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Justin Brake
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City's musicians, fans and businesses ready for visit by Neil Young

For the first time in his 42-year career, legendary Canadian musician Neil Young is getting set to perform in Newfoundland and Labrador.

When word of the April 6 Mile One Centre show hit the streets in February, it quickly became evident tickets would be among the year's hottest commodities. In fact, demand was so high that a last-minute decision was made to add a second gig on April 7, making St. John's the only Canadian city on the 2009 Continental Tour to host back-to-back shows.

Photo illustration by The Telegram

For the first time in his 42-year career, legendary Canadian musician Neil Young is getting set to perform in Newfoundland and Labrador.

When word of the April 6 Mile One Centre show hit the streets in February, it quickly became evident tickets would be among the year's hottest commodities. In fact, demand was so high that a last-minute decision was made to add a second gig on April 7, making St. John's the only Canadian city on the 2009 Continental Tour to host back-to-back shows.

"The first show sold out in 15 minutes," said Sheena McCrate, senior manager of sales and marketing at Mile One Centre. "Then we were on the phone to the promoters talking about a second show."

According to McCrate, the second show sold out that afternoon.

The night before tickets went on sale, about 30 to 50 people camped outside the front entrance of the arena, adds McCrate. "When morning hit we had about 200 people."

Continuing on from a full year of touring in places like Australia, New Zealand, the United States, several European countries and bigger Canadian cities, Young and his Electric Band are doing another sweep across the nation to hit some of the smaller markets, like Saint John, N.B., Kingston, Ont., and Kelowna, B.C.

In St. John's, excitement is building as people around town scramble to buy, sell, and trade tickets for the two sold-out shows, while sellers on online auction sites like eBay and Kijiji are asking as much as $250 for single tickets.

The anticipation is manifesting itself in the arts community as well.

On word of Young's visit to St. John's, local musician Dave Knill took it upon himself to organize a tribute show for he and others to pay homage to the grandfather of grunge.

According to Knill, "Neil Young Night," which took place at Roxxy's on George Street Friday, had attracted at least 15 performers by Thursday.

"When I heard Neil was coming I thought, we have to get people together," he said.

"I came to music late, as far as appreciating it as an artform goes ... but what I like about him is he's justifiably angry about things we shouldn't be afraid to get angry about," Knill added, referring to Young's tendency to protest social injustice through his music.

Curt Whalen, owner of Whalen's Pub & Grill, said his West George Street bar is usually closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Given the circumstances, however, he plans to open for the first Neil Young show to see if the bar gets the same kind of traffic as it has after past concerts.

"We definitely do gain from these concerts at Mile One," he said. "Being so close ... we're the first pub you hit (on the way to George Street).

"Normally you wouldn't see people out until 12 a.m., but on concert nights we will see people earlier, after the show."

If all goes well, Whalen says he plans to open the bar for the second show on Tuesday as well.

In addition to the St. John's dates being the first of Young's 2009 Continental Tour, the Tuesday show coincides with the release of his 34th studio album, "Fork In The Road."

Young has posted humorous, low-budget videos for four of the record's songs on his website, www.neilyoung.com.

"Fork In The Road" is a collection of 10 songs that share a common theme: his recent year-long project to convert his 1959 Lincoln Continental, "LincVolt," to an alternative-fuel car.

The music is also a return to Young's heavier rock, drawing similarities to his 2006 U.S. political protest recording, "Living With War," and is the fourth album the 63-year-old has recorded since he underwent emergency surgery to manage a brain aneurysm in March 2005.

Older but wiser, Young still merits widespread critical acclaim. Last year he was named No. 37 in Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Singers of All Time" issue and was also nominated for a 2009 Grammy Award in the "Best Solo Rock Performance" category for his song "No Hidden Path" off 2007's "Chrome Dreams II."

During his 2008 tour of Canada, Young and his band plucked tunes spanning the late-'60s, '70s, '90s, and 2000-albums, including "Powderfinger," "Hey, Hey, My, My," "Cinnamon Girl," "The Needle And The Damage Done," "Heart of Gold," "Old Man," "Sea Change," and "Rockin' In The Free World."

With a new album out this week, it's anyone's guess as to what he'll play. But one thing's for sure - if a return visit takes another four decades, this will be the only time one of Canada's most influential artists sets foot on Newfoundland soil to play music.

With both shows sold out, McCrate says there is "always a chance" tickets could become available. This would depend on whether the promoter or artist has leftover reserved tickets and also on the potentiality of empty, unobstructed seats once the stage is set up for the shows.

"The best bet is for people to just keep checking online," she says.

Organizations: EBay, Pub & Grill, Rolling Stone Sea Change

Geographic location: St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, United States George Street Australia New Zealand Saint John Kingston Kelowna West George Street Canada

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  • Rob
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    Have fun with Neil! I'll be catching the show Friday night in Halifax. It'll be my third Neil show in six months. He's on the very top of his game with the only band he's ever played with that can cover his entire catalog.

  • Susan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    GREAT fun show @ Roxxy's on Fri nt w a lot of local musicians who played a show for the love of playing together & the Neil tunes & as a tribute to the rocker. Curtis Keats, Paddy Barry, Greg Simmons, Kristen Cahill, Dawson Forsey, Dave Knill, Chris Brake, Mike Cheeks, Justin Davis Matt Cross& Kevin Brake, Thom Coombes, Bart Pierson, Andrew Mast & Curtis Stamp, Ben Rigby, Jonny Bungay & Justin Davis. esp liked Harvest, Hurricane, Powderfinger, Southern Man (big finale). Loved Paddy's stories from the 70's 80's. Thanks everyone for a fun show & great atmosphere looking forward to Mr. Young tonight - hope all you all get to see the show. I feel lucky to have seen yours & My, my hey Hey, Rock n Roll IS here to stay with the great young musicians. The young Neil look & sound alike was great.

  • brian
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    Maybe his first visit, but after what he's about to experience at Mile One over the next two nights, he'll no doubt sit down with his manager and ask him why it has taken so long to get here.

  • Manny
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Interesting fellow Neil Young. I listened to him a lot years ago. Neil and Cat Stevens had the pretty much the same genre. They sang about love or the search for it a lot. Neither of them really found it, but who among us really finds real love?

  • Rob
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    Have fun with Neil! I'll be catching the show Friday night in Halifax. It'll be my third Neil show in six months. He's on the very top of his game with the only band he's ever played with that can cover his entire catalog.

  • Susan
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    GREAT fun show @ Roxxy's on Fri nt w a lot of local musicians who played a show for the love of playing together & the Neil tunes & as a tribute to the rocker. Curtis Keats, Paddy Barry, Greg Simmons, Kristen Cahill, Dawson Forsey, Dave Knill, Chris Brake, Mike Cheeks, Justin Davis Matt Cross& Kevin Brake, Thom Coombes, Bart Pierson, Andrew Mast & Curtis Stamp, Ben Rigby, Jonny Bungay & Justin Davis. esp liked Harvest, Hurricane, Powderfinger, Southern Man (big finale). Loved Paddy's stories from the 70's 80's. Thanks everyone for a fun show & great atmosphere looking forward to Mr. Young tonight - hope all you all get to see the show. I feel lucky to have seen yours & My, my hey Hey, Rock n Roll IS here to stay with the great young musicians. The young Neil look & sound alike was great.

  • brian
    July 01, 2010 - 20:11

    Maybe his first visit, but after what he's about to experience at Mile One over the next two nights, he'll no doubt sit down with his manager and ask him why it has taken so long to get here.

  • Manny
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    Interesting fellow Neil Young. I listened to him a lot years ago. Neil and Cat Stevens had the pretty much the same genre. They sang about love or the search for it a lot. Neither of them really found it, but who among us really finds real love?