Neil Young & Crazy Horse traverse the genres in a career capsule performance at Freedom Mortgage Pavilion - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

The living legend, folk singer-songwriter extraordinaire, Grandfather of grunge, punk sympathizer, and vestige of the era of musical activism, Neil Young was in Camden last night with his band Crazy Horse. Of all his bands, Crazy Horse is the one Young seems most comfortable with, and its certainly the one that rocks the hardest. 

It was a real eras tour for the legacy artist, who rode the evolution of music for a lifetime. While his folkier side is what he’s most known for (think 1972’s hit “Heart of Gold,” or anything from Harvest and its spiritual successor Harvest Moon two decades later), it was Young’s grungier aesthetic most on display last night. He opened with two classics from his canon, “Cortez the Killer” and “Cinnamon Girl.”  Later, “Like A Hurricane” and “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” rounded out the songs you’d expect to hear from Young, ones that fall safely in his “true to form” period, one of classic rock, from about 1969 throughout the 70s. 

Neil Young & Crazy Horse | photo by Paige Walter for WXPN

But Young threw some curveballs in his rollicking set with Crazy Horse. The group played a driving, chugging version of “I’m The Ocean,” from Young’s 1995 collaboration with Pearl Jam. Like a good Dead set, there was plenty of space to jam on tunes like this and “Love to Burn.” The noisy, repetitive, sprawling section of the night was a real test of stamina for the band, who kept their grip on tempo with mathematical precision while Young punctuated the wall of noise with the occasional verse or ripping solo. And a Neil Young solo, I learned, sounds much the same now as it does on the old recordings: it’s not concerned with technical proficiency, in fact the virtuosity comes more from his unique feel. Young’s wisdom only benefitted his playing. He’s spent his whole life, 78 years now, morphing with his instrument.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse | photo by Paige Walter for WXPN

The crowd took a deep breath of fresh air when the lights fell on “Love and Only Love,” and Young reemerged with only an acoustic guitar playing “Comes a Time,” a wise old folksy tune about time’s inevitability. Just like that, the set changed from Vedder to Dylan. And that’s Young: he has range. And even when he’s pushed the limits, and was sued by Geffen Records for it, his transgressions are revisited fondly through history. Take commercial nightmare Trans (1982) for example. This abrupt left-turn complete with Vocoder and an affair with Devo eventually became a cult favorite. 

Young pulled the audience in fiercely for “Heart of Gold,” and finished his acoustic time with “Human Highway.” Especially in those more tender moments, no iPhone video was worth taking your attention away from the stage. Young’s voice sounded similar to all the recordings I’m familiar with – it hadn’t fallen to the depths like contemporaries Dylan or Leonard Cohen. Then it was time to bring back Crazy Horse for “Hey Hey, My My,” a song Young once swore off for its association with Kurt Cobain’s passing. (The lyrics “it’s better to burn out than to fade away,” were penned in Cobain’s suicide note.) “Sedan Delivery” finished off the set, touching on Young’s foray into punk with heavy interludes of psychedelia. 

Answering an insistent applause for an encore, Young returned to play “Roll Another Number for the Road,” beckoning us home, and another classic to satiate us, “Down By The River.” Invited to open the night was Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir, a cultish New York performance art troupe that performs guerilla concerts around the city in protest. Reverend Billy preached that consumerism will lead to the end of humanity, and spread messages like “Climate change is real” to the crowd. The Choir’s presence was a warm, welcoming reception from Young, who will keep his 60s idealism with him until the end.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Freedom Mortgage Pavilion
  • Cortez the Killer
  • Cinnamon Girl
  • Fuckin' Up
  • Scattered (Let's Think About Livin')
  • Like a Hurricane
  • Don't Cry No Tears
  • I'm the Ocean
  • The Losing End (When You're On)
  • Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
  • Powderfinger
  • Love to Burn
  • Love and Only Love
  • Comes a Time
  • Heart of Gold
  • Human Highway
  • Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)
  • Sedan Delivery
  • Roll Another Number (For the Road)
  • Down by the River
Related Content
View All Related Content

No news added recently