Friday, April 27, 2018

Neil Young 55: Roxy

Shortly after recording what would be the Tonight’s The Night album, Neil and the band he dubbed the Santa Monica Flyers played a handful of shows at the new Roxy club in West Hollywood. These sets consisted of the nine songs intended for the album, played in order—well, actually eight, since the title track would be played a second time each set as an encore, along with one older song from albums already out, the only song the crowd might recognize.
Sadly, only grainy photographs provide visuals from these performances, wherein Neil’s latest character was bearded, more scraggly than ever, hiding behind shades, wearing a hideous seersucker jacket over a Tinkerbell T-shirt, and constantly welcoming the patrons to “Miami Beach”. Among the equipment onstage were a wooden Indian, a lone palm tree, go-go boots stapled to the side of the piano, and what looks like a high school trophy. The lighting consisted of exactly one bulb.
However, audio bootlegs have existed of these shows, and a compilation approximating an average set was released nearly 45 years after the fact as Roxy: Tonight’s The Night Live. We hear the album in its original sequence, but it’s not exactly revelatory, except that a few of the songs run longer and slower. They also sound very close to the album versions, which makes sense since the songs were played twice a night only weeks before during the recording process. So “Mellow My Mind” is just as cracked, and “New Mama” is the acoustic arrangement as opposed to the harder electric approach from earlier in the year. But we do get to hear some of Neil’s warped stage patter, some of which are indexed per style as different “raps”, as well as a brief run through “Roll Out The Barrel”, started by Nils Lofgren on piano with Neil wheezing along on harmonica. Even if the band was gone on tequila and weed, they don’t sound any sloppier than usual, ably keeping up with his drawn-out take on “Tired Eyes”. The only “extra” song included is “Walk On”, predating the official take (which almost made the album) by a couple of months.
Familiarity with the tunes after all this time makes it impossible to imagine what they must have sounded like in the moment. Roxy is recorded well, and a cool historical document, only a year after Harvest had been so smooth and comparatively mellow. It even has a black label design just like Tonight’s The Night had. Its designation as the fifth installment in the Archives Performance Series inspired hope and wonder as to what was being held aside for number four. And, along with Hitchhiker, it gave further hope that Archives Vol. II would even appear in our lifetime.

Neil Young Roxy: Tonight’s The Night Live (2018)—

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