Magisterial: Neil Young at the Greek Theatre July 10 2023 6

Music · Reviews

It wasn’t a smooth performance. He hemmed and hawed, he paced. He ambled between an upright Steinway to a grand piano and then to a vintage pump organ. He swapped his harmonica — he had a bunch of them. That made loud clicks in the holder he wore around his neck, as it banged against his body mike. Abandoning a song, he groused, “I just don’t have the time to play out of tune,” and a minion scampered on stage to swap his electric guitar for an acoustic one — ostensibly one that was tuned.

He was wearing denims and a kooky train conductor’s hat. He wasn’t fat, he wasn’t thin. He was kind of lumbering, bulky. He played his set list … but as time went on, things seemed to stretch. He seemed in need of direction. Thrice in the evening, he turned to the house and croaked, “How ‘ya doin’ out there?” We roared back with applause … reassurance. Perhaps a band would have kept him on track. (This was a solo show.) But over the course of a 1.5 hour compendium of a songspiel quoting across sixty years, and despite his interruptive, often very witty, ruminations, he delivered. The guitar strum was foundational, rock-solid, the harmonica added texture and dimension.

He was in good voice. Very good voice. Surprisingly pure and unwavering. Stable and on pitch. Full of feeling. And out those lyrics tumbled, in a set list of 16 songs. “I’m the Ocean,” he posited in his opening number, and there we sat, clinging to that promise, ready to float away on an incredible song.

I’m the ocean
I’m a drug that makes you dream.
I’m an Aerostar. I’m a Cutlass Supreme.
In the wrong lane, trying to turn against the flow.
I’m the ocean. I’m the giant undertow.

“Don’t forget love,” he wailed plaintively. And then he sang that line, it seemed like one hundred times in a Crazy Horse song of the same title. “Ohio” was as funereal a dirge as in 1971. It was overpowering to hear it drummed out by its author. “On my Way Home” a beautiful love song written for Buffalo Springfield, delivered characteristic wistful romanticism. A call to the senses and emotions.

And I love you. Can you feel it now? Can you feel it now? Can you feel it now??

Taking in the amphitheater, Young remarked, “I remember this place from a long time ago, I was here in Very. Early. Times.” He reflected, “This is where CSNY’s first gig was as I remember it.” He used the acronym. He added for clarity, “They’re not here right now.”

“I want to get this right for you,” he said, “because you’re a real professional audience.” A hilarious comment. He then shared an odd story. Once, when exiting the stage, he said, he heard booing. And it got to him. “I was saying to myself, oh shit. Because it meant something. Because they felt it. But I’m still working on it, so I’ll keep you posted.” After “Mr. Soul,” slowed to non-swinging tempo on the pump organ (She said you’re strange but don’t change and I let her), an exalted Neil Young sent “Heart of Gold” into the dark sky above Griffith Park.

Arts journalist Debra Levine founded artsmeme in 2008.

6 thoughts on “Magisterial: Neil Young at the Greek Theatre July 10 2023

  1. Danny Mann Jul 21,2023 2:34 pm


    Huge CSNY fan.
    Love Neil.
    Saw them at Pauley in 69.
    And at a later reunion at Staples 02.
    So can’t complain too much, but…

    How did I NOT KNOW about these concerts
    at the FORD and GREEK?
    Guess I’m not as plugged into the scene
    as I used to be EH?

    Yep Mivhael — CDN too.
    And was a big fan of Scott Young.
    Read his hockey books.
    Read his columns in the TO papers.
    Watched him on HNIC.
    And then was thrilled and stunned
    when his hippie kid showed up on my
    music radar in the 60s and 70s!

    as told by Graham Nash…

  2. Mivhael Kamiel MD Jul 14,2023 1:18 pm

    The concert at the Ford was good but the one at the Greek Theater Thursday was great! My guest who usually leaves early loved it and she cherished every song.As we left the packed venue.,his 2 large buses were pulling out and everyone waved like when we were teenagers. As a Canadian who grew up in Toronto, I remember his father Scott Young who was a sports columnist with the Toronto Star and looked just like his famous son.

  3. debra levine Jul 12,2023 9:57 am

    Love this comment, Christie, and your devotion over time.
    He’s a true artist.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Christie Moreno-Trejo Jul 12,2023 9:41 am

    This is how I feel fans of his like me are…we GEEK out on him…we have a HISTORY with him…we feel we have been part of his evolution…we like to compare how he is playing, how he is interacting with the audience, how many guitar changes he has, what he’s wearing, if he cussed anyone out, how political he gets, will he play the piano will he not, is he going to talk about Topanga Canyon, will he mention his relationships with former members of CSNY…and so on and so on.  We are nerds.  But we mostly walk away with the comment of YES, Neil shredded tonight!  I know I will have that sentiment again when I leave Thursday night he NEVER disappoints. SO…your review captured just that…we are professional NEIL YOUNG fans! Thank you!

  5. debra levine Jul 11,2023 8:54 pm

    yes, Liz, I saw Chris Pierce. He did a nice job.

  6. Liz Hirsch Jul 11,2023 7:44 pm

    Did you see the opening act?

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