Astrid and I dined after my walk and then walked up the street from our hotel through the crowds outside Carnegie Hall who were imploring passers-by for tickets. One young man offered me a hundred dollars each for our five-dollar seats.
Inside, it was the classic youth scene of the time: blue jeans patched, tight sweaters over young bosoms. We sat, I guess, like visitors from another world. But once the place was dark, we all could see this dark form approaching the front of the stage and then the spotlight came on him: tall and thin, blue jeans, checked shirt, work boots, dark straight hair to his shoulders or beyond, two acoustic guitars on a rack beside a plain wooden chair, a concert piano at his left. Moving gingerly as if his back was bothering him. No music to play except the songs in his head, all his own.
He sings in a way that twists my heart. It is a strange feeling to be on one’s feet participating and then watching quietly a standing ovation for one’s own son, as happened several times to me that night. It was all new to my experience, but when I thought of certain incidents later there was some connection with the old feeling Neil had about Buffalo Springfield: that the people who loved them really owned part of them and had a right to assert that ownership. Once he introduced a new song as being one that he would do in a week or so for a Johnny Cash show in Nashville, and there was a single loud argumentative voice from the audience, “Why? Why with Cash, man?” When he played a piano introduction, people applauded as if they knew from the opening notes which song was to follow. After about the third time this happened he stopped after a few bars and said, “Y’know, about these piano intros — I don’t play so good. They’re all the same intro.... I just wanted to let you know that I know.” Laughter. Applause. Once he was applauded for rolling up his sleeve.
Maybe as part of his near-reverence for this hall where he was playing, he didn’t hesitate to instruct the audience on manners. At the end of each song there would be shouted (or screamed) requests for this song or that. He told the audience to hold it, “You don’t think I’d come to Carnegie Hall without planning? You're going to get all the songs you want to hear.”From the Paperback edition.
Excerpted from Neil and Me by Scott Young. Copyright © 2006 by Scott Young. Excerpted by permission of Emblem Editions, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.