Neil Young / Wilco Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON December 4
Published Dec 05, 2008This ain't no Greendale. Eschewing his occasional tendency toward wilful acts of obscurity or experimentation of the conceptual kind, Neil Young came to the ACC and effortlessly demonstrated the kinds of loud, sloppy guitar noise that earned him the title "Godfather of Grunge" when that was a mantel to be proud of.
With a stripped down band (including long-time collaborator Ben Keith on guitar and wife Peggy singing and playing occasional piano), Young went the crowd-pleasing route, breaking out classics like "Cortez the Killer" and "Powderfinger" with pedal-stomping vigour. In fact, in the first two-thirds of the show, only new tune "Spirit Road" wasn't featured on his '70s compilation Decade.
This was populist Neil through and through, offering up "Needle and the Damage Done" and "Heart of Gold" during an acoustic middle section before delving into less-familiar, less classic stuff that was still populist Neil: his selections all had hope, human relations and personal responsibility as primary themes. But it was loud, sloppy, guitar-mashing Neil the crowd wanted, and even at age 63, Young can deliver that in his sleep.
Seemingly asleep were openers Wilco - save for guitar hero Nels Cline, whose ripping, spotlight grabbing solos only occasionally made him seem like an alien import from a different world. When Jeff Tweedy revealed that his onstage time was the longest he'd gone without puking in two days, a little bug seemed to explain the lack of energy, but in their mid-tempo, acoustic leaning pleasantness, Wilco came off as kinda stately, bordering on staid.
The same can never be said about the headliner, who remains determined to burn out (not fade away) no matter how long it takes him.