NEIL YOUNG and DIANA KRALL at Massey Hall, Sunday, January 12. Rating: NNNNN
The atmosphere was charged at Massey Hall on Sunday night. Outside the storied venue, members of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation drummed and chanted, as a crowd and police gathered. The point was to draw attention to Honour The Treaties - a battle against oil sand corporations and the Canadian goverment allegedly ignoring Treaty 8 promises while wreaking irreparable damage on ACFN lands.
Inside, Diana Krall tickled the ivories ahead of a short silent film of aerial shots of the oil sands' expansiveness and destruction. But the political focus instantly gave way to a musical one the moment Neil Young appeared, who made a show of throwing away his set list and then delivering From Hank To Hendrix, On The Way Home and Helpless via acoustic guitar.
At ease and conversational throughout the formidable near-two-hour solo set of deep cuts and "hits," Young recalled the Yorkville 70s folk scene and gave us brief histories of the pianos and guitars he wandered between. Mellow On My Mind, on banjo, was the liveliest; Southern Man the most riveting; A Man Needs A Maid the strangest (ominous synth juxtaposing elegant grand piano); and a cover of Phil Ochs's Changes the most moving.
A few barbs got through. In Pocahontas, Young changed "Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me" to "Stephen Harper, Pocahontas and me," and sang of broken treaties. He also alluded to upcoming renos at Massey, where he recorded his legendary 1971 live album (which we voted best Toronto record). "Don't let them change this place," he said.