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.
Love And Only Love
Born In Ontario
Walk Like A Giant
The Needle And The Damage Done
Singer Without A Song
Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)
Tonight’s The Night