I’m pretty sure that between Bluegrass promoter Craig Ferguson and Blues and Brews promoter Steve Gumble, there has been a standing offer for Neil Young to play in Telluride every year. Figure that offer has been on the table for 20 years and Young has turned down 40 offers to play Telluride.
It’s kind of like in “Dumb and Dumber” when Lloyd asks what his chances are of landing his paramour and she tells him, “A million to one,” and Lloyd excitingly asks, “So you’re saying there’s a chance?” Well, those long odds have finally paid off in spades, and Neil Young and Promise of the Real are taking the stage Friday and Saturday night at the Fred Shellman Memorial Stage in Telluride Town Park.
Neil Young is the preeminent Canadian musician in history (with a nod to Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen). He is also regarded as one of the greatest songwriters in rock ’n’ roll. Certainly any top-10 list of songwriters would include Young and some might put him in the top three.
The Promise of the Real describes their sound as “California Hippie Surf Rock.” The band includes Willie Nelson’s son Lukas on guitar, Anthony LoGerfo on drums, Corey McCormick on bass and Tato Melgar on percussion. By all accounts, the band has injected fury into Young’s sound reminiscent of the Crazy Horse of the mid-’70s.
Young is using these two shows as a rehearsal for Desert Trip, a weekend of concerts next weekend at the Empire Polo Field in Indio, California (where Coachella is held). In addition to Young, the festival features Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Who and Roger Waters.
Desert Trip is being held on the same site as Coachella and is jokingly being referred to by some (who don’t have tickets) as “Old Chella” (the average age of the headliners is 71 years old).
You don’t want to show up to an event like Desert Trip with some of the most iconic bands in rock ’n’ roll history without your A game, so Young and the Promise of the Real went looking for a few tune-up gigs and they decided on Telluride. One big question that has been bantered about on barstools and chat rooms is whether or not Young will play two different shows in Telluride or try to perfect the same show twice.
I think they will play two different shows, though there may be some repeats over the two nights. The band may play the same song twice but with a different arrangement. It is essentially a rehearsal in front of a live (and very lucky) audience.
The word is that Young and the Promise of the Real have been playing some pretty obscure stuff on their recent tours (in addition to fan favorites). I think they’ll go a little bit more mainstream for Desert Trip and we’ll hear less “Hitchhiker” from “Le Noise” (2010) and more “Southern Man” from “After the Gold Rush” (1970).
This might be the very reason they want the rehearsal — because they haven’t been playing so much of their mainstream stuff and need to rehearse it. Let’s hope I’m right because if so we are in for two epic shows.
Here’s a list of some of those more mainstream songs I’d like to hear this weekend and some of my favorite lines from them. Young is known to begin his show with some acoustic songs. In light of the two shows, we may see quite a few acoustic numbers (or none at all). Here are some acoustic tunes I’d like to hear.
· “Comes A Time”>”Sugar Mountain” medley — I have a recording of Young combining these songs from one of his Bridge School Concerts. It’s epic.
· “Comes a Time:” “We took our souls and we flew away. We were right, we were giving that’s how we kept what we gave away.” Sugar Mountain: “There’s a girl just down the aisle, oh to turn and see her smile. You can hear the words she wrote, as you read the hidden note.”
· “After the Gold Rush”: The title track from Young’s 1970 record has a mystical feeling to it that I’ve always loved: “All in a dream, all in a dream, the loading had begun; they were flying mother nature’s silver seed to a new home in the sun.”
· “On the Way Home” (Buffalo Springfield): Young often opened his shows in the early ’70s with this gem: “In a strange game, I saw myself as you knew me. When the change came, and you had a chance to see through me. Though the other side is just the same you can tell my dream is real. Because I love you, can you see me now?”
· “Pocahontas:” The idea of Marlon Brando and Pocahontas talking about the Astrodome around a campfire is an awesome image. “Aurora borealis, the icy sky at night. Paddles cut the water in a long and hurried flight from the white man to the fields of green and the homeland we’ve never seen.
Moving into the electric realm…
· “Down by the River:” I think I’ve heard this song covered by more artists — from the Meters to Norah Jones — than any other Young song. “You take my hand, I’ll take your hand, and together we may get away. This much madness is too much sorrow, it’s impossible to make it today.”
· “Cowgirl in the Sand:” “Hello woman of my dreams, this is not the way it seems. Purple words on a grey background, to be a woman, and to be turned down, old enough now to change your name when so many love you, is it the same? It’s the woman in you that makes you want to play this game.”
· “Cortez the Killer:” Rumor is that Young wrote this song when he was in high school. It’s my favorite Neil Young song and word is that the band has been playing 30-plus minute versions of it. “Hate was just a legend and war was never known. People worked together and lifted many stones. They carried them to the flatlands and they died along the way. But they built up with their bare hands what we still can’t build today.”