments, hooting and whooping, and at times killing the mood that he had so skilfully set. But still, that’s on them, not on him. Young had done his talking and was willing to let his music say so, so much more on this night.
And when all was said and done, it was one of the best shows this city has been blessed with in recent memory. Of this, there can be no sides, no arguments, no debates. As for opener, Canadian contemporary jazz chanteuse Diana Krall, she, too, was aware of why she and us were gathered together, also acknowledging it during a brief introduction to Let It Rain halfway through her almost hour-long, solo set. “This song’s all about love,” she said, sitting at one of Young’s keyboards. “So I’ll just shut up and sing.” She did, again, with a sense of familiarity and looseness that were infused her few originals and many covers — Bob Dylan’s Simple Twist of Fate, Cole Porter’s Don’t Fence Me In, Joni Mitchell’s Black Crow, a couple of Tom Waits’s tunes including Take It With Me, and a gorgeous version of The Band’s Ophelia — and made the night something special. Or that much more special. [Emphasis added]
Neil Young turns down meeting with industry execs before concert, CAPP says by Jamie Komarnicki, January 19, 2014 12:00 PM, Calgary Herald
Rocker Neil Young is bringing his benefit concert into the heart of the oilpatch on Sunday — but he has turned down a meeting with top industry executives while he’s on their turf, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. In a statement released Sunday, CAPP said the entertainer and outspoken oilsands critic hasn’t accepted an invitation to meet with oilsands producers before his concert later in the day. The offer was extended last week when industry representatives launched a return salvo following the flurry of attention surrounding Young’s four-city concert tour benefiting the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, which is downstream from the oilsands. [CAPP executives could easily have invited Mr. Young to meet with them weeks or months ago, instead of providing so little notice during a busy tour.]
Young has argued aboriginal treaty rights are been infringed upon by oilsands development, and gone as far as drawing comparisons between a Fort McMurray industrial site and the atomic bomb wreckage of Hiroshima, Japan. Energy industry executives have countered Young’s positions, with CAPP president Dave Collyer saying the rocker’s “rhetoric is ill-informed, it’s divisive, and I think it does a disservice to Canadians — including those First Nations he is ostensibly trying to help through his tour.”
The back-and-forth volley that’s followed Young’s tour across the country is expected to come to a head in Calgary. The musician is planning a press conference early Sunday afternoon.
In its statement, CAPP said its representatives made contact with Young’s PR team “but they have unfortunately not accepted oilsands producers’ offer of a meeting.”
Industry officials have also been shut out from Sunday’s media event, according to CAPP. [What right does CAPP have to invite themselves to Neil Young’s press event? Did CAPP arrange and finance the “Honour the Treaties” tour.]
“Oilsands producers said we’d be willing to sit down on Neil Young’s stage with a neutral moderator [is there such a thing as “neutral” when it comes to CAPP and the oil and gas industry? Who would pay for the moderator? CAPP? Synergy Alberta? The AER? Neil Young? Harmed First Nations?] and balanced representation [by how many industry and regulator lawyers and propagandists?], and we’re disappointed these reasonable terms could not be met,” [Was it not possible for Mr. Young to meet CAPP’s demanding terms at short notice, or did Mr. Young choose to say no to brainwashing and listening to lies by Synergy Alberta and CAPP when he has more important things to attend to?] said Collyer, in the statement. “Regardless, our invitation to meet with Neil Young or (Athabasca Forth Chipewyan First Nation chief Allan Adam) at a future date remains open.”
The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has filed a Federal Court lawsuit in hopes of overturning the approval of Shell’s Jackpine oilsands mine expansion — a project that will double Shell’s production in the oilsands but has drawn criticism over environmental impact and consultation issues in the approval process. [Emphasis added]
Neil Young refuses to meet with industry execs before concert, CAPP says by Jamie Komarnicki, later in the day on January 19, 2014, Calgary Herald
Bringing his tour into the heart of the oil country, rocker Neil Young trumpeted its success shining a light on “broken treaties” but insisted his ferocious criticism of the energy industry along the way doesn’t amount to an “anti-tarsands crusade.” The four-city Honor the Treaties benefit concert made its final stop with a concert in Calgary on Sunday — wrapping up with no face time between Young and industry representatives on their home turf, despite an invitation extended by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. The legendary entertainer’s concert tour is benefiting the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, which is downstream from the oilsands and is fighting a major new project in court.
On Sunday, Young shrugged off questions about whether the core of his campaign to address treaty rights has been lost in the back-and-forth volley with industry and politicians over some of his more explosive statements on the oilsands. “Our tour across Canada has been a great success. We have raised awareness on the subject of broken treaties. Now Canada must respond in the courts,” Young told reporters in Calgary, saying that so far about $75,000 has been raised.
Asked whether he’d like to see development slowed, he said: “In my ideal world, I would like to see the treaties honoured. If the treaties were honoured the way they’re written, we would all be safer.”
Young said he remains a proud Canadian but insisted his home country is falling behind when it comes to developing clean energy industries and dealing with C02 emissions. He pointed to the summer floods that devastated large swaths of southern Alberta and left parts of the Saddledome in Calgary under water.
“That’s climate change, the beginning,” said Young.
“Mother Nature is nothing to screw around with.”
He acknowledged that he flies on private jets when required on tour but said some of the work he’s doing now is meant to help make up for that damage. A spokeswoman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) said on Sunday she was disappointed Young turned down the offer to meet, but said the entertainer’s team wouldn’t agree to replacing David Suzuki with a neutral moderator. [Why should they? Is CAPP paying for the tour? Did CAPP book the hall and organize the tour? Is CAPP doing the fund raising for legal fees for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation?] Geraldine Anderson also said the offer to talk remains on the table.
Young said he considers the concert tour a win for putting attention on treaty rights, “because we’re all talking about it. No matter how you feel, there’s a discussion going on around the breakfast table. That’s real, that’s big, that’s Canada. That’s what should happen.” [Emphasis added]