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Long may he run

Iconoclastic artist's Twisted Road tour brings Shakey back 'home'

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In late May, about the time Neil Young's Centennial Concert Hall solo dates were being announced, the man himself turned up on the Charlie Rose late-night PBS-TV talk show.

A rerun of an episode that ran in July 2008, it was a special treat for any Rustie. But it also commanded the attention of anyone who wanted insight into a true artist's personality.

Shakey, who will turn 65 in November, talked about his respect for the mysterious "source" of his songwriting, about his restless desire to pursue his muse, even about his ideas for a hybrid car that would "put power into the grid and not take it out."

"I watched that interview on YouTube," says Toronto-based musician and filmmaker Bob Wiseman, who has been back in his hometown this week to perform at the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival.

"The thing that I remember about it is how he credited his wife for teaching him about the importance of family."

Like many singer-songwriters, Wiseman places his fellow former Winnipegger on the top floor of the tower of song.

"He's like Bob Dylan in that he's not interested in pleasing his fan base," Wiseman, 48, says.

"If you don't like what they do, they're fine with it. They're adults. They have to be true to their art."

Also like Dylan, who earned international headlines in 2009 for making a pilgrimage to Young's former Crescentwood home during a concert stop here, Young has been on the road a lot lately.

Album sales have shrunk for all musical acts, of course. And given that Young's output, though enormous, has rarely burned up the charts, he probably needs the cash.

That might explain the hefty $250 top ticket price. According to industry insiders, Tuesday night's show has not sold out as expected.

After a decade's absence from the city he called home from 1960 to 1965, Young played here at the 15,000-seat MTS Centre in 2006 with his old bandmates Crosby, Stills and Nash. He turned up two years later to headline his own show with a six-piece band, also at the MTS Centre.

Now he's back again. The Twisted Road solo tour that lands at the 2,300-seat concert hall Monday and Tuesday has earned reverent reviews since it opened on the U.S. East Coast in mid-May.

"He's the real deal," said a reviewer with the Portland Oregonian after seeing his Monday show, "a modern folk-rock legend without peer."

The concert, which is opened by British guitar vet Bert Jansch, has Young doing 18 songs in 90 minutes.

"Young mixed examples from his thick book of classics with abundant new material," said the Oregonian reviewer. "Onstage, it was Young -- outfitted in white Panama hat, long white linen jacket and well-worn jeans -- and his musical gear: a collection of acoustic and electric guitars, two pianos and the pipe organ that has seemingly travelled with him forever."

The new material is expected to be on an album he has been recording with producer and fellow Canuck Daniel Lanois, who suffered a terrible motorcycle accident in June.

According to reports in the Toronto media earlier this week, Lanois has recovered enough to resume work on the project, tentatively titled Twisted Road, which he says will be out this fall.

"It does not have a band, but it's rocking," Lanois was quoted in the Toronto Star." And he's really come in with the songs, they're terrific. I dare say it might be some of his best work in some time. We've really hit the motherlode."

As a example of Young's intergenerational appeal, Winnipeg singer-songwriter Doug Edmond is taking his 22-year-old daughter, Kate, to Monday night's concert.

"His songs and songwriting are timeless," says Edmond, 57, whose day job is as director of technology with the Winnipeg School Division.

"His lyrics feel honest and true for those who have been fans since the beginning of his career and for those who have just discovered his material."

Winnipeg music producer Dan Donahue will also be at Monday night's show.

"For me, there are precious few who have accomplished anything close to what Neil has done over the years," says Donahue, 58.

"He's a man of integrity, soulful dedication to his craft and sheer musical and lyrical brilliance."

morley.walker@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 24, 2010 C1

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