Setlist History: Neil Young Opens The Roxy

On September 20, 1973, Neil Young and his handpicked group called The Santa Monica Flyers, ended a month of practice in an East Hollywood studio to perform at a brand new rock club on the Sunset Strip called the Roxy.

Young and the Flyers played two sets each night at the West Hollywood club from 9/20-9/23 of new songs that would make up 1975's Tonight's the Night studio album that went to #25 in the charts.

A live recording of the inaugural residency was captured in the 2018 album, Roxy: Tonight's the Night Live.

“In 1973, I drove my 1947 Buick Roadmaster, Black Queen, to LA from the North, accompanied by [pedal steel / slide guitarist] Ben Keith. Once we made it to Hollywood, we met up with [bassist] Billy Talbot and [drummer] Ralph Molina. [Guitarist / accordion player] Nils Lofgren joined us and we drove to Studio Instrument Rentals on Santa Monica Blvd," Young said in a statement.

Before the Internet, typically one had to go somewhere to get the tickets. In this case fans had to go to the Roxy. 5,000 attempted to snag the ducats on opening night at the Roxy.

"We had finished recording Tonight's the Night and decided to celebrate with a gig at a new club opening on the Sunset Strip, the ROXY. We went there and recorded for a few nights, opening the ROXY. We really knew the Tonight’s the Night songs so we just played them again, the album, top to bottom, two sets a night for a few days. We had a great time," he said.

Lofgren, who was just 22 years old at the time, couldn't believe the unusual way Young rehearsed and recorded the album. The band was intentionally left in the dark about the songs because Young didn't want them too tight, too over produced, or too practiced. He wanted a rough, raw, sound. Warts and all. Actually, the more warts the better.

Young, according the Lofgren, even wanted the crowd to be second-guessing. That included the title track(s) of the forthcoming album which were unique to themselves despite sharing a name.

"Tonight's The Night Pt. 1"

"A lot of times, we’d play the album front to back and people would be a little cranky and want to hear hits," Lofgren, who has played in Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band since 1984 explained.

"They weren’t prepared for what Neil was sharing. And sometimes it’d be a little rude, and so of course, the album has two very different versions of 'Tonight’s the Night.'

"Tonight's The Night Pt. 2"

"So, a few nights, Neil would come out at the end of the night, and just with his great sense of humor, he said, 'Okay, everybody, we’re going to play something you’ve all heard before.' And the place goes wild like, 'Is this going to be "Cinnamon Girl?" Is it going to be "Heart of Gold?" What beautiful hit is our master poet going to present to us?' And we played 'Tonight’s the Night' again, which they never heard. And it just completely knocked them down. I got a kick out of that," Lofgren said.

It was the partnership in 1973 of Lou Adler and Elmer Valentine, with help from David Geffen, Elliot Roberts and Peter Asher that helped the Roxy plant its flag on the Sunset Strip on the same block as The Rainbow, the Whisky, and Gazzarri's on the north side of the boulevard, with the Viper Room on the south side of the street.

The Roxy would host important concerts in the '70s after Young christened it so perfectly.

In 1976 Bob Marley performed at the 500 capacity club and recorded his classic album Live at the Roxy.

HBO recorded a 1978 stand-up performance by Robin Williams for it's On Location series.

Also in '78 Bruce Springsteen returned to the Roxy to perform a show that was recorded and parts were used for his 1975-1985 live box set that included this beautiful version of "Growin' Up."

Neil is returning to the Roxy tonight and tomorrow to commemorate the anniversary of the club and his performances in '73.

Neil will be backed by Crazy Horse... not the Santa Monica Flyers. But who is Crazy Horse? Ralph Molina, Billy Talbot, and Nils Lofgren.

As it was on opening day, tickets for the shows this week are long gone.

Neil will be performing at Live Aid on 9/23. Tickets available here.

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Last updated: 2 Dec 2023, 17:20 Etc/UTC