Neil Young & The Santa Monica Flyers :: Manchester, 1973

neil youngIf we’ve learned anything from the music of Joy Division and The Smiths, it’s that the good people of Manchester, England, can handle bleak, uncompromising music. They were certainly given a bracing shot of it on this autumn night in 1973, as Neil Young opened a seven-date tour of the UK. With the Eagles opening up, the crowd undoubtedly anticipated an evening of laid-back country rock a la Young’s platinum Harvest, which had been released a year and a half earlier, catapulting him to levels of stardom beyond even his CSN compadres. Instead, they were treated to a harrowing run-through of the just-recorded, wholly unfamiliar Tonight’s The Night. Not sure if anyone of Neil’s stature at the time would have dared pull such a trick. With 20/20 hindsight, we can all agree it’s some of the most inspired, impassioned music of Neil’s career, with his backing band — Billy Talbot (bass), Ralph Molina (drums), Ben Keith (pedal steel) and Nils Lofgren (guitar, piano) — following Young gleefully into the ditch. But who knows what you would’ve thought had you been there? You probably would’ve been at least a little creeped out by the sleazy, bearded dudes making that strange noise onstage.

“Welcome to Miami Beach, ladies and gentlemen,” Neil repeatedly tells his captive Mancunian audience, lounge lizard-style, until the words start to feel menacing. Not that this audience tape isn’t a hell of a lot of fun. There are plenty of humorous moments, but it’s the blackest humor imaginable, the kind that makes you squirm in your seat uncomfortably. Even though the Tonight’s The Night tour has been described as tequila soaked, Neil sounds in full control — lucid, even. Maybe this was just the early show. words/ t wilcox

Download: Neil Young & The Santa Monica Flyers :: Manchester, England, 1973

1. Tonight’s the Night   2. Mellow My Mind   3. World On a String   4. Speakin’ Out   5. Albuquerque   6. New Mama   7. Roll Another Number (For the Road) 8. Tired Eyes    9. Tonight’s the Night    10. Flying On the Ground Is Wrong    11. Human Highway   12. Helpless    13. Don’t Be Denied

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13 thoughts on “Neil Young & The Santa Monica Flyers :: Manchester, 1973

  1. Great find, thanks for posting. Listening to it now, alot of the TTN songs sound remarkably close to the album version. Is there a chance that some of this set was also recorded by him and mixed into the album?

  2. Forty damn years ago: amazing. I need to see if any of my friends are still kicking, stay up all night, heat some canned beans on a hot plate, and drop the needle on Tonight’s the Night at the break of false dawn.

  3. Peter – this recording was made right after the TTN sessions with the same group of musicians, so it sounds pretty close to the album, but none of these tracks were used on the LP.

  4. I saw Neil on this tour in London. Loved it! He took a lot of flack from the crowd for not playing anything familiar but I knew we were getting something here not seen before. He played an encore to the empty hall after the fans had left. Think Neil was pretty drunk as he was swigging from a bottle of tequila. It was still a great show.

  5. I saw this show in London and I too loved it. I can’t remember if it’s what I expected but I was a big Neil fan so it was all good to me. He held up a tape of Buddy Holly’s Greatest Hits and one point and also took a photo of the crowd with a camera belonging to someone in the audience.
    Some fashionable types behind us watched the Eagles set and then announced that they were leaving as the Eagles were hip and Neil was not.

  6. Dave & MM – that is awesome…thanks for sharing! Neil has hinted that he may release one of the London shows as part of his Official Performance Series. But who knows when/if that’ll actually happen!

  7. i am so jealous of dave & MM. would have LOVED to have caught this tour.

    thanks for posting this. i have acquired loads of live neil and this is probably my fav.

  8. I was there that very night at The Palace theatre Manchester. We were kept waiting outside a long time because of the P.A. System playing up and at one point a guy came out and said there would be no electric guitars, how wrong he was. The Eagles were on fire that night and so was Neil,he also kept saying Everything Is Cheaper Than it Looks!
    He also played Cowgirl In The Sand on this night and on the bootleg I have, all the talking is cut out and there was a lot that night.

  9. I was at this gig. The Palace wasn’t normally a venue for ‘rock’ bands, more opera, musicals, ballet etc. but in the trusting spirit of the time (or naivety) had left opera glasses in situ for use by the patrons. Not many left at the end I suspect! The big surprise for the audience was that he played the Tonights the night album in full even tho it hadn’t been released in the uk, which frustrated many and which he alludes to before the reprise version when he says ‘ here’s a song you’ve heard before’. He was the Jesus of cool that night.

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