Review – The Neil Young Project at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver, FEb 19 2010
– by Shawn Conner
As much of a thrill as it was to see Elvis Costello and Lou Reed bashing out “Cinnamon Girl”, did the Neil Young Project really have to go on for longer than Avatar?
True, the list of great Young songs is practically as numerous as artists wanting to pay tribute to the famed Canadian. And there were many on this, the second night of a two-night run of the Hal Willner-curated NYP. Costello and Reed were walk-ons, but the night really belonged to Joan Wasser, aka Joan as Police Woman, and the various members of Broken Social Scene and the other musicians (from Vancouver to New York) who interpreted many of the songs one would expect , along with a few surprises and notable omissions (wisely, perhaps, the gathered musicians opted for a group singalong of “Fuckin’ Up” rather than “Rockin’ In the Free World”).
Early highlights included the Jason Collett and Julie Doiron version of “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” and Elizabeth Powell’s “Down To the Wire”; and Metric’s Emily Haines and James Shaw did a standout “A Man Needs a Maid”. Wasser could be seen grooving in her chair (of everyone onstage, she seemed to be having the most fun) during the first James Blood Ulmer song (“Scenery”?). Composer/vocalist/bassist Eric Mingus won over the packed house by chatting about a review of the previous night’s show that had mentioned the performers hadn’t engaged the audience. He then did some weird vocal shit.
A gospel-like “For the Turnstiles” was stellar. Alasdair Roberts and Teddy Thompson, doing solo singer/songwriter shticks, were both underwhelming. Vashti Bunyon’s “After the Goldrush” was, uhm, somewhat painful, I’m afraid to say. Lou Reed’s “Helpless” would have been laughed off the stage if it hadn’t been performed by Reed, thank God he had help from backup vocalists like Ambrosia Parsley on the chorus. (I think he was croaking the lyrics from a teleprompter.)
Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon brought an affecting vocal delivery and guitar sound to his choice of tunes,“Sugar Mountain” and “Powderfinger”. And, uhm… there was Costello, swaggering about onstage for “Cowgirl in the Sand” and the aforementioned “Cinnamon Girl” with the Lou-meister. “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” wrapped up the evening, but by then I was already on the way out, having had my fill but determined at least to pick up my acoustic and once again prop open my Neil Young Decade songbook.