Neil Young enchants sold-out audience at Carnegie Hall
In one of the most highly anticipated concerts of the New Year, Neil Young took the stage Monday night in Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium to deliver the first of four sold-out solo performances slated for this week. Circled on the stage by no fewer than eight guitars, two pianos, and his infamous pump organ, Young played more than 20 songs, which spanned over four decades of his career. From the first chords of ’90s-era “From Hank to Hendrix” to the last ringing note of encore closer “Long May You Run,” which Young co-wrote with Steven Stills in the 1970s, Young delivered what might be his most powerful performance in years.
Although more than a few songs suffered from missed chord changes and, in one instance – which Young laughed off mid-song – a harmonica in the wrong key, minor mistakes did not seem to derail Young’s determined playing.
Individual song arrangements ranged from rollicking piano accompanied by blues harmonica, to orchestral 12-string acoustic guitar, to a combination of synthesizer and grand piano. However, the simple marriage of spare acoustic guitar with Young’s haunting, high-pitched vocals might have contributed to most memorable moments of the evening. Shortly after intermission, as the bass notes of his six-string rattled with every downbeat, Young launched into a rumbling rendition of his 1970 protest song “Ohio,” followed up by a rare acoustic performance of “Southern Man” that silenced the audience in Stern Auditorium.
In the past, Young has stated that his solo acoustic performances at Carnegie Hall in December 1970 were among the most important of his career. Perhaps it is no mistake, then, that nearly a third of the songs from opening night were also on the set list 44 years ago.
Neil Young is not one to parade out his greatest hits often, making it all the more remarkable when he does. If opening night is any indication, his remaining three concerts at Carnegie Hall are sure to be compelling. He performs at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.