Neil Young and Crazy Horse a reminder of what rock n' roll is supposed to be about

When the first notes of Oh Canada came tumbling out the sound system accompanied by a giant Canadian flag at the back of the stage, it was obvious that Neil Young was happy to be back home in his native country. Either that or it was a ploy to get fans on their feet before the Horse struck its first chord.

I'll go with the former.

Playing against a backdrop of oversized Fender amps (Young's guitar amp of choice) and a giant mic suspended in front of the stage, expatriate rocker Neil Young and his long-time Crazy Horse band-mates rocked a sold-out crowd of all ages for over two hours on Saturday night in the local hockey arena that occasionally doubles as a concert hall.

Attending a Neil Young concert, especially one where he is accompanied by the Horse, is always a reminder of what rock n' roll is supposed to be all about -- in your face raucousness, ear-piercing volume, spontaneity and a general "Fuck You" stance.

And that's exactly what the audience got last night.

Those coming to hear "acoustic Neil" would have been disappointed, except for a brief two song set featuring Young on guitar and harmonica in which he performed the classic The Needle and The Damage Done about the perils of a rock n' roll lifestyle and a new tune Twisted Road from his yet to be released new CD Psychedelic Pill that paid homage to his personal heroes like Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison.

Earlier in the show, Young and the Horse debuted Born in Ontario, another tune from the new CD, that elicited an appreciative response from the audience.

For those who like "electric Neil" the extended plodding sonic "footsteps" of Walk Like A Giant, another new tune, were pure nirvana, as was My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue).

At one point after drawing attention to an unidentified "beautiful hippie chick" in the front row of the floor audience, Young performed a new song -- something about "looking for a good time" -- that he claimed to have written a mere 25 minutes before the fact. Whether he was joshing with the crowd or not remains a mystery, but I would sure like to know if that girl exists -- and no it wasn't Sonny Drysdale in drag, contrary to what you may hear!

For their encore, Young and the Horse played a spirited version of Mr. Soul, a tune he first recorded with Buffalo Springfield way back in the day, followed by the fitting Roll Another Number from his 1975 Tonight's The Night album.

Locking arms at the front of the stage, Young and the Horse (Billy Talbot bass, Ralph Molina drums and Frank "Poncho" Sampedro guitar) bowed and thanked the crowd and the night came to an end as the army of roadies and lab-jacketed stage-hands began tearing down in preparation for the next gig.

Some critics have said that Young has become too self-indulgent in his concerts pointing to his signature long jams and seemingly endless song endings. Sure, a little bit of that was on display on Saturday night, but at age 66, Young has earned the right for a little self-indulgence and most of his long-time fans don't seem to mind one bit.

This one sure didn't.

Postscript - The two opening acts more than adequately warmed up the crowd for the headliner. The first band, Infantree, a raucous group of twenty-somethings from LA who had just joined the Canadian wing of the tour played a brief set of original compositions with much aplomb. Veteran rockers Los Lobos, featuring an outstanding young drummer with lots of flair and speed,  laid down a nice groove and it's too bad their set was not longer.

Richard Young is the publisher/managing editor of The Beat Magazine and a long-time Neil Young fan (if you haven't guessed).

[Editor's Note: Read Richard Young's Review of Neil Young's new memoir, Waging Heavy Peace, at]

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