Neil Young Releasing 'Cellar Door' Concerts
The solo acoustic shows from 1970 feature the debut performances of "Old Man" and "See the Sky About to Rain'
He played two shows per evening at the Cellar Door, and they essentially served as a public rehearsal for his two-night stand at New York's Carnegie Hall on December 4th and 5th, 1970. Nobody knew it at the time, but Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young quietly broke up after their summer tour wrapped that July. The success of After the Goldrush demonstrated that Young was a genuine superstar outside of the short-lived supergroup, and his fame would only grow as the decade went on.
Live at the Cellar Door is the third volume of Young's Archive Performance Series to spotlight a show taped between March of 1970 and January of 1971, the others being Live at Massey Hall 1971 and Live at the Fillmore. In 2009, he released his long-anticipated box set The Archives Vol. 1 1963-1972, but fans are still awaiting any information about the second box set, which would likely cover the remainder of the 1970s.
The shows Neil Young played at the Cellar Door in Washington DC were late in 1970, two months before the Massey Hall gig that has been issued twice in his Archive series. Seven songs appear in both sets; worse, only three of Cellar Door's 13 tracks haven't already been heard in a similar solo recording from the same brief period of Young's career. Add the inexplicable decision to excise from this release most of Young's banter with his audience – the characterful joy of the acoustic archive – and it's hard to see why anyone should buy it. Except this: the stillness and intimacy of each live recording is singularly enthralling. There's a moment in Cinnamon Girl – lithely played on piano – when Young's vocal subsides into a giggle. He's on piano for Expecting to Fly, too, his voice soaring, tremulous, above chords resolute as granite. Closing with Flying on the Ground Is Wrong, he improvises a playful attack on the piano strings that offsets beautifully the tender solicitude of the song. You don't have to be a Young aficionado to appreciate that.