Acoustic Evening Amsterdam 1989 (Lost Dog Records LDR 002/3)
Muziektheater Stopera, Amsterdam, The Netherlands – December 10, 1989
Disc 1: Hey Hey My My, Rockin’ In The Free World, The Old Laughing Lady, Don’t Let It Bring You Down, Someday, Crime In The City, Eldorado, Too Far Gone
Disc 2: This Note’s For You, The Needle And The Damage Done, No More, Fuckin’ Up, After The Goldrush, Hangin’ On A Limb, Heart Of Gold, Ohio, Rockin’ In The Free World
Many Neil Young experts and collectors stake the claim that his December 10, 1989 Amsterdam show is his most legendary acoustic performance in his forty year career. This hyperbole is partially due to the exceptional sound quality of the radio recording. The most of the praise can be attributed to the time of the set.
Coming at the end of the eighties and Young’s erratic artistic experimentations, this show follows by two months the release of Freedom that many critics hailed as a return to form. Whatever the case may be, this is one of the most intense performances by Young captured in pristine sound quality. Swingin’ Pig released the show soon after on Amsterdam ’89 (Swingin’ Pig TSP CD 076) in 1990. Six songs, “Too Far Gone,” “Crime In The City,” “Eldorado,” “Hangin’ On A Limb,” “Someday,” “My My, Hey Hey” are found on disc five of the popular Perfect Echo set.
The Swingin’ Pig release was missing two songs, “No More” and “Fuckin’ Up,” and a bit of chatter between “Crime In The City” and “Eldorado.” Recently a version of this show surfaced with the missing pieces taken from another source edited in and Lost Dog Records use this version on Acoustic Evening Amsterdam 1989.
The secondary source has been equalized to be a close match to the excellent quality of the main tape and although the difference is noticeable, the job is very smooth, non intrusive and offers the complete concert for the first time. The radio tapes made in Amsterdam are among the very best in the world. They carry a richness of tone, depth and clarity that eludes many from the BBC and American stations. Releases that use these sources are almost guaranteed to be pristine and worthy of collection.
Young was joined on this tour by Frank Sampedro on guitar and mandolin and Ben Keith on dobro, keyboards, and vocals. it was very short with only seven shows in nine days beginning at the Teatro Smeraldo in Milan, Italy on December 5 and ending on December 13 at the Sportpaleis Ahoy’ in Rotterdam.
Young joined The Alarm as a guest on “Rockin’ In The Free World” the following evening at The Ritz in New York City, but that isn’t really part of this tour. The set list is a good mix between new material from Freedom and classics. Four songs, “Dreamin’ Man,” “Fuckin’ Up,” “Razor Love” and “Stringman” were not released at this time and the first two make their debuts on this visit. The first half of the show begins with “Hey Hey My My” and the first rendition of “Rockin’ In The Free World.”
The songs fly by rather quickly. Young hits some bum notes on the vocals during “Don’t Let It Bring You Down.” The seven-minute new track “Crime In The City” is given a vigorous workout and the audience responds to the consistent calls “good to be free!” Afterwards Young introduces Pancho (Sampedro) and they play a magnificent duet on “Eldorado.”
Again the crystal clear recording accurately reproduces every note as they weave through the song. Afterwards Young brings Ben Keith afterwards. “What do you think, Ben? Is it all right? You can’t see a damn thing up here…if I played accordion I could walk around out there. I tried it in Italy but it didn’t work out very well. It’s a security test….Oh, it’s too cold! Jump!”
They play a version of “Too Far Gone” augmented by Pancho on mandolin and Keith on the clanging sound of the dobro. Even though this old song was only released as a full band rocking version on Freedom, they play it closer to the seventies arrangement. Afterwards Young dismisses them and continues with “This Note’s For You” alone.
“How you doing out there? I got a broken string and the guitar wasn’t ready. Would you like to hear a new song or an old song? How about an old new song?” After tuning his harmonica he sits at the piano and plays an upbeat melody and says, “this is an old old song.” In this version he sing about how Mother Nature is “on the run in the twentieth century.”
After “Hanging On A Limb” someone in the audience shouts, “it’s beautiful!” “The dance??” Someone shouts out something about Bob Dylan and Young replies, “yes, this is something Bob Dylan wrote. Hey Ben, why don’t you come out here and help me with that Bob Dylan song, man? I love Bob, he never told anybody. Now there’s a friend. Ripped off his song, ripped off his whole sound.”
After a short guitar and harmonica tuning he says, “I wrote that part.” After another guitar strum and harmonica blast he says, “Bob wrote that one” before they play “Heart Of Gold.” “Ohio” is dedicated to “a little Chinese boy… you might have seen him standing in front of a tank” referring to the events in Tiananmen Square that summer. The encore is a reprise of “Rockin’ In The Free World.”
Acoustic Evening Amsterdam 1989 is on the new label Lost Dogs whose initial releases include this and The Bernstein Tapes. It comes packaged in a standard double slimline jewel case with several photos from the era.