Dutch Master (no label)
RAI Theatre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands – February 20th, 2008
Disc 1: From Hank To Hendrix, Ambulance Blues, Sad Movies, A Man Needs A Maid, Try, Harvest, Love In Mind, Old King, Love Art Blues, Don’t Let It Bring You Down, Campaigner, Old Man, Dirty Old Man, Spirit Road
Disc 2: Down By The River, Hey Hey My My, Too Far Gone, Oh Lonesome Me, The Believer, Powderfinger, No Hidden Path, encore applause, Cinnamon Girl, Rockin’ In The Free World, The Sultan
Dutch Master contains the excellent audience recording of Neil Young’s February 20th, 2008 Amsterdam show, the Wonderful/jerseyboy source. The acoustic set has hints of hiss in the very quiet passages and picks up some of the audience comments between songs as they react to the artist. The audience are very quiet and attentive while the music is played and is a very close and intimate recording and that sounds as if Young is sitting in your living room. Neil Young played three eventful shows at the 1,700 capacity RAI Theater in Amsterdam. During the first show, on February 17th, Neil stopped from “Hank To Hendrix” after a couple of minutes since he was being disturbed by all of the photographers, who were forced to leave for the duration of the acoustic set (but would return for the second half).
February 20th is the final of the three nights and and is one of the more interesting shows pressed on silver in the past couple months since the tour ended. He is more chatty here than on other dates and sounds very old and frustrated, a far cry from the fiery revolutionary of years past. After the “From Hank To Hendrix” he calls to his wife, “I’m gonna need another G harp soon. Thank you. I’ve got a good wife. Incoming!” he says as she throw it his way. “I always to do the same thing every night. Very predictable.” After the long “Ambulance Blues” someone close to the stage shouts, “Hey Neil. Welcome back to Holland.” Young replies, “Thank you. Nice to be here again. Nice to play here. I like these kinds of places where you can hear what you’re doing. There’s even a guy who was here last night who heard things I wasn’t doing. That’s how good it is….But don’t worry I’ll be back in giant roller rinks pretty soon making lots of noise.”
He prefaces one of the saddest versions of “A Man Needs A Maid” by reminiscing, saying, “Do you hear a buzz in here tonight? Still? It must be analogue, that’s what it is. I remember when they got rid of this shhhhhh. Then it was like….(silence). Everything that used to live in that shhhhhh, dead, gone, never coming back. 1982, that’s when it happened. To me it’s a big thing. I used to listen to my own records up till then. After than, I just listened to it in the studio so I can hear it. Then away it went. Onto the compact disc. How convenient for you all.”
After singing “Old King,” a song about his dog, he makes cogent observations about the world today by saying, “I’m making a little movie right. Not right now but during this time period. It’s about cars. I’ve written a lot of songs about cars.” “‘Trans Am'” several people say. “I was thinking maybe using some of them in the movie. ‘Trans Am.’ That was interesting, I remember that one. I’d have to listen, I’ll have to google that one. Cars and oil. That’s in the back of everybody’s mind now. I was speaking to someone recently and I told them that a song isn’t gonna change the world. It isn’t gonna happen. That music is great, but it’s gonna take a scientist or physicist to make a difference in this world, somehow come up with something. Some kind of car that you don’t need to put any fuel in it. A car that runs on material so commonly available that you don’t even have to get it. Then we don’t need any of these problems. We wouldn’t have to have wars about energy. We’d just drive around visiting our friends in our new cars. Not polluting, not doing anything bad, not paying for gas, no emissions. It’s gonna take a scientist. A song’s not gonna do that.”
Young continues his thought after “Love Art Blues,” saying: “Or imagine you had a car you parked in your garage and you left it inside and running, and that was okay. You’re not gonna commit suicide in there. Maybe you plug your house into it and you can power your house. And when it’s not powering your house it’s powering all the electricity in your country. Feeding back into it. Someone’s gotta do something. Bicycles are great here because it’s so flat. Only Hercules could ride a bicycle through Switzerland or something.” None of this is delivered as a high oratory speech, but in rambling mumble from some who feels powerless to change anything. It is a startling monologue also since he seems to be reflecting upon the indifference of his Living With War album and tour, efforts that essentially lead nowhere.
Professor Red, in a review of this tape on the Big O website, pick up on this theme when he writes: “The last time Neil Young toured, he was against the Iraq War and bashing George W Bush. He called that tour with Crosby, Stills and Nash, The Freedom of Speech Tour where he played his entire anti-war album, Living With War, every night. It made no impact. The war continues. This time, the singer-songwriter of Old Man seems resigned to his age, his destiny, the September of his years….It must be tough being old today and you wonder what your generation has achieved? For baby-boomers lived in one of the richest periods of human history, ripe with optimism and hopeful that science and capitalism could bring prosperity. The news today brings a different picture. War here, war there. Resources in short supply or manipulated to be so? Who knows? Not with the kind of journalism we have today. Unbridled capitalism has run amok.”
The acoustic set ends with “Campaigner,” where Nixon is still the antagonist but “even George Bush has got soul” and with a self-reflexive “Old Man,” where the roles in the song could be reversed with Young now as the old man in the narrative. The first set contains startling music, but even more interesting are Young’s little comments voicing our complaints but with no solutions. It is rare to hear musicians of the boomer generation, puffed up with their self-righteous hubris, confess confusion in the light of events so thoroughly out of their control. Some could argue this to be utter exasperation in light of the first thoroughly boomer conflict, created out of the pompous self-righteousness of that generation. After all Young is not protesting Richard Nixon, who in his time represented Eisenhower ideals, but George Bush, the second boomer president and who is actually a year younger than Neil.
Instead of splitting the two sets onto their separate discs, the electric set begins at the end of disc one with “Dirty Old Man” and “Spirit Road.” This part of the show is very good although it lacks the intimacy and power of the first. “Down By The River” is an excellent fifteen minutes long, “Powderfinger” is warmly received by the audience, and the set ends with a sixteen minute version of “No Hidden Path.” The three minutes of cheering before the encore section is tracked alone followed by the first two encores “Cinnamon Girl” and “Rockin’ In The Free World.” There is another three minutes of cheering (tracked with “Rockin” this time) before the gong to “The Sultan” hits. Dutch Master is produced by the same people who made Deep Chrome and has the same aesthetic appeal. Overall this is one of the best shows from Young’s Continental tour worthy to be pressed and is worth having.