August 10, 2006
Philips Arena - Atlanta



Due to a box office snafu, I got into this show late. When I did make it in, the cantankerous quartet was just getting into a slew of Neil Young songs from his recently released Living With War. The album is full of intense songs protesting the war in Iraq and George W. Bush in general. I, for one, agreed with nearly every word. For those of you who don’t know, I'm not a Democrat and I'm certainly not a Republican. I'm an American. And what I see from both sides has me disgusted, especially on a night like tonight. You see, I don't think that CSN and especially Y should keep their opinions to themselves. I believe they should follow their muse, make their statements and be free to do so. If you don't agree with "Let's Impeach The President", don't buy the record. Don't come to the concerts. But don't pay good money to come see these people and expect them to be nothing more than your personal jukebox. Music is more than catchy ditties to some of us. I want to know how the artist feels. I want to feel that the artist is inspired and driven. Whether or not I agree with the cause, the passion is what makes the art powerful. I can enjoy a Charlie Daniels concert and a CSNY show. What shocked me tonight was not what came from the stage but what came from the audience.

It all started getting ugly with the new song “Families”. Neil dedicated it to the troops fighting overseas and declared his support for them. Here is what apparently passes for divisive lyrics in the America of 2006.

“…When you write your songs about us,
Won't you try to do us justice
Because we want to be just like you and your families…

There's a universe between us now
But I want to reach out and tell you how
Much you mean to me and my family

I'm going back to the USA, I just got my ticket today
I can't wait to see you again in the USA."

During these lyrics, there was footage on the screen of American casualties and coffins. This is footage that the US Government has decided that the average American shouldn't be allowed to see. About halfway through the song, I heard a woman in front of me begin to get belligerent. She started yelling to the people around her, "I can't believe they'd dedicate this to our troops. How could they?" Then her voice blurred into a series of blubbering. At the end of the song, she stood up. "I'm leaving. How about you?" Her friends didn't get up. Then she yelled the same thing. Her friends got up slowly and began to leave. As they walked out, a middle aged man wearing a Hawaiian shirt in the same row but on the other side of the aisle leaped to his feet pointing his finger at the stage and screamed, "If you don't know who the real enemy is, SHUT UP! This is World War III." So much for Freedom Of Speech '06 (as the tour has been branded). I couldn't help but notice that all of those people were on row 'W'.


The band continued with the classic "Deja Vu."

“And I feel like I've been here before
Feel like I've been here before
And you know it makes me wonder
What's going on under the ground…
We have all been here before"

It was obvious that this was echoing the previous song and asking how the US has wound up in a situation similar to Vietnam. Still, the ones who were so up in arms about the previous song just didn't get it. They smiled again and sang along. They were clueless about the deeper meaning because they grew up with this song and the words have lost their meaning. I felt sick.

During intermission, the Hawaiian shirt guy was nearly ranting and in tears. His wife tried to soothe him. "It's just a song", she said. But it's not. We all knew it. "Just a song" doesn't do that to people. This is much more than that.

When the band returned, they launched into a series of pretty acoustic numbers. But it wasn’t to last. As a transition into the last set, haunting harmonies rang out for “Find The Cost Of Freedom”.

“All the brave soldiers that cannot get older been asking after you.
Hear the past a-callin’ from Armageddon's side
When everyone's talking and no one is listening, how can we decide?

(Do we) find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground?”

I have to tell the truth. I was nearly overcome by this beautiful song but strangely, all around me, people began to boo. Some were clearly conflicted and confused. They loved this song back when they were against Vietnam. They couldn't gauge their own feelings in the context of today. Neither could I. I felt lost among a sea of lost people. CSNY then went in for the kill with "Let's Impeach The President." In case the message was lost on anyone, the lyrics appeared on a massive video screen, karaoke style. Most sang along, worked up and feeling empowered. The Hawaaian shirt guy had had enough. He jumped up and walked out muttering, leaving his wife behind without a word. She jumped up and followed as the lyrics went further.

"Let's impeach the President for lying
And misleading our country into war
Abusing all the power that we gave him
And shipping all our money out the door

Let's impeach the president for hijacking
Our religion and using it to get elected
Dividing our country into colors
And still leaving black people neglected…”

By the end of the second verse, nearly every row in the arena was filled with people leaving. As half the crowd booed, the other half cheered even louder. Some were even applauding that the ones protesting the protest were leaving. I just couldn't. I was standing in the middle of a house divided against itself.

Stephen Stills didn't miss a beat, he punched back the boos with his Buffalo Springfield song "For What Its Worth". I have never heard more timely and perfect lyrics for a single moment.

“There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind…

Paranoia strikes deep, into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down…”

I looked, I saw and it hurt me. It seems that even the “hippie, liberal” CSNY crowd is totally split now. We are splintered. We are breaking. About this time, I heard some guy behind me yell "Neil Young must be a fucking Muslim." The man kept yelling more and more inflammatory insults and finally got up to leave. When he picked up, the whole row left with him.

Near the end, Graham Nash revived “Chicago” as a battle cry for change. This offered a bit of hope amongst the chaos.

“No one else can take your place. We can change the world. Re-arrange the world.
Freedom's dying…
Open up the door. We can change the world"

To wind up the most emotionally draining concert that I've ever seen, Neil Young tore into a blistering version of "Rockin' In The Free World" that had more passion than I've heard onstage from anyone in years. It eventually devolved into a thundering, feedback laden cacophony that revealed itself slowly as "Taps."

I was blown away. I was disgusted that no artists of the younger generation have the guts to stand up and make a difference, or at least to try. I was saddened that no one outside of this arena will experience this. It was absolutely heart-wrenching, then heart-breaking, then empowering. I knew there were elections coming up shortly. I had to hold on to hope that people would stand up and make a difference. It couldn’t go on like this. It just couldn’t. Could it?

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Photos and review by Chris McKay /



(Chris McKay /