Times Change

As I alluded to a month or so ago, I did go see Neil Young at the Northrup Auditorium last night. I have been doing a lot of thinking about the life unnarrated— as I’ve been busy not narrating mine—but I felt alright about breaking the silence for a moment to compare and contrast this experience with the last time I saw Neil at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

Fifteen years ago, Rex and I stood most of the night behind a cute Japanese couple in the middle of the sidelines, looking sideways at Neil and Crazy Horse on a fairly distant stage. The crowd was mixed, and as I recall pretty well behaved with grey long-hairs and young kids who looked like they might have been conceived while their parents listened to Neil. The couple in front of us offered their binoculars, which Rex rapidly took advantage of to scope out all the details (down to the knob settings) on the amplifiers. The sound was huge. I remember thinking to myself that it was tailor made for such a large space because it loomed and rumbled and needed some distance to really pick up momentum.

Last night seemed like it might have been sort of a “night at church,” but with some key differences. Behind Krista and I, there was a Russian or Slavic couple who just couldn’t shut-up during Pegi Young’s set. Though we were all packed in our pews, moderately sized little red seats, people just kept filing in and out chattering loudly for the first half hour. It just seemed rude, somehow—at $100 a ticket, I really didn’t want to listen to them. But I became more intrigued by the couple in front of us, who just couldn’t stop playing with their iPhone. They were surfing the net during every break, and it looked as if they might doze off at any moment during the show. After Neil started the acoustic set, you could have heard a pin drop for a little while (other than the usual caterwauling from the people who love to hear themselves shout erupting once or twice per song).

When Neil made a mistake, starting “Love is a Rose” in completely the wrong key, —he said “Guess I better go home now.” There was some moaning and booing, and then he said—“Wait a minute—I am home. I grew up just north of here. You all make mistakes at home, don’t you? That should be all right.” There were very few mistakes that I noticed in the performance, but a few have popped up in the “reports” of the event. Neil commented that there were a lot of ducks around here; then said that there once were more—there was always more— “Grandpa says that the geese used to blot out the sky.” Somehow, the local reporter thought that the comment was cryptic. I don’t get it. I also don’t get the evaluation of a show based on the number of “hits” played.

But more than anything, I was offended by the heckler shouting at the painter onstage (part of the vaudeville set shtick): “Get off the stage, this isn’t a movie!” Minnesota nice my ass. I was really embarrassed by the crowd, who sat politely except when they were being idiots. Comparing this show to the LA show I witnessed before (which became part of the Weld movie), the most significant difference was the increase in the number of bald spots—and idiots. Maybe I’m just more intolerant now, or just sober.

1 thought on “Times Change”

  1. I wonder if this is in some way connected to the general increase in asshole-ish behavior at movies. It seems, at any rate, that folks just don’t know how to behave in public anymore.
    If I could remember more about it, I would mention that piece in the New Yorker many years ago about cell phone and the death of the public sphere. But I can’t, so I won’t.
    Sorry you had assholes among you.

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