You might not be able to find him on Spotify, but if you’re on the West Coast this summer, you can find Neil Young back on stage. The Godfather of Grunge will return to touring for the first time since before the pandemic with a run of solo acoustic theater shows in July, per Rolling Stone.
There is a slight catch to Young’s first tour in four years, as he explained to paid Patreon subscribes to the Neil Young Archives in a Zoom call on Wednesday (an official announcement is slated for Friday). For these concerts, Young has crafted a setlist centered largely around songs he’s never played live.
“I don’t want to come back and do the same songs again,” Young said. “I’ll feel like I was on some sort of carnival ride. I’d rather be doing these other songs I haven’t done…I won’t have to compare how I’m doing ‘Heart of Gold’ to [how I played it in] 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010, 2020…”
Young said he has a list of about 15 songs for the shows, calling out several in particular from throughout his vast catalog. “Song X” from his 1995 collaboration with Pearl Jam, Mirror Ball, made the cut, along with “Prime of Life” from 1994’s Sleeps With Angels, and the 1982 Trans outtake “If You Got Love”.
While the emphasis for these shows is on deeper cuts, Young isn’t annexing his tome of hits. According to the two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, about 80% of the show will be devoted to the hidden gems.
“They’re not new songs,” he said. “They’re old songs. But I wake up with them in my head every morning. They are songs that apply to my life right now, and apply to everyone’s lives in this era that we’re in. Some of them were written 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago, but never really played live.”
The full list of tour dates will arrive on Friday, but Young teased that the run will begin with a four- or five-night residency at a West Coast “tiny, little unknown theater that’s close to one of the most well-known theaters in the world.”
Since Farm Aid in September 2019, Young has performed live just three times. He took protestors by surprise when he appeared at the “United For Old Growth Rally” in Victoria, BC on February 25th where he played two acoustic songs. Two months later, he staged a proper set with former Buffalo Springfield bandmate Stephen Stills at the guitarist’s Light Up The Blues benefit for autism. The following week, he made a brief appearance as part of the star-studded Willie Nelson 90th birthday concert at the Hollywood Bowl.
Young attributed his years-long reluctance to play live to lingering fears of the spread of COVID. While he did not engage with fans face-to-face, he kept up a steady flow of Fireside Sessions livestreams during quarantine, performing solo acoustic rarities from his cabin in the Colorado mountains, his wife Daryl Hannah behind the camera. All the while, the Neil Young Archives kept fans stocked with a continuous slate of archival releases, with Young even digging up his “lost” 1975 album Homegrown, among many other gems from the vault.
Stay tuned for additional details regarding the Neil Young West Coast solo acoustic tour.
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