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Concert Review: Neil Young & Crazy Horse At Key Arena, Seattle, WA, 11/10/12

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It’s not often that you leave a rock and roll concert feeling completely exhausted and spent, at least not these days. It is also not the feeling you’d normally associate with seeing a bunch of old geezers like Neil Young & Crazy Horse.

When it comes to older, vintage acts from the classic rock era – at least the ones that still matter – you might expect to walk away from a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show feeling this same sort of giddy, exhilarated post-concert exhaustion. Which is exactly why I continue to go see their shows, even going so far as to travel cross-country to witness them.

But Neil Young? Not even.

Yet, there Neil Young and the venerable Crazy Horse were this past Saturday night at Seattle’s Key Arena – looking and sounding as revved-up, fully engaged, and vital as they ever have in the dozens of times I have seen them over the years.

These guys may be getting up there a bit in years, but you wouldn’t have known it on this night. This was like being shot through a time capsule back to the days of Rust Never Sleeps and Ragged Glory. At this show Neil Young & Crazy Horse played like a bunch of twenty-something kids.

As rock shows go, this was one for the ages.

My feet ache like all hell from standing in the GA section all night (I’m also old enough to remember when they used to call this barbaric viewing arrangement “festival seating”). But damn if it doesn’t hurt so good. As I write this, I am left both physically and emotionally spent. But I am also feeling that special sort of post-concert euphoria that comes only after you know you have just witnessed something that qualifies as truly great.

From the incendiary – and loud! – fifteen minute plus opener “Love And Only Love,” Neil Young & Crazy Horse came out with their guns fully loaded and blazing. From there, they delivered the goods and then some for over two hours.

Drummer Ralph Molina did miss a few spots here and there, particularly on the longer, extended jams. Still, this made for a much rawer take on “Fuckin’ Up,” which started out sounding something like the Black Sabbath version of the song. Neil, Poncho and the rest of Crazy Horse locked into the slightly more downbeat groove like clockwork in no time though, making for one of the better versions of this concert standout that I have ever heard.

The concert was also long – and in this case, we mean that quite literally – on new material from the just released Psychedelic Pill album. But the overall theme was more like a snapshot into Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s gloried past, with one eye locked onto their future. It’s no coincidence that this tour is being labeled as “The Past. The Present. The Future.”

Echoes of such past Crazy Horse tours as the legendary Rust Never Sleeps and Ragged Glory/Weld treks were front and center from the minute you entered the arena. You saw it in everything from the over-sized microphone and Fender amp props from past tours, to the goofy looking stage hands running around in their white doctors coats. There was no mistaking the trippy retro vibe here.

But this was no mere nostalgia trip down hippie lane. Far from it. Even as Neil Young & Crazy Horse acknowledged the past, they seemed to be equally intent on getting back to the future Saturday night at the Key.

On the extended jams from the new Psychedelic Pill album like “Ramada Inn” and especially “Walk Like A Giant,” Neil shredded his ass off. Old Black got quite the workout at this show. Poncho Sampedro, and even usually stoic bassist Billy Talbot (who cracked a rare grin during “Fuckin’ Up”) seemed to be having a pretty great time on the newer songs as well.

The older, crowd pleasing songs were there too of course, including scorching versions of “Powderfinger,” and a nice closing twofer of “Mr. Soul” and “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black).” The encore of “Tonight’s The Night,” was also one of the bluesier takes on this particular concert warhorse that I’ve ever heard.

Occasional lapses in technique aside – which of course is one of this bands most endearing qualities anyway – Neil Young & Crazy Horse have never sounded better than they did this past Saturday night at the Key. Long may they continue to run.

Setlist:
Love And Only Love
Powderfinger
Born In Ontario
Walk Like A Giant
The Needle And The Damage Done
Twisted Road
Singer Without A Song
Ramada Inn
Cinnamon Girl
Fuckin’ Up
Mr. Soul
Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)

Encore:
Tonight’s The Night

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • Big Dave

    glad you had fun buddy. Long may YOU run!!

  • http://thrasherswheat.org thrasher

    Thanks Glen! Isn’t it great that the guys are still out there delivering like there’s no tomorrow?

    is that not what rock & roll is all about??

    The TTN encore sounds fantastic. Hope we get that when The Horse heads back east.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Yeah, seeing these guys still blow the roof off the joint at their age proves there may just be a fountain of youth after all. 24 hours later, and I’m still blown away. Just amazing. Thanks for the comments guys.

    -Glen

  • chuckh

    nice review glen. i don’t go to many shows nowadays & this one was a gem. i saw afghan whigs the week before & they were stellar too. ps: charles cross needs to get fact checker. there were errors in his neil article in the times. take care. glad you’re doing well. chuck holmstrom

  • Kevin

    If you thought Seattle was awesome, you should have seen vancouver

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Glad you enjoyed the show Chuck. As for Charlie, he was probably just trying to keep that grand Patrick Macdonald tradition alive in the Times…LOL…

    -Glen

  • BGreene

    They still call it “festival seating.” :) Fun and accurate review, thanks.

  • Omar

    Great review, Glen. 4 guys who love to rock. With no sidemen, wives, girlfriends or bullshit. That’s probably the most amazing fact of all. They still just put it out there like nobody else can. Great to meet you at the pre-show!

  • http://neilyoungfaq.wordpress.com Glen Boyd

    Actually, a few of them do have wives Omar…LOL. Nice meeting you too though.

  • Greg Barbrick

    Nice review Glen, I wish I had gone!