Dr. AIX's POSTS — 02 April 2014


I left the studio early yesterday, went home and took a two hour nap to make sure that I was at full power for the solo concert Neil Young put on at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood. He’ll finish a 4-day run this evening. I’m a fan and the description that my niece wrote for the Hollywood Reporter made this show a must see. Imagine being able to experience some of Neil’s greatest tunes in an intimate setting without the structure imposed by a strict set list and other musicians. This was Neil at his best. I’ve seen him perform with Crazy Horse in the past and know he can jam and rock with the best of them but last night it was just Neil and his collection of guitars, two pianos and an organ situated on top of a riser in the middle of the arrangement.

At 8:10 Neil walked out from the darkness on the left side of the stage and sat down in a simple, straight back, black chair surrounded by at least 7 guitars and a “bantar” (a Gibson instrument that has the neck of a guitar and the body of a banjo). He said nothing through the first 4 or 5 tunes…he launched first into “From Hank to Hendrix” and didn’t come up until he finished “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”.

At 68 years old Neil Young was calm, collected and focused as he delivered two sets of material from his own catalog and that of writers he reveres and respects…including Phil Ochs (“Changes”), Tim Hardin (“Reason to Believe”) and Gordon Lightfoot (“If You Could Read My Mind”). He shared stories of the Hank Williams guitar he played, the Martin he got from “Steve Stills” and the other acoustic guitar that had been shot through during an earlier period of its life.

There aren’t a lot of singer/songwriters that I can think of that can perform a solo show to over 3000 fans and hold them at rapt attention for over two and half hours. I imagine Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, John Prine, Garth Brooks and a few others…but this was a presentation by a master songwriter accompanying himself as if he was playing in his living room on his ranch in Northern California. Neil nailed it.

But along with all of the great music and soulful renditions of tunes with heart, there were the inevitable distractions. After finishing a tune at the piano, Neil stood up and castigated some audience members near the front row that thought it appropriate to talk quietly as Neil sang. He was clearly bugged about it and went on for several minutes as he paced around the stage. The rest of the audience was with him. We were all invited in to Neil’s “space” for a special acoustic performance and some people in the most expensive seats thought it just another chance to socialize.

Or shout at the top of their lungs before, during and after the songs. This was especially apparent after the intermission when the alcohol had been flowing for a while. It was obviously a distraction to the artist AND the vast majority of Neil’s fans that were thoroughly engrossed in the show. It got so bad that a very rude guy not too far from my wife and I was hauled away midway through the second half. And an usher had to traverse from the side to the third row center section as an audience member stood up and started waving and jumping up and down during one of the final tunes. It was impossible not to be distracted.

If I could only record Neil as I have done with Albert Lee or John Gorka, then I would have all of the great things that happened last night, better sound and none of the nonsense.

And what about Pono? To his credit, Neil didn’t mention Pono even once during the show…this was about the real deal…the music. There were Pono T-Shirts for sale in the lobby, however.

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About Author


Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

(12) Readers Comments

  1. I can only imagine what a wonderful night that was. I’m so jealous.

    • It was truly one of the best performances/concerts that I’ve ever experienced…although Joni Mitchell is right in there along with John Prine.

  2. Sounds like a great gig alright. I went to see Paul Brady recently in Ireland and it was a similar set up. Just the man himself a few guitars and a few keyboards and it was just a phenomenal show. Also the way he was Miced up was interesting. There was one very large microphone on a stand about chest high and he stood about a meter back from it and played and sang toward it. The sound was absolutely fantastic. Very natural no glassy piezo blends etc. When you talk about recording such an artist in the manners you describe, it really does bring home how great it would be. I am sure Neil would spare an afternoon for you…

    • I could only hope…

  3. I totally agree with you, there are only a few artists that distract the audience for 2 hours. Neil Young would be great to work with you. Where do I sign …. And we attract new followers. It seems that if there is a familiar face, it does not work.

  4. Out of interest and based on your definition of the term, would you classify the live performance as a High Resolution Audio event? If so, why? If not, why not?

    • Read tomorrow’s post…I break down the entire tech setup from the show.

  5. Jealous ain’t the word.

    Can someone please tell me why people go along to a gig, paying good money for tickets and then crap-on all night? Me and the missus were at an opera (Satyagraha by Philp Glass), just before Xmas at the ENO in London and a couple of girls were talking until a sizable majority told them to belt up! We are off to see Prince Igor on Saturday, so I hope the masses are well behaved. 😉

    btw I agree about seeing the likes of: Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and John Prine in that scenario but not the others. Springstein never did it for me and I ain’t a big country fan. As for McCartney? Well all I can say is that the Beatles really did change my life. In late 1962 I was 13 years-old and one day at school one of my mates said there was going to be a great band on ‘The Five O’Clock Club’ later that day. Now this was a rubbish program on the BBC that we were much to coool to watch but that day as school ended we chased down the hill and sat down to watch it – after cuffing little brothers out of the way. The great band was the Beatles and this was their first UK TV appearance (maybe their first TV appearance anywhere) and it was so different and me and all my mates were hooked. I had never seen a Hoffner violin base before, even though I had a Hoffner Club 40 then (and still now).

    Within a short time the UK charts went from acts (mainly from the US) like Pat Boon, Petula Clark, Connie Francis etc to The Beatles, The Stones, The Yardbirds, The Kinks etc etc etc. Oh wow what memories.

    I now find McCartney a bit embarrassing, he should stop dyeing his hair (or wearing a syrup whatever) and stop appearing at Olympic ceremonies.

    Now I have said it now!

    Angry from Sidcup.

    • Thanks for the comments Bill…I saw Sir Paul a few years ago and was knocked out when he sat down and played “Yesterday” with just a single guitar.

    • Yeah perhaps I was a bit harsh on him but in the UK when he picks up a Ukelele we get the hell out!

      I would have love to have seen Jim Croce unplugged or think about Sinatra with just the Count on piano. Now that is lip smacking!

  6. G’day Mark
    You didn’t mention if the concert PA system was transparent during the performance.

    • Check out tomorrow’s post. I wrote it on the place from LA to Detroit. It covers the entire audio system and why it was decidedly LoFi.

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