Neil Young visits old Winnipeg stomping grounds ahead of concerts

By | February 3, 2019

Canadian songwriter and rocker Neil Young is in Winnipeg to perform two shows.

One Sunday night, to a sold out crowd at the iconic Burton Cummings Theatre, and a second Monday night at Centennial Concert Hall.

It appears Young’s return is about more than playing music, after visiting some of his old teenage stomping grounds.

On Saturday, the 73-year-old posed for a photo with a former bandmate from the early 1960s and checked out some hockey at a River Heights arena.

“Long story short of it, I ran out of here. It was a long day and I missed him by five minutes and I guess he used to play here back in the day which is pretty exciting. Wish I had saw him,” said Paul Sobie who sharpens skates at the River Heights Community Centre.

For staff at the arena, Young’s stop not only came as a surprise, they said he was so quiet, no seemed to notice he was even there.

“Walked right through like he was part of the community,” said Zamboni operator Bill Kossack, who also missed Young.

“If someone else like Justin Timberlake came through here everyone would know, but Neil Young almost blended in like any other hockey grandfather,” said Kossack.

Music historian John Einarson, who has written a book about Young, said the musician has been hinting his two Winnipeg shows are a homecoming.

Although born in Toronto, Einarson points to a Buffalo Springfield record where the singer-songwriter marked his hometown, and said Young told him his move to Winnipeg sparked a desire to make music his entire life.

“Within a month he performed his first band, he got his first electric guitar, he played his first gig at Earl Grey Community Centre in 1961.”

Into the Music owner Greg Tonn said because Young’s time in the city was such a crucial period, going places where he grew up is only natural.

“It’s part of his identity, and it’s part of our identity, so I think that’s where the connection is. He still relates to something going on here and has strong memories,” said Tonn.