Goings On – week of Jan 16 2014

The notion of Neil Young offering an acoustic performance at the Jack Singer Concert Hall alongside opener Diana Krall is the sort of hot ticket that well-off urbanites love. Listen to a good ol’ Canadian boy gently pick soft-rock anthems like “Old Man” in an intimate setting? Doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

Of course Neil Young is not your standard aging rocker and his upcoming Calgary show on Sunday January 19 is as much a “fuck you” to Calgary as anything else. Undoubtedly many concert attendees will be those who’ve largely benefitted from the very industry Young’s here to protest.

Neil Young’s a subversive punk with a decades-deep catalogue full of stylistic twists and turns a general disregard for the record industry and as always a penchant for vitriolic political discourse. Sure he’s responsible for writing some of the greatest rock ’n’ roll songs of all time and there’s nary a skippable album in his hefty discography ( Trans haters back off). But Neil Young’s so much more than a mere hit machine and he speaks his mind when he gets pissed off.

Right now he’s pissed off at us. Or more specifically our province the oilsands and the man in charge of our country. Neil Young’s current mini-tour is in essence a raised middle finger to the oil industry so there’ll likely be some intense discourse in between gentle strums and coos when he hits the Jack Singer.

The show comes seven days after Young eviscerated the oilsands at a press conference. “It’s the greediest most destructive and disrespectful demonstration of something run amok that you can ever see” he said of the industry. “There is no way to describe it. It’s truly a disaster.”

“Get a grip and understand what is really happening” he added. “It is hypocritical some of the things that are being said by the leaders of this country. It’s embarrassing as a Canadian to have to listen to some of this stuff. It’s all marketing it’s all big money.”

More specifically he spoke out against the mistreatment of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation who are trying to protect their lands from oilsands development. Young’s tour which has been dubbed “Honor the Treaties” (apparently Young doesn’t care about preserving Canada’s spelling of “honour” but I digress) will serve to raise funds for the group’s legal challenge.

“We made a deal with these people. We are breaking our promise. We are killing these people” Young said. “The blood of these people will be on modern Canada’s hands.”

Young’s pointed words apparently made their way under the skin of Calgary’s own Stephen Harper — his cronies issued a statement on Monday speaking out against what Young said at the press conference.

“Canada’s natural resources sector is and has always been a fundamental part of our country’s economy. And it continues to present a tremendous economic opportunity for all Canadians from coast to coast to coast” PMO spokesperson Jason MacDonald said in a statement later adding “Even the lifestyle of a rock star relies to some degree on the resources developed by thousands of hard-working Canadians every day.”

Young bounced back with another direct statement (which you can read in full at ffwdweekly.com ) saying “If rock stars need oil is an official response how does that affect the treaties Mr. Harper’s government of Canada is breaking?” Young went on to defend his own carbon footprint pointing out that his car runs on biomass.

“Our issue is not whether the natural resource sector is a fundamental part of the country our issue is with the government breaking treaties with the First Nation and plundering the natural resources the First Nation has rights to under the treaties” he added.

Neil Young will undoubtedly fill the Jack Singer with gentle harmonic sounds when he performs this weekend but the entire concert should be seen as an act of protest. In other words it’s easy listening for uneasy times.