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Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Neil Young stops the crowd at Carnegie Hall from clapping and he's got a point

During the first of four shows he's playing at Carnegie Hall this week Neil Young stopped a song because the audience was clapping in the wrong time. According to the New York Times review "Mr Young seemed rattled by the precarious balance of worship and familiarity exhibited by the capacity crowd".

There are times when Neil Young seems a bit up himself, as the young people might say. This doesn't sound like one of them. I know exactly what the writer means by the worship and familiarity. It happens all the time these days when you go and see icons. The audience are so keyed up for the experience that they get ahead of themselves. They're not reacting to what's going on in the hall. They're celebrating the fact that they're in the same room as a legend.

When I went to see Bob Dylan recently I sat near a middle-aged woman who stretched her arms towards him in supplication throughout every song. If this had been a church service you would have moved away from her. At that gig we were close enough for Dylan himself to be able to see her. He must have found it disturbing as well. Then again I'm sure he's used to it by now.

I'm writing this while listening to Live At The Cellar Door, a collection of live recordings of Neil Young made in 1970 when he had just written the songs that made his name. There's no untoward audience reaction here, no cack-handed clapping along to songs that really don't call for any sort of percussion and he can even sing the line in After The Gold Rush about "I felt like getting high" without anyone answering with an approving whoop. It's a relief.