Being a Neil Young fan, you take a lot for granted. Anyone who is getting into Young now is spoilt for the amount of quality there is in his back catalogue. Its all there, laid out before you. It’s hard to forget this when listening to these ‘lost’ live performances from the 1970s. To us, we can sing along with every track, as we’ve heard them all countless times - but you forget that the audience might have never heard the majority of these songs before.
Neil Young opens the ‘Dorothy Chandler Pavilion 1971’ set with ‘On The Way Home’ from the last Buffalo Springfield album, then ‘Tell Me Why’ from 1970s ‘After The Gold Rush’. Then he plays ‘Old Man’ and ‘Journey Through The Past’. The audience are into them, but at the time of the gig they weren’t released. Neil Young plays a stripped back version of ‘Cowgirl In The Sand’ before proving his comedic chops at the finish by saying “I’ve written a lot of new songs. I’ll be doing most of them tonight”. The audience applauds. Without missing a beat Young replies: “You don’t got to do that. You can just clap real loud at the end. That’ll be really cool. Don’t waste your energy”.
Then he launches into a new song. ‘Heart Of Gold.’ After that he plays ‘A Man Needs A Maid.’ Looking at the set list its easy to see the quality. We’ve heard the majority of these songs countless times and their importance has been reinforced by critics. As I’m doing now, but its hard to remember that at the time of this gig only a third of the songs had been released. 10 songs of a 15-song setlist would be release over the next three years over four or five different albums. ‘Sugar Mountain’ wouldn’t get an official release until 1977. I’d love to know what the audience thought about these songs when they walked out. Did ‘Needle And The Damage Done’ stick in their heads as much as ‘Ohio’ or ‘I Am A Child’? I guess we’ll never know, but this is one of the joys of listening to ‘Dorothy Chandler Pavilion 1971’. Not only is it chocked full of bangers and future classics, but what was going through the audience members minds when Young played them ‘See The Sky About To Rain’ for the first time.
The rest of the set is culled from ‘After The Gold Rush,’ ‘Harvest’, ‘Time Fades Away’, ‘On the Beach’, ‘Last Time Around’ and ‘Four Way Street’. Its an exceptional set that is almost too much to take as its banger, after banger, after banger. Listening to it in 2022, its impressive how Young picked so much new music. You’d expect him to play ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ or ‘Southern Man’, but no, he opts for two-thirds new material. This has to be respected. Partly because this is a dream set list for a lot of Young fans in the present, but also the confidence in his songs. Young’s not going to play much from his released albums and focus on unreleased music.
As usual for the time the set closes with ‘Dance Dance Dance.’ This is one of the great ‘lost’ Young songs. It was originally recorded for a Neil Young and Crazy Horse album that never happened. So, the song went unreleased. Crazy Horse then recorded it for their 1971 debut album. The way Young plays it here makes you lament its lack of official release. This is another reason to admire Young. He sits on a classic song as he’s already moved on and the momentum for future releases is increasing. It’s one of his best songs. Here, though, at least it gets an adulation is deserves.
‘Dorothy Chandler Pavilion 1971’ is a wonderful snapshot of where Young was in 1971. He was gearing up to release the biggest album of his career, and the next two or three albums after that. He was a confident, and consummate, performer who knew the audience would love these new songs as much as the ones that made them buy the ticket in the first place. And he was right. In 2022 it feels like a masterstroke. This might not be as an essential album, but it’s one that definitely requires your respect and an hour of your life.
Words: Nick Roseblade
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