Neil Young LIVE AT THE CELLAR DOOR
In late 1970, Neil Young performed six solo shows at The Cellar Door in Washington, D.C. A few months before, the 25-year-old singer-writer released his third solo album, “After the Gold Rush.”
The Cellar Door shows, 13 songs from which appear on the new “Live At The Cellar Door” album, included five songs from “After the Gold Rush,” selections from 1969’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” songs from his years with Buffalo Springfield and a performance of an as yet unreleased song, “Old Man.” These are remarkably intimate performances by such a major music figure, recorded at such an important time in his career.
Young accompanies himself with acoustic guitar and the Steinway grand piano that he coyly tells the crowd his contracts demand. For a guy who claims he’s been playing piano seriously for just a year, he navigates the keyboard well, playing some modestly beautiful solos.
Young’s songs — “Tell Me Why,” “Only Love Can Break a Heart” and “Cinnamon Girl” among them — work without band, from their strength as compositions and from his guitar accompaniment, a rolling, melodic technique that’s more than simple strumming.
But Young sabotages “Down By The River.” His guitar is out of tune and his choice chords sound odd. And his performance of “Cinnamon Girl” — with piano accompaniment for the first time, he says — is more unsuccessful experiment than revelation. Flaws don’t prevent “Live At The Cellar Door” from being a rare and unfiltered portrait of this great artist as a young man.