Neil Young's recorded 1971 show at The Shakespeare Theater excels in all formats

Recorded on January 22, 1971, at The Shakespeare Theater in Stratford, Connecticut, only a few months following the release of "After the Gold Rush," this recording features a stripped-down, solo Young accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, piano and harmonica.
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Neil Young -- Young Shakespeare cover art

NEIL YOUNG
YOUNG SHAKESPEARE
Reprise (CD, LP, DVD)

5 Stars

By John Curley

Recorded on January 22, 1971, at The Shakespeare Theater in Stratford, Connecticut, only a few months following the release of After the Gold Rush, this recording features a stripped-down, solo Young accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, piano and harmonica. And the intimate environment had Young in good spirits, talking to and joking with the audience during different parts of the show. Young’s between-song comments provide great insight into the songs. And the concert gave the crowd an outstanding preview of Young’s 1972 album, Harvest, as he performed four songs that would appear on that album at the show.

In his introduction to “Old Man,” Young said that he wrote the song about the 70-year-old foreman of his ranch who had been living there for decades. The version of the song that follows is perfect, with Young in great voice. Prior to performing “The Needle and the Damage Done,” Young discusses the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and how their deaths inspired him to write the song. He then delivered a raw and beautiful performance of the song.

Young’s powerful and emotional performance of CSNY’s “Ohio” is jaw dropping, which is not surprising since this show took place only eight months after the four Kent State students were murdered by members of Ohio’s National Guard. He lightens the mood a bit with the following song, “Dance Dance Dance,” which he described in his introduction to the song as “hoedown music.”

Young switched to piano for the outstanding “A Man Needs a Maid,” which goes right into a terrific take on “Heart of Gold.” And still at the piano, Young delivered a quite beautiful performance of “Journey Through the Past.”

Back on acoustic guitar, Young provided a perfect vocal on the rendition of “Down by the River,” which received a huge reaction from the crowd. He closed the show with a beautiful, extended performance of “Sugar Mountain,” which he said he wrote on his 20th birthday. While performing the song, Young made humorous comments to the crowd between verses.

A deluxe box set edition is also available that has the CD, LP and DVD.