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April 28, 2011

Neil Young at the Hippodrome Theater April 27

PX00254_9.JPGNeil Young kicked-off a two-night residency at the Hippodrome Theater Wednesday night. At this point in his career, he has several generations of fans. For Midnight Sun alum Sam Sessa, who has been listening to him since he can remember, Tuesday's show was a first. Later today, reporter Nick Madigan, who's been listening to Young since the 70s, will review the show from a seasoned fan's perspective.

In his long and storied career, Neil Young has been many things: Folk rock pioneer, artful singer/songwriter, godfather of grunge.

Few musicians have stayed as relevant as long as Young. Even now, when many of his peers have settled into their umpteenth Greatest Hits tour, Young refuses to give people exactly what they want to hear. He'd rather give them what he wants them to hear. That was the case at the Hippodrome Wednesday night, where Young performed solo on acoustic and electric guitar.

Photo Gallery: Neil Young performing in Baltimore

Many audience members were expecting a hit parade or an all-request hour, shouting suggestions at Young, who brushed them off. While he did play a handful of his signature pieces, such as "Ohio," "Helpless" and an excellent "Cortez the Killer," much of Young's set was music from his latest album, "Le Noise" and other newer songs.

Young's dimly lit set, with its wooden Indian and hodgepodge of instruments, recalled a rustic saloon. Spotlights cast four rectangular panels on the dark curtain behind him, giving the impression of a church's stained glass windows at twilight.

When Young emerged, wearing jeans, a black T-shirt, white jacket and light tan fedora, the crowd greeted him with a standing ovation. Wasting no time, he fired right into a trio of hits: "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)," the poignant "Tell Me Why" and a subtle, elegant version of "Helpless."

From there, it was on to more obscure material. "You Never Call" had some comical ruminations on mortality ("You're on vacation / We're working / You're in heaven / I'm working"). That song, like other more recent material, was swathed in echo and reverb and at times, the low end had too much bass, which muddied the mix.

Young cast off a couple brief, lyrical solos in "Love and War," from last year's "Le Noise." Never a flashy player, Young is a masterful rhythm guitarist who can really work on a chord.

While his face is softer and his mid-section a bit rounder, the 65-year-old Young doesn't look all that different than he did 25 years ago. Time has sapped him of his once-shrill high end, though he still has his soft singing voice. There were moments when Young would go up for a note that wouldn't be there, as he did with the chorus in "Down by the River," but it only made the narrator -- a man who murders his woman -- seem more deranged.

A slower, more methodical "Ohio" set spines tingling; the words speak to one generation but the song's mix of anger and repulse is universal. Young could be singing in another language and you'd still understand him.

Young sat at an upright piano for the nursery rhyme-like "Leia," switched to a pump organ for "After the Gold Rush" and offered a gorgeous rendition of "I Believe in You" at a baby grand piano.

The show's high point came near the end, when Young tore into "Cortez the Killer," slapping his guitar strings and nailing the whammy bar. As the song's last chord rang out, Young plucked a pick from his mike stand and cracked into "Cinnamon Girl." Together, the two songs were tremendous.

Between songs, the crowd called for "Harvest Moon," "Old Man," and much of Young's well-known music. Young just shrugged, and, at one point, said "sticks and stones."

Can you blame him? With his long list of hits, Young could easily sell out the much larger Pier Six Pavilion. Instead, he played a more intimate, ornate theater with great acoustics. And while the set list was varied, the show was all the more interesting for it.

Photo: Neil Young at the Hippodrome Wednesday night (Doug Kasputin/Special to the Baltimore Sun) 

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:43 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Concert reviews


Great review. Now I wish I had gone! I've been holding out for another round of Crazy Horse.

Great concert on Wed night!

Could have done without smart phones flashing photos and the obnoxious people in front of us who couldn't stop texting and taking photos!

I was glad to get to see this show at the Hippodrome. Neil sounded great and I enjoyed the mix of old and new songs. Anyone who expected a greatest hits show should have known better. An artist of this stature plays what he damn well wants. The songs have attitude so why shouldn't the performer?

I was glad to get to see this show at the Hippodrome. Neil sounded great and I enjoyed the mix of old and new songs. Anyone who expected a greatest hits show should have known better. An artist of this stature plays what he damn well wants. The songs have attitude so why shouldn't the performer?

This show was incredible. Having listened to Neil Young since 1968, this was the first time I got to see him live. The review's comment about Young playing what he wants the audience to hear is right on the mark and his originality is one of the main reasons for his artistic longevity.

Kudos to the folks at the Hippodrome. What a great place for a concert. We paid over $350 for two rear orchestra seats and, for once, I feel as though we got our money's worth, even at outrageous pricing.

At the opposite end of the scale, the legendary British folk guitarist Bert Jansch as an opener was out of place. The venue was too large and the audience too distracted.....

Wow...what a show. It took me the entire ride home to the Eastern Shore to wind down after that performance. It was an amazing venue....never been there before and the total experience was first class all the way. I particularly liked Helpless and Cinnamon Girl but every song was an absolute gem.

Neil....keep doing what you do!

Unbelievable acoustics made the Neil Young show at the Hippodrome a spine-tingling, once-in-a-life time experience!! Neil rules!

Neil Young has changed little since I saw him in Philly in the 70's. He made the crowd wait then, he did it last night.
He had no rapport with the audiance then or last night.
Anyone who paid the inflated ticket price and came away satisfied should have their head examined. Is it too much to ask an artist to play the songs that you paid to hear. The great stars such as Billy Joel, Elton John, the Stones, etc. seem to care about their fans and play some new songs but mostly their hits.
Young came across as aloof and arogant in the 70s and again last night.

Just the fact that Neil played the Hippadrome has elevated Baltmore. The ticket prices were shocking I have to say. The last time he played here In Baltimore (not in Columbia) was in 1984 during the Trans tour which I saw. But here I was in the Hippadrome, Neil might as well have been my living room playing. For me it was a thorough mix of tunes and I was surprised how strong the newer ones were and noticed more humor. What distinquishes Neil from other performers is how he's willing to mess with his tunes.
His slowed version of "I believe in you" was in my book the highlight. It took guts to play Down By The River and Cortz The Killer solo on electric which I found both intrequing and wishing particular with down by the rivere that he played the signature riff. He didn't. One more thing, his set list is the same throughout the tour, maybe one song difference. I find this curious. In all Could have been two songs longer or was it I was just sad to see one of my childhood heros leave. Hope he comes back soon and play whatever he damn well pleases.

Yeah it was funny how between songs he would sort of walk around the stage as if deciding what to play next... but he plays the same setlist every night.

Still, great show. After the first three acoustic songs to start the show, the guy behind me said "that was worth the price of admission right there." And I completely agreed.

Sam seems to be getting back into the nightlife writing world. The Fed Hill bar story, covering the Tiki Barge, now a concert review ...

@Conspiracy Theorist -- I'm pitching in with some stories for the month of April, since a large number of other reporters are on vacation. It's not a permanent thing.

to kevin:
Re; "He had no rapport with the audiance then or last night. "
Seems like you spent more time on your cell phone in the lobby then actually in the show. There was rapport a plenty. And if you're comparing Neil to those old, tired-ass, rehash-the-old-hits, collect- a-paycheck by playing "mostly their hits" frauds like 'Billy Joel, Elton John, the Stones," then you just need to stop listening to music and shuffle off to the nostalgia tours and only listen to classic rock stations.

Actually you HAVE stopped listening, but you just don't know that you're brain-dead.

Rock on, Neil...

Apologies to Kevin,
I meant to address my comments to "Pamela Meluh," who ever this lame-brain happens to be who wrote the impossibly stupid post I was reacting to.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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