Live preview: Neil Young

A masterful songwriter brings his unaccompanied Jekyll and Hyde act to NYC.

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When contributing to TONY's list of the best shows of 2010, I was tempted to add an asterisk: Neil Young's May solo performance in Wallingford, Connecticut, clearly topped anything I'd caught in NYC. This week the man hits Avery Fisher Hall for two unaccompanied concerts, and the full spectrum of Neil fans—from "I dig 'Cinnamon Girl'" to "I own Archives, Vol 1 on Blu-ray"—should consider them unmissable.

Last year's Twisted Road tour felt like being invited into Young's living room and discovering that it was really a temple of sound. The stage was set up parlor-style (stools, lamps, a cigar-store Indian), with the artist strolling casually among various guitars and keyboards. He began with comfy unplugged renditions of "Tell Me Why" and other favorites, but then he donned his treasured electric, Old Black, for "Down by the River," and the tension skyrocketed. The sound of the distorted six-string was both deafening and heartrending—amplifier worship any Sunn O))) fan could relate to, coupled with shimmering nuance.

Singular as it was, the album that followed, Le Noise, just wasn't noisy enough to capture the Twisted Road experience. And given Young's fickle nature—his forthcoming release, A Treasure, features country-steeped live recordings from 1984--85, and he's set to tour with the reunited Buffalo Springfield later this year—there's no guarantee that these shows will follow that script. We do know, though, that he'll have both his acoustic and electric axes with him, good reason to expect a glimpse of rock's most awe-inspiring Jekyll and Hyde act.

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