Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Rogers Arena, Vancouver, BC, November 11
Young has never been one to rest on tired formulas — something that became obvious instantly and thoroughly as the Canadian flag was replaced by the Neil Young & Crazy Horse logo and they launched into a raw 20-minute version of "Love and Only Love" from 1990's Ragged Glory. After live staple "Powderfinger" from 1979's Rust Never Sleeps, Young finally addressed the crowd with a quick thanks before moving into "Born in Ontario" and "Walk Like a Giant" from the group's recent Psychedelic Pill. Obviously, the newer material went over well as a bra flew onstage before "Born in Ontario" was half-finished.
In the lengthy "Walk Like a Giant," Young whistled dead-focused on the mic like a eagle tracking its prey, prowling the stage with his black Gibson as he closed in on the kill. The jam's Swans-like noise-dirge denouement had some of the older demographic scratching their heads and shrugging, unable to come to terms with the onslaught, but the doom became corporeal as newspapers and plastic bags were blown across the stage by an oncoming storm.
The stage crew dressed in yellow raincoats scurried about as the Woodstock bird-guitar symbol replaced band logo and rain was projected across it, the famed "no rain" stage banter from the generation-defining festival's soundtrack playing on. As the storm subsided, Young appeared solo with acoustic guitar to sing the gut-wrenching Harvest classic "The Needle and the Damage Done" followed by the new, sentimental "Twisted Road." Then, as Young moved behind a beat-up piano, he sang the touching, as-yet-unreleased "Singer Without a Song" while a bohemian girl holding a guitar case wandered the stage forlornly, completing the effect.
Granted, they would go on to play more recognizable numbers like "Cinnamon Girl" and Buffalo Springfield hit "Mr. Soul," but there was so much more to this show than mere nostalgia, as it brought a thoughtful balance between the classic and contemporary, between big and small moments. Scenes like the bohemian girl and the absurd stage-crew antics gave the show a compelling narrative, making it grand enough to fill a modern stadium while the performance was personal and human enough to resonate.
Young channels his hurricane force across his catalogue, hammering old times into submission and continually finding ways to push himself with his new material. He sings with a passion held so deeply in his core that it could be confused for a grimace on his face.
Though this was the eve of his 67th birthday — a fact acknowledged by the singing of "Happy Birthday" after midnight — Young remains a beast in jeans and flannel, and Crazy Horse were essentially there to give the beast something to play with. Young's banter remained short but sweet, though he pulled the lights up to make eye contact from one side of the arena to the other during "Cinnamon Girl" and call people out during "Fuckin' Up," choosing instead to put most of his energy into over two straight hours of thoroughly convincing rock. He may be a hall of fame legend, but his unfettered passion is precisely why he remains as relevant today as ever.
ReviewsFeb 04, 2015
Evening HymnsSt. Alban's Anglican Church, Ottawa ON, February 3
Living only an hour and a half outside of the city in the seclusion of Mountain Grove, Ontario, the nation's capital has become something of...
ReviewsJan 31, 2015
Andy Shauf / Marine DreamsFestival Hall, Calgary AB, January 30
Andy Shauf is slowly but surely becoming recognized as one of Canada's best young folk singer-songwriters after years of writing and touring...
ReviewsJan 25, 2015
The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer / Ben RogersDistrikt Nightclub, Victoria BC, January 24
On a night featuring a couple of "up and coming" indie blues and country bands, you would expect a young hip crowd out in full force, but th...
ReviewsJan 25, 2015
Andy ShaufThe Company House, Halifax NS, January 24
"Here's a normal song that's not about crazy things," whispered Andy Shauf, following a song he had told the crowd was about the devil. "But...