It’s taking me too long to assimilate what I witnessed at Les Arenes in Nîmes last Wednesday, but I guess it’s now or never the time for writing about the show Neil Young offered with Crazy Horse I attended. It was so special I don’t think I might be able to explain the experience properly, but I’ll try my best anyway.
Personally I need to mention two remarkable facts related to the date the concert was held. On one hand that very same date 3 years ago something happened which meant the release from the heaviest burden I’ve ever carried. It was painful and terrible in the beginning, but after the inevitably mourning season, and the period of self catharsis, I learnt to understand that was for the best, thus it’s better to remember this date as a sort of celebration of freedom.
On the other hand, and closely related to the show, a date, July the 19th 1996, when I first time saw Neil Young at a festival in the UK named Phoenix, located in Stradford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace. Seems it was yesterday when I spent more than 2 hours on my own marveled by the show, in a moment I was only acquainted with a couple of Young’s songs. How could I imagine almost 20 years later I’d be in the same situation?
At the end of 2012, after the release of Psychedelic Pill, tour dates with Crazy Horse in Europe were announced, and of course, following the latest trend, no Spanish city was scheduled. It was this guy I’m acquainted with, who started commenting he had just purchased a ticket for the French city. To be honest I’m not very good at geography, thus I didn’t think of it as a possibility , but the truth is that 450-500km by car do not seem so hard if you can arrange a comfy trip. I actually got my ticket on Xmas as a self present, not sure how I’d organize for a trip to a not very common destination as Nîmes.
7 months passed and finally there was this mini bus departing from Girona, packed with 25 Young’s diehard fans. Some had seen him abroad, others at Primavera Sound in 2009 but there were many who hadn’t had the chance to attend one of his shows in the past. The atmosphere during the journey was amazing, and as we were getting closer to our destination, the soundtrack just focused on our heroes.
I can’t recall when was the last time I joined an organized coach trip to attend a show. The most memorable was the first, to see GN’R in 1993, for obvious reasons. One of the best experiences in my life. This time it was different. I had seen uncle Neil a couple of times already, and joining this expedition had to do more with a matter of need rather than for pleasure, as I wasn’t very close to anyone, even though I had some acquaintances. It was positive after all because everyone’s motivation was the Canadian with Crazy Horse, and I’m very grateful to the guys who made spend their time in arranging everything for giving me the possibility to join them. Everything was fantastic.
The place where the concert took place was an ancient bullfighting square, Les Arenes. Quite beautiful and magnificent even though I’m not very pro bullfighting as you can imagine. Spain is divided on this regard, with supporters defending it as a traditional art part of our national culture, and haters considering it a major exhibition of animal brutality.
Anyway, when we arrived it was raining and this place was open air. For a while we were scared this might ruin the whole show, but fortunately the forces of nature favorite us, and eventually it quit, leaving a terrible almost unbearable warm humidity.
Never been into Patti Smith at all, in fact I’d say I’ve never liked her. In essence I’ve always thought of one of these artists belonging to a generation which succeeded in times of social and political instability becoming some sort of symbol for freedom and vindication against the establishment. What remains from those times? Not much but a bunch of songs, memorable performances and lots of imagery.
I still remember reading Smith’s declarations when Pope Francis was sworn in, saying she’d been praying and cried out of happiness when Francis was the name chosen. WTF? Really.
Anyway, I was expecting a boring show but it turn out to be just the opposite. The old lady is definitely a pro, hers is a proper rock show, her band was quite fine, and the 75 minute set list, of course including her major hits, Dancing Barefoot, April Fool, Because the Night and People Have the Power, was a very intense one. She is a great front woman and a very expressive performer, who didn’t forget about Amy Winehouse when introducing This is the Girl, or Edward Snowden (Edward Snowden where are you? With your clings and arrows…WTF!), but went too far dedicating a song to Manolete, the bullfighter, and praising the wonders of the noble art of man vs bull. At the end of the day, everybody surrenders to the folklore of bullfighting…still she managed to divert the audience’s attention to Pissing in the River and Banga, which were fantastic. The final medley of Land with Gloria for closing the show drove Les Arenes nuts, with everybody dancing and singing. Hats Off to Patti Smith!!! I swallow my words.
In barely 15 minutes the stage was ready for Neil and Crazy Horse. You should have seen 20 people setting everything ready restless and perfectly organized. I’ve seldom witnessed such fast change of bands on stage, with all the gear, amps, floor covers, techs…impressive.
French people are very impatient. You might regard this as a negative generalization, but it’s just the opposite. They’re not used to wait and love punctuality in shows and other public events. Thus, a bit of buzz was enough for the band coming to stage.
They were occupying a small part of a not very huge stage., very close to each other as if rehearsing. Despite his grumpy face, Neil seemed to be enjoying the show and the company of his old mates. Love and Only Love of Ragged Glory and Powderfinger of Rust Never Sleeps were the two classic songs chosen as the starters of what was to become a memorable night.
Psychedelic Pill was to introduce the self title album to be followed by Walk Like a Giant, which wass the first song to blow our heads. The days after I found myself whistling the melody all the time. it was amazing. After Young’s distortion minutes simulating some sort of hurricane or storm, a radical change in rhythm came with a more acoustic set, including Hey Hey My My, a cover of Blowing in the Wind, Heart of Gold, Comes a Time…Their last album was very present, they also played Ramada Inn, but still they managed to recover some classic songs. Unfortunately being such a prolific discography, it was impossible to cover all the songs we’d all love to hear, but still, listening again to Cinnamon Girl, the overwhelming anthem Rockin’ in the Free World or Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, was a pleasure and a very touching experience.
I’ve been thinking about this show quite often these past days. It was definitely worth attending, and I’m glad about doing it by myself, so to speak. I was surrounded by people I was acquainted with, but at the end of the day I was on my own enjoying this show at 100% with no distractions. I’d dare to say everybody was in the same situation, completely charmed by the music, the unique voice of Neil, the harp and acoustic guitar, and that sublime distorted guitar he masterly plays.
If you get the chance to see them, please do not hesitate doing it for a sec. I swear this is worth living.