Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Déjà vu All Over Again

Neil Young played in Boston last night, marking the first time he's played here since a three-night stand at the Orpheum Theatre in December of 2007. I attended one of those shows, although it didn't occur to me until now that, of the eight teams I've seen him, only two of those shows have been in Beantown. In fact, despite living here for the past 14 years, I've seen my favorite artist live just as many times in Worcester, of all places.

Last night's show was the first of two nights he'll be playing at the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre. At least, I think that's what they're officially calling it now, although Neil's joke of the night—in obvious distaste for the concept of corporate sponsorship—was that it's now called the Kellogg's Corn Flakes Center.

Young's set started off with acoustic renditions of "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)," "Tell Me Why," and "Helpless," at which point I was struck by a distinct feeling of déjà vu, and it wasn't because the latter song appeared on a CSNY album of the same name.

No, it was because Neil proceeded to perform the exact same set list at last night's show as he did the last time I saw him live, almost a year ago. OK, not exactly. The exception was that he ended things one "Heart of Gold" encore short this time.

This, of course, I considered disappointing, even though I'm a much bigger fan of the new material than I thought I would be when I heard it previewed last year. It's just that, being a huge fan of an artist with such an extensive and diverse catalog, I look forward to being surprised a few times.

Maybe I should have seen the signs coming. He brought along the same opening act—Scottish folkster Bert Jansch—and was touring entirely solo again. Maybe I was expecting too much from a 65-year old artist. I'm sure it's difficult enough re-learning songs that you haven't played in years, and it probably gets harder as an artist gets older.

So, perhaps I should have realized what was in store. Actually, I kind of did, in that I expected a similar format to last year's show. Just not an exact replica.

Regardless, Young played the material well, the venue's sound was good, and the rest of the crowd didn't really seem disappointed. But, I'm sorry to say that I was.

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