Live at the Fillmore East
March 6 & 7, 1970
The Music Box's #1 concert recording of 2006
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2006, Volume 13, #11
Written by John Metzger
For years, Neil Young has been taunting his fans with the prospect of releasing material from his vast archive of concert recordings. Live at the Fillmore East, which curiously is labeled as the second disc in his newly inaugurated performance series, sufficiently signals that the long wait finally is over. Culling its selections from a pair of shows that were held over the course of two nights in March 1970 at Bill Graham’s esteemed New York City venue, the set holds few surprises though, considering that it features the original incarnation of Crazy Horse, it fulfills all of its inherent promise.
Much as he has done throughout his career, Young was in the process of vacillating between an array of wildly divergent projects. In the span of the preceding two years, he had left Buffalo Springfield, released his self-titled solo debut, and created Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, the first of many collaborations with Crazy Horse. In the coming months, he would join David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash on Deja Vu and travel back to his singer/songwriter-oriented roots on After the Gold Rush. In fusing three tracks that wouldn’t appear on record for years (Winterlong, which was featured on the 1977 retrospective Decade; Wonderin’, which didn’t surface until his 1983 outing Everybody’s Rockin’; and guitarist Danny Whitten’s Come on Baby Let’s Go Downtown, which was covered in tribute on the harrowing memorial Tonight’s the Night) with a trio of selections from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, it’s not surprising that Live at the Fillmore East: March 6 & 7, 1970 jumps all over the place, sometimes awkwardly so. Nevertheless, the quintet of Young, Whitten, bass player Billy Talbot, drummer Ralph Molina, and pianist Jack Nitzsche held everything together by transforming even the jangly country-rock fare into edgy, molten sludge. On Wonderin’ and Winterlong, in particular, the primitive, visceral framework supplied by the band barely contained the jagged, wriggling guitars of Young and Whitten.
Even so, of the six tracks on Live at the Fillmore East: March 6 & 7, 1970, only two of the selections — elongated renditions of Down by the River and Cowgirl in the Sand — truly matter, though they also compose the bulk of the set. Within their fiery, tangled refrains, one can hear the seeds being sown that later would take root in the careers of Sonic Youth, Dinosaur, Jr., and Television. On the former tune, Young caused his guitar to bend, twist, and wind its way through Crazy Horse’s chugging blues-baked groove as the ensemble collectively conjured an aural image of the song’s turbulent lyrics. Cowgirl in the Sand was even better. Forsaking a clean tone for one that was laden with distortion, Young’s guitar sliced like a rusty buzz saw, emitting an anguished cry as it cut through the ominous, steady-rolling charge of his backing band. Yet, this was more than just a showcase for his soloing, and the group accentuated the music’s tormented mood by propelling it in a slow but deliberate march toward Young’s whirling, steely blade.
As Live at the Fillmore East: March 6 & 7, 1970 draws to its conclusion, the audience can be heard filing out of the venue to the soothing strains of James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James. It’s a nice touch that helps establish the environment in which Young and Crazy Horse’s intense improvisations were made. In the end, Live at the Fillmore East: March 6 & 7, 1970 is so short — the sum total of the outing is a mere 43 minutes long — that it feels like a tease. Yet, in distilling the concerts down to their most riveting moments, the raw power of the band’s performance is both highlighted and magnified in such a superlative fashion that fans undoubtedly will be left waiting with bated breath for the next installment of the series.
Of Further Interest...
Live at the Fillmore East: March 6 & 7, 1970 is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box