Neil Young is a Canadian singer songwriter. He first discovered fame in 1966 as one of the founding members of Buffalo Springfield. He is still actively touring and recording to this day. He has released over 50 albums in the last 45 years.
I'm choosing Neil Young Live in Amsterdam recorded December 10th, 1989 for todays post because it represents a key turning point in Young's long and turbulent career.
The eighties had not been an easy decade for Neil Young. Like many of his contemporaries such as Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones he had alienated much of his audience by delving into an experimental phase of electronic synthesizers and rock and roll excess.
But in October of 1989 Neil Young released the album Freedom which was a huge artistic and commercial comeback. The album mixed acoustic numbers reminiscent of Young's early career with heavier electric tracks which sounded more up to date and contemporary.
This show is an acoustic set. About half the songs are taken from Freedom and the other tracks are mostly renditions of his older hits from the 1970's.
The first track "Hey, Hey, My, My(Into the Black)" is a very fitting opener for this transitional period of Neil Young's career. He wrote the song in the late seventies. It is about the future of Rock and Roll as Young saw it in 1979. It self-consciously eludes to Young's fears about the growing irrelevance of himself and his generation in the era of disco and punk rock. It was partially inspired by his interaction with Devo while making the Bernard Shakey film Human Highway.
Ironically "Hey Hey My My" became a huge hit and brought Neil Young back to prominence for a few years before returning to obscurity through most of the eighties. The famous line "It's better to burn out than to fade away" was later lifted by Kurt Cobain for use in his infamous 1994 suicide note. Young's inclusion in this most holy of rock & roll documents combined with his influence on Dinosaur Jr, his association with Sonic Youth, and collaboration with Pearl Jam made him the unofficial "Godfather of Grunge".
The second track "Rockin' in The Free World" was the big hit single from Freedom. It reached #2 on Billboards mainstream rock chart. It addresses homelessness and crack addiction in the first verse, and the second verse is a scathing criticism of American policy. A month after the release of Freedom the Berlin Wall fell. Newscasts played the song over the footage of the wall being torn down. Because of it's easily misinterpreted chorus "Rockin' in the Free World" became the unofficial theme song for the Fall of the Berlin Wall.
Like the album Freedom the Amsterdam '89 bootleg is bookended by two versions of "Rockin' in the Free World". It starts with a softer version early on in the set and ends with a heavier faster version as the final track.
One of the highlights of this bootleg is an acoustic rendition of "This Notes For You" which had just won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Video of the Year for 1989. The Video is extremely hilarious and truly bizarre. The songs contains harsh criticism of the growing commercialism, corporate sponsorship, and product placement found in pop music. The original song was a heavy electric number so it is very interesting to hear this song played soft and acoustically without a backing band.
There is some excellent stage banter right before "Heart of Gold". Neil Young sarcastically announces, "This is a song Bob Dylan wrote...Now there's a friend. I ripped off his song. I ripped off his whole sound."
I assume Young is referring to a 1985 Bob Dylan interview in Spin Magazine where Dylan said: "I used to hate it when it came on the radio. I always liked Neil Young, but it bothered me every time I listened to 'Heart of Gold.' I think it was up at number one for a long time, and I'd say, 'Shit, that's me. If it sounds like me, it should as well be me.'"
This performance was captured from the Soundboard. Both the audio quality and the performance are excellent.
1. My My, Hey Hey (Into The Black) 5:07
2. Rockin' In The Free World 5:41
3. The Old Laughing Lady 5:19
4. Don't Let It Bring You Down 4:05
5. Someday 6:19
6. Crime In The City 8:14
7. Eldorado 7:16
8. Too Far Gone 3:22
9. This Note's For You 3:55
10. The Needle & The Damage Done 2:49
11. After The Goldrush 4:37
12. Hangin' On A Limb 4:48
13. Heart Of Gold 4:27
14. Ohio 2:58
15. Rockin' In The Free World 3:59
Neil Young: Amsterdam
Bitrate: 320 kbit/s Mp3