Sunday October 14, 2012
There are occasional moments on a trip when you think, ‘This alone has been worth the airfare.’ For some, it might be seeing the ruins of Macchu Pichu, the Parthenon, climbing the Himalayas or visiting The Louvre. For me, on this trip it was seeing Neil Young & Crazy Horse at ACL Fest.
In his autobiography Waging Heavy Peace – which I am enjoying reading and which didn’t deserve the slagging it got from one British reviewer – Neil writes about the special magic that happens when he and the three members of Crazy Horse get together.
That magic was in full flight on this ACL set and just a few minutes into the first song, ‘Love & Only Love,’ I knew this was going to be extraordinary. In fact, Neil didn’t sing at all for the first nine minutes as the song unfolded with some exceptional guitar solos from Neil counterpointed by Frank Sampedro on guitar, bassist Billy Talbot and rock steady drummer Ralph Molina. When this unit starts up it is like a loud, rhythmical, unstoppable beast.
‘Powderfinger’ emerged gloriously next and then they featured two songs from the new double CD/triple vinyl album Psychedelic Pill, the autobiographical ‘Born In Ontario’ and the epic ‘Walk Like A Giant,’ which stretched out to 18 minutes with a five-minute stuttering, shuddering ending.
At this point a lady near me asked, ‘Why doesn’t he just do a medley of his hits?’ She just didn’t get it and, although marginally cheered by the solo acoustic rendition of ‘The Needle & The Damage Done’ she and her friends left when the band rocked into two new songs: ‘Twisted Road’ followed by the great ‘Ramada Inn.’
As a side note, I must add that it was nice to be able to share the experience (and a beverage) with Off The Record listener Dan and his brother, although I did have to ask them at one stage to stop me from using my camping stool to beat up an American guy behind us who talked non-stop for the first 40 minutes (luckily to my slightly deaf left ear). We eventually did the Australian thing in retaliation – we moved.
‘Cinammon Girl’ elicited a predictably enthusiastic response and ‘Fucking Up’ continued the singalong (for some) before the final selection from the new album ‘Psychedelic Pill’. (Interestingly, there was nothing from Americana tonight, almost as if the band has already moved on from that).
To end the set, the band launched into an epic version (is there any other?) of ‘Down By The River.’ I clocked it at 16 minutes, someone else suggested 20 minutes. Whatever the length, it was fabulous. Young’s sinuous guitar playing is supported by the rhythm set up by Crazy Horse. It is as if they are playing to some shared heartbeat. Brothers in arms.
The rousing encore of ‘Hey, Hey, My, My’ brought what I can only describe as a monumental show to a fitting close. Rock ‘n roll as played by Neil Young & Crazy Horse will never die.
Someone emailed me on the morning of the show claiming that The Rolling Stones were about to announce London and New York dates for November/December and that I should consider making the trip. That very fleeting thought was erased within a minute of the opening song by Neil & Crazy Horse. How could I consider going to see a band that records two new tracks and then puts them on yet another greatest hits compilation? That is a display of complete and utter contempt for their fans and a money-grab of the worst sort.
Compare that attitude with Neil Young & Crazy Horse, who included 5 songs from their new album Psychedelic Pill, comprising at least 45 minutes of the two-hour set. By the way, can anyone actually name 5 songs from the Rolling Stones last 4 studio albums released over the past 25 years. Now come on, off the top of your head! I thought not.
This year I have seen a magnificent show by Bruce Springsteen at Jazz Fest, heard a mighty new album by Dylan in Tempest (and who cares if he borrows freely) and I have now seen a monumental show by Neil Young and Crazy Horse.
That is the Holy Trinity of 2012: Bruce, Bob and Neil. The Stones will probably never come anywhere close to joining that group again.