Hal Willner’s Neil Young Project in Prospect Park
Celebrate Brooklyn, New York, June 26, 2004
The Neil Young Tribute in Prospect Park last Saturday night was fittingly immense. Neil’s career is like this behemoth by now, and listening to musicians cover his songs is both a revelation w/r/t/ how sprawling and eclectic his oeuvre has become, and a trip down about twelve different memory lanes, depending on the amount of gray in your hair. Only true Neil-o-philes could have known every song, so long stretches of time were spent wondering when Neil had penned this tune, in what mood, and who was up there singing it.
That was the only real drawback to the night – performers slipped on and offstage unannounced, which was a drag since many of them were A) little known and B) really good, so it would have been a positive thing all around to have their names available. But you can’t have everything, right? We had a beautiful summer night, a great backing band, decent food and beer for sale, and 46 Neil Young songs to ponder or rock out to, depending.
These tribute shows are cool because you get the variety of performers mixed with the consistency of an inspired songwriter. Jane Siberry’s light, tender version of “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” was lovely and swinging, an optimistic cousin of the original. Ron Sexsmith’s waif-like croon did something magical to “Wrecking Ball,” though his “Like a Hurricane” was a shade subdued. And James Blood Ulmer tore into “Scenery” like the song possessed the power of the devil (and by the time he was finished with it, it did).
Cat Power’s Chan Marshall, looking beautiful and sexy in a tank top and capris, skipped onstage with a lit cigarette, sat jauntily facing the audience and gave an exuberant rendition of “Mr. Soul.” The only sign of her famous stagefright was the speed with which she darted off when she’d finished singing – the band hadn’t even wrapped up the tune. But her unceremonious exit was in keeping with the spirit of the night – performers slipped in and out of the backing band, singers wandered up to the mic as casually as roadies at a soundcheck. (Chan later returned to do “The Needle and the Damage Done” which my friends said was really good but I missed due to a really annoying situation re bathroom facilities.)
Occasionally, the songs missed their master’s cranky authenticity. Iron and Wine’s “Cowgirl in the Sand” was initially a bit tepid, though eventually its softness became effective and charming. (And both Iron and Wine’s later songs, “Expecting to Fly” and “Running Dry,” were beautifully done.) The best moments were when you felt the performers ripping the material away from the dustbins of history and going nuts on it in a completley present-tense way. James Blood Ulmer’s churning version of “Fuckin’ Up” and Antony and Joan Wasser’s duet of “Cinnamon Girl” both achieved this intensity. No longer exactly tributes to the original, they became throbbing entities unto themselves. These were perfect ways to wrap up a long, respectful summer night. It felt like kids taking Dad’s car out and hitting 120 on the straightaway.
Complete setlist below:
1) A Dream That Can Last – ANTONY/TEDDY THOMPSON/JENNI MULDAUR/AMBROSIA PARSLEY
2) The Loner – STAN RIDGWAY
3) Don’t Let It Bring You Down – JANE SIBERRY
4) Don’t Cry No Tears – TEDDY THOMPSON
5) Horseshoe Man – RON SEXSMTIH
6) Cowgirl in The Sand – IRON & WINE
7) Comin’ Apart At Every Nail – PETER STAMPHEL & JOHN KRUTH
8) A Man Needs A Maid – ANTONY
9) Harvest – JENI MULDAUR
10) Mr. Soul – CAT POWER
11) The Losing End – SHAWN AMOS/JANINE NICHOLS
12) Helpless – ERIC MINGUS
13) Scenery – JAMES BLOOD ULMER
14) Albuquerque – SUN KIL MOON
15) BIRDS – THE BE GOOD TANYAS
16) Transformer Man – ADAM DORN & KEMBRA PFAHLER
17) Safeway Cart – JANE SIBERRY
18) On The Beach – JOAN WASSER
19) The Needle and the Damage Done – CAT POWER/BONFIRE MADIGAN
20) Weight of The World – STAN RIDGWAY
21) Music Arcade – ED HARCOURT/AMBROSIA PARSLEY
1) Music from “Dead Man” – ELLIOT SHARP/BONFIRE MADIGAN
2) What Happened Yesterday – BONFIRE MADIGAN/ELLIOT SHARP
3) Running Dry – IRON & WINE
4) Expecting To Fly – IRON & WINE
5) Wonderin’ – FRED ARMISEN
6) Star of Bethleham – PETER STAMPHEL & JOHN KRUTH
7) Southern Man – SHAWN AMOS
8) Wrecking Ball – RON SEXSMITH
9) Through My Sails – ED HARCOURT
10) I Believe In You – TEDDY THOMPSON
11) For The Turnstiles – THE BE GOOD TANYAS
13) Powderfinger – SUN KIL MOON
14) Bandit – AMBROSIA PARSLEY
15) Cinnamon Girl – ANTONY/JOAN WASSER
16) Fuckin’ Up – JAMES BLOOD ULMER
17) Like A Hurricane – SUN KIL MOON / RON SEXSMITH
18) Ohio – STAN RIDGWAY/EVERYONE
6 thoughts on “My Head is the Event of the Season”
Nice article, Kristy. I’m not a huge Neil fan but that sounds pretty cool.
I’d love to have heard Stan Ridgeway doing ‘Ohio’, especially.
Please tell me someone taped this show.
yeah, did someone tape this show? and how can i get a hold of a copy?
Whoa, fucking awesome!! I was planning, by mere coincident, to spend my next two days off making a Neil Young’s greatest hits according to me compilation. I hope this doesn’t influence my choices, though I feel it already has…
Thank you for the fine review! It was a great night and wonderful show. I am a Jane Siberry fan and searched the web high and low to try to get the name of the second song she did. It was my first exposure to some of the artists and they all impressed.
I have even hunted down two Antony eps since the concert.
who taped the show and how does one get a copy?