Barstool Blues ’89
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY – September 4th, 1989
Disc 1 (59:59): My My Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue), Rockin’ In The Free World, Sugar Mountain, Winterlong, Someday, Helpless, Pocahontas, Crime In The City, This Old House (with Ben Keith), Barstool Blues (with Ben Keith & Frank Sampedro), Too Far Gone (with Ben Keith & Frank Sampedro)
Disc 2 (44:38): Roll Another Number (with Ben Keith & Frank Sampedro), This Note’s For You, The Needle And The Damage Done, No More, After The Gold Rush, Heart Of Gold, Ohio, Rockin’ In The Free World, Powderfinger
In the summer of 1989, after releasing Eldorado and short tours with The Restless and The Lost Dogs, Neil Young then scheduled A Solo Acoustic Evening US Tour with Ben Keith and Frank Sampedro. Taking in twenty-three dates over four months, it was one of his most leisurely. In addition to his solo acoustic hits, he also pulled out some rarities and introduced some songs from forthcoming Freedom album including “Rockin’ In The Free World.”
Barstool Blues ’89 features an excellent stereo audience recording making its silver pressed debut. It is startling in its clarity and dynamics and is one of the best Neil Young releases to surface in recent memory.
The concert begins with “My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue),” a song that became a semi-anthem since its release in 1979. He follows with the first performance of the night of “Rockin’ In The Free World” from the new album. The audience’s reaction to the piece, still a month away from official release, demonstrates the power of the message and Young’s emotional performance. It sounds as if one anthem is being replaced by a new one.
He follows with an aggressive “Sugar Mountain” and afterwards says, “last show of the summer here. Winter’s coming again. Can’t stop it” as an introduction to “Winterlong” played for the first time in twenty years.
“Someday” from the new album follows but without the first verse (he starts off with Rommel) and follows with two older tunes, “Helpless” and “Pocahontas.”
“Crime In The City” is the first epic drama of the set. Starting off with a few lazy blasts on the harmonica, he start off at a languid pace. Over the eight minute narrative Young, his strumming on the guitar and harmonica commentary between verses build in intensity. It’s a masterpiece in musical narrative and a definite highlight of this show.
Young then gives a long introduction for Ben Keith, saying he’s been with him for ten years, listing the albums he’s played on. “Enough time has gone by for men like you and you and you to get a house and a boat and a wife and kids and even to lose that … there’s a lot a ways to lose things. I’ve tried out every thing I could figure. The worst kind is when someone loses it for you … that’s what this song is about” before “This Old House” from the CSNY album American Dream.
Before Young can introduce Frank Sampedro someone close to the stage requests “Shots” from RE*ACT*OR. “‘Shots’? That’s obscure” he jokes. He claims he can’t remember it and promises to learn it for the next time. (And he never did. The only live performances of “Shots” remain the ten Boarding House shows in 1978). After introducing Sampedro he says “Barstool Blues” is a rarity.
Both Keith and Sampredro add to the arrangements for “Barstool Blues,” “Too Far Gone” and “Roll Another One,” adding both mandolin flourishes and pedal steel emphasis.
Young is along again for “This Note’s For You.” The sarcasm sounds much more biting in the stark acoustic arrangement. His stretching out of “this note’s for youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu” causes the crowd to respond like a pack of howling wolves.
“Needle And The Damage Done” sounds quite standard, but the following song “No More” is simply extraordinary. Another new song from Freedom, it was only played on these tour and on Young’s intense set on “Saturday Night Live” three weeks after this show. The dynamics of the piece suggest it could have become another classic live piece, but this is one of its final performances.
The show ends with “After The Gold Rush” with Young on piano, a wonderful “Heart Of Gold,” a meditative version of “Ohio” and the second performance of “Rockin’ In The Free World” of the night. “Powderfinger,” with the audience shouting and hollering throughout, is the show’s only encore.
Barstool Blues ’89 is packaged in a double slimline jewel case. The artwork is quite stylized on the front cover and there are several photos from the tour on the inner sleeve. The set list on the back is a bit hard to read. But the sound quality, dynamics and passionate performance makes this an essential title for the collection.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)