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Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Thurs, March 7 @ Brisbane Entertainment Centre

Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on March 13, 2013

If there’s one thing we know about Neil Young after his latest tour through Australia, it’s that the man can rock! Despite having celebrated his 67th birthday at the end of last year, Neilo is showing no signs of slowing down, and seemed intent on proving it to the audience last Thursday night, shredding his way through a blistering 15-song setlist with a ferocity usually characteristic of bands a third his age.

The punters that turned out to see Neil and his band Crazy Horse were themselves an eclectic mix. There were grizzled Young veterans sporting Buffalo Springfield shirts, middle aged couples hoping for a night of Harvest era folk rock, and a younger set just looking to get intimate with one of the great giants of rock music. It’s hard to think of another act with the inter-generational appeal of Neil Young; there seemed to be an abundance of youngsters who had brought their mothers along for the show.

The crowd roamed into the 13,500 capacity auditorium to the tune of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”, a song that Neil is fond of covering (as those who saw him headline Big Day Out in 2009 will know). They were greeted by a slightly cheesy bunch of mad professors running around between a set of massive prop suitcases which occupied most of the stage. As the lights dimmed, the suitcase exterior was winched up to reveal the true stage backdrop, a facade of 15-foot tall fender amplifiers. This alone should have made it clear to the audience what they were in for – a night of Neil at his loudest, grungiest best.

At this point Neil Young and his three long time bandmates sauntered casually onto the side of stage. For a group that has shaped modern rock music as much as any of the last 50 years, it has to be said that these guys look nothing like rock stars. Decked out in a pair of faded blue jeans that wouldn’t be out of place on his ranch in the Santa Cruz mountains and a black tee prominently emblazoned with the Aboriginal flag, Neil Young looked like anybody’s granddad.

That illusion was immediately put to rest though when, after standing to attention as the Australian national anthem played out, Neil launched into a frenetic rendition of “Love and Only Love”, from the 1990 album Ragged Glory. Opening with 5 minutes of face-melting guitar before launching into the first verse, Crazy Horse staked their claim as masters of the rough and ready, abrasive and open ended hard rock sound that they pioneered through their work with Neil Young through the 1970s. Neil and Crazy Horse guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro clearly have a musical chemistry that can only come from decades of playing together, trading crunching riffs and angular solos throughout the night.

Neil and the band more or less stayed this course for the entire gig. Apart from the brief respite of “Heart of Gold” (a massive crowd pleaser) and then newbies “Twisted Road” and “Singer Without a Song”, each song was an out and out rocker, feeding the audience a guitar heavy sound thick enough to chew on. Neil doesn’t play the guitar so much as wrestle with it, strangling and choking notes out of Old Black, the instrument he has written and performed with for the past 4 decades. And as much as his exterior has aged, his voice carries the familiar freshness and clarity that it always has. No doubt those in the audience who had hoped for a serenade of Neil’s mellower (and better known) work would have walked away disappointed, but for those of us who knew what we’d signed up for, it was nothing short of terrific.

Highlights of the gig included the epic “Walk Like A Giant” from last year’s Psychedelic Pill album, stretched to almost half an hour, a sensational rendition of “Cinnamon Girl”, and the upbeat “Mr Soul”, originally recorded by Neil with Buffalo Springfield in 1967. The set closed with a performance of “Hey Hey (My My)” that was loud and gritty enough to make my teeth chatter. After a few theatrics from the mad scientist roadies, the boys were back on stage to encore with a couple of lesser known numbers, “Opera Singer” and “Roll Another Number”.

All in all, Neil and Crazy Horse played 4 songs from their latest album, 2 songs so far unreleased, and only perhaps 3 songs that would make it onto any greatest hits compilation. You’ve got to admire Neil for refusing to age gracefully and continuing to put out music that can go head to head with anything else being released today. After a career spanning 45 years and over 40 albums, he would be well within his rights to rest on his laurels and simply roll out the greatest hits to adoring fans, as so many aging rockers do. Seeing him still out there forging new ground and having the courage to back his new work with a world tour was as inspiring as it was musically gratifying.


Full set list below:

Love and Only Love


Born In Ontario

Walk Like A Giant

Hole In The Sky

Heart Of Gold

Twisted Road

Singer Without A Song

Ramada Inn

Cinnamon Girl

Fuckin Up

Mr Soul

Hey Hey, My My



Opera Singer

Roll Another Number

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