Neil Young & Crazy Horse create a gorgeous, gut-wrenching guitar noise on the Smell the Horse Tour



By Steve Newton

The chameleon-like Neil Young has travelled through a kaleidoscope of musical styles over the years, switching effortlessly (and with varying degrees of success) between acoustic folk, bare-bones country, futuristic techno-bop, rockabilly, and whatever else happened to pique his interest at the time.

But anyone who’s been out of touch with Young’s latest projects—or who might still have visions of a hippie balladeer warbling “Old Man” or “Heart of Gold”—would have been rudely awakened by the onslaught of guitar-drenched rock that this favourite son delivered at the Pacific Coliseum last Wednesday (April 17). With solid accompaniment from the Crazy Horse line-up of rhythm guitarist Frank Sampedro, bassist Billy Talbot, and drummer Ralph Molina, Young produced enough gorgeous noise during his non-stop, 90-minute set to out-raunch the meanest heavy metal band.

On a stage sporting left-over props from the Rust Never Sleeps tour—oversized reproductions of road cases and vintage Fender amps—Young served up some of the finest tracks from the Crazy Horse archives, including the Sex Pistols homage “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)”, the much-covered “Powderfinger”, and the recent “Mansion on the Hill”.

His long-underrated lead guitar prowess was vividly displayed throughout but particularly during the majestic “Cortez the Killer” and on a gut-wrenching intro to Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind”. Continually stomping along and bending into his more strenuous guitar strangulations, the raggedly attired long-hair was living proof that you’re never too old to rock ’n’ roll. My only beef with the entire performance was that the encore consisted of only one throwaway tune.

Opening act Drivin’ ’n Cryin’, though a fine up-and-coming Georgia guitar band, didn’t cause much of a stir in the half-empty (at that point) Coliseum, and a couple of stretched-out selections nearly provoked yawns. But the band showed some spark on the more compact tunes, like the title track of the band’s latest album, Fly Me Courageous, and a set-closing rave-up on the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy”.

The second warm-up act, Sonic Youth, spent most of its set testing the limits of the crowd’s eardrums with barely controlled fits of feedback and distortion. The band was very skilled at that sort of thing, but its frenzied, discordant howl didn’t go over big with the more traditional Neil Young fans, many of whom beat a hasty retreat to the Coliseum beer garden.

One thought on “Neil Young & Crazy Horse create a gorgeous, gut-wrenching guitar noise on the Smell the Horse Tour

  1. Cool! I saw a couple of hippie girls walking away after that show wishing that he would have played those folk songs. Hey, I think you and I had a couple of those beers together. Awesome show for sure and her was rattling my earplugs with roaring feedback.

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