Show Review – Neil Young & Crazy Horse
On Nov. 14 I made the journey to Toon Town with the music turned up, sun shining, not to mention, enough Neil Young songs loaded up to last well beyond the trip itself. My destination was a hockey arena, but my intentions were not to watch the men hit the top shelf; instead I was on the road for a date with Neil Young & Crazy Horse – and an honourable mention of course for The Sadies.
Predicaments come and they go, and by the time it was seven o’clock, my bare-chested, jean vest-clad accomplice were out by the landfill stuck behind “the only train is S’toon”. Needless to say, panic arose and was driven further by the suspense of seeing the end of the train emerging from blackness – only to have 20 empty sections follow. Talk about letdowns.
It’s the archetypal concert drill. Get there late. Find parking in the boonies. Run Like Hell. Cue movie-soundtrack running tune. Ticket Scan. Bag Search – fingers crossed. Contemplate the most pressing decision: beer or bathroom. Beer. No, bathroom. No, beer. Music kicks up. Realization that the band is playing. Run to the pit.
Due to the only train in S’toon, we missed The Sadies. It was a major letdown for me, especially as I strongly believe they should have been the second band on, yet now I have an excuse to track down their headlining shows and catch them there.
The second band to play was Los Lobos. Their performance was a painful execution that induced more pleasant conversation as opposed to a crowd won over. Well, I guess the crazy wasted girls may have sounded like fans, but then again, I am fairly certain their musical opinions were somewhat invalid at that point. I took the opportunity to munch a special cookie and marvel at Young’s stage set up and marvel at the wooden Indian statue on the right hand side, back corner of the set. I was told by a friend statue attends all of Young’s shows in solemn silence, as a curious figure unseen by most.
Finally, after what seems like forever, Los Lobos leave the stage. The mad dash for the cigarettes and the 20oz drafts commences, and we found ourselves acquainted with long-lost friends in a thick haze. My heart stopped the moment I heard “A Day in the Life” echoing throughout the venue.
The bumbling stage crew struggled to put up a giant microphone in center stage. The overly giant “crates” that lined the back of the stage were slowly beginning to rise and the cheering and stomping thundered throughout the building. They revealed replicas of giant Fender amps – and Young’s sound during the show lived up to this size. It was heavy, raw, deafening, and man, oh man was it ever good.
The Godfather of Grunge delivered right from the seams of his red plaid shirt, and no medical set-back or perils of age inhibited him in any way. His voice faced no limitations, and his fingers took turns between fucking and making sweet love to the fretboard. Crazy Horse delivered in equal parts to Young, and their sound was tight. There were moments where the band would step back and Young would play solo, taking the experience to another level. The intensity of his solo performance causes every eye to fix intently upon him. The sheer ability of him alone with a guitar far surpasses the performance given by entire bands that I have seen.
The set began with “O Canada”, which was sung along to in off-key harmony by every soul in attendance. After that, there was a perfect arrangement of oldies and new songs. Hearing “Powderfinger” live was incredible, and I should mention how good Rust Never Sleeps is; if you haven't listened to it in its entirety, do so now. "Ramada Inn" was a nice surprise and all the musicians onstage enjoyed lengthening the already long ballad with several extended jams – of course this was true for every song. Young coyly whispering “he does what he has to” as his wispy hair flew in the wind holds a beautiful feel of timelessness. Other favorites were “Cortez the Killer”, a crowd silencing “Needle in the Damage Done”, and of course though not most intricate by any means, “Cinnamon Girl”, a pop favorite for many. We all could relate as Young wailed about “Fuckin’ Up” and lost our minds as the opening riff to “Hey, Hey, My, My” rang out.
They never stopped rocking out and the crowd kept right along with surges of energy pushing forward. Lives were changed and hearts were warm or maybe it was the haze thicker then fog with the sweet smell of good grass.
I did not want the night to end, though as much as I did will it too last, it did not. After the encore, the giant crates were slowly lowered over the giant fake Fenders, and that was that. My daze was not broken after stepping into the icy cold after the show in much too little clothing for a winter's night, nor was I disheartened because my bare-chested, jean-vested friend and I could not find our car – in the boonies. I was radiating with my incredible-show high and nothing was going to kill my buzz.
Of course, five hours later, I awoke to make the hung over drive in the dark back to the city so I could dutifully write an exam. Then, I somehow lived to attend all five and a half hours of classes, as well as a review session. Cotton mouthed, blearily eyed, but it did not matter. Oh no it did not, for I was still floating on the riffs.