Neil Young Rides a Crazy Horse

Neil Young
Air Canada Centre
September 4, 2003
Neil Young rolled into town last night to thundering ovation at the Air
Canada Centre. The house was packed and the only seat open in my vicinity
was the one right next to me. At least my popcorn enjoyed a one hundred
dollar view.

After the opening band, Spy Boy, the stage was set, quite literally. Young
and Crazy Horse had brought a show for us to see, a combination of a rock
opera and a live music video. There were two set pieces, one on either side
of the stage, which Neil designed himself. The story of a town called
Greendale unfolded, complete with anti-war messages and save the planet
rhetoric.

Oddly enough Neil and the band managed to pull it off without the cynicism
that might be associated with such a message. In his own style Neil Young
sung the words which were actually put into the mouths of his characters as
the actors behind him lip-synched along. Their points were clear with lyrics
like "they took their bullshit and turned it into gold", "Mr. Clean, you're
dirty now" and that the worlf would be a better place "with a little love
and affection". Especially nice was the image on the back screen, which
served as a backdrop, of a billboard reading Support Our War with a car
idling in front of it burning up gasoline. Adding flavour to the show were
references to John Lennon, Bob Dylan and U2.

Neil and Crazy Horse rocked onstage with extended riffs and simple but
moving choruses. His lead guitar playing was right on and at times it was
easy to believe that we were not in the 21st century but somewhere back in
the 60's. The fact that such a message is still as necessary now as it was
before is a sad but real fact of life. At times the concert almost achieved
the atmosphere of a rally with the full crowd on their feet and the stage
full of young eco-political radicals waving flags.

After this show (which is out on CD and DVD) Neil and Crazy Horse came back
out on stage and played a more typical concert while the audience sang along
to their old favourites.

It was nice to see that even though the old warriors may be aging they can
still fight the good fight and hopefully inspire a new generation to
overcome their cynicism and disillusionment. Using the dramatic conceit
helped to get the message across without outright preaching, but it was none
too subtle either. An excellent performance that had us feeling that we'd
gotten two shows for the price of one and not quite so empty as the usual
glamour and glitter leaves us.

Writer: Nathaniel Whitfield


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