Toronto Fringe Review – I Am Not Neil Young – Holy Joe's

By Dana Lacey

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Maybe it was the set adorned with a buffalo-themed throw, cowboy hat and totem pole, but I had a feeling I Am Not Neil Young at Holy Joe’s was going to be a source of great cheese. I wasn’t disappointed. I am Not Neil Young offers 60s ballads, group participation and Frank Wilkes with a huge, infectious smile who, after introducing himself, says ‘This is a story about transformation. But who will be transformed? You and or me?” So who is Frank Wilkes? He certainly isn’t Neil Young, but if you close your eyes while he’s singing it’s hard to tell the difference.

In the 80s, Wilkes was chosen to take Young’s place in Buffalo Springfield, (the band, among other things, wrote “Stop, Hey, What’s that Sound”, the anthem of the flower-power 60s.) Thus was born two things: Buffalo Springfield Revisited and a man with a fierce identity complex (“Do another artist’s songs enough times, and you become a part of them”.) He fell hard and fast into the drug-fueled scene, watching friend after friend succumb to overdoses and spending more than a decade addicted to crack.

Now, standing amidst a totem pole and line of guitars (including Bruce Palmer’s bass), Wilkes emits a sort of goofy seriousness: he strums beautifully through some classic Young tunes, and sings his own original songs about dead friends, addiction (I especially liked his anti-enabling ballad “I never had a drink in Newfoundland “) and the sad reality of living in the shadow of a giant. In the background you can watch concert videos and slideshows of silly vacation and tour photos, which perfectly compliment the surreal trip that is Wilke’s career. After a while, Wilke’s genuineness shattered my prejudgment, and I, as Wilkes said, had “a darn good time.”

Photo of Frank Wilkes by Dana Lacey

Details:

I Am Not Neil Young is playing at Holy Joe’s (651 Queen St. West, Toronto)

Tickets are available at the door or online

Show times are:

Wed, July 1 8:00 PM
Thu, July 2 8:00 PM
Fri, July 3 6:00 PM
Sat, July 4 3:00 PM
Sun, July 5 4:00 PM
Tue, July 7 8:00 PM
Wed, July 8 3:00 PM
Thu, July 9 8:00 PM
Fri, July 10 6:00 PM
Sat, July 11 3:00 PM
Sun, July 12 4:00 PM