REVIEW & VIDEO of the Moment: Tulsa - Neil Young & Crazy Horse Concert, Oct. 14
Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Tulsa, OK, Oct. 14
Here's the Concert Review of the Moment on Tulsa - Neil Young & Crazy Horse Concert, Oct. 14 by Faith:
Maybe it was just that old Okie inferiority complex rearing its ugly head.Thanks Faith! Nice. Your review really captures the spirit of the night. (Faith Phillips is the author of the debut fiction novel Ezekiel's Wheels, available for purchase in Fall 2012 on Amazon.com)
But Neil Young fans here in Oklahoma worried we would never see the day when he would tour through Oklahoma again. It was never much of a question, actually. For more than twenty years we've just packed up our bags and driven in caravans to the likes of Colorado, New Mexico and Tennessee to see our musical hero without complaint. And though we loved Crazy Horse (oh, mama, how we love Neil with Crazy Horse) the dream that they would someday reunite and play together in Tulsa ... well, lets just say we sooner expected Jimmy Hoffa to stroll through. But we were oh so deliciously wrong in our doubt. When the Tulsa date for Psychedelic Pill was announced back in June the Oklahoma Youngsters were fit to be tied, as we say, and there would be no exaggeration in stating that many of us have been counting down since then to a certain date with The Horse in October 2012.
The Tulsa Convention Center was a drastic departure from some of the cozier venues that marked the 2010 Twisted Road tour. The place resembled a hollow cavern of sorts before the show started. Some fans in the crowd remarked on the number of seats that remained vacant. But when all was laid out on the line the TCC proved a fine accommodation for what was to come. After all, stuffing a phenomenon like Neil Young with Crazy Horse into the likes of a revered and delicate site like the Ryman would be akin to housing a raged bull in your dining room; something’s gonna get broken. You might even lose an eye.
At the moment the lights cut out over the crowd a loud cranking sound broadcast over the speakers and giant Fender amps floated up into the air above the stage where they would remain for the duration of the performance. Roadies decked out in lab coats and surgical caps bustled in and around the stage directing the set up. It was like a mini recreation of the hooded Road Eyes from the Rust Never Sleeps tour, this time on a minor scale relative to the music, and the costumes were designed to complement the name of the tour: Psychedelic Pill.
Two massive monitors designed to resemble old 1950s-style television sets anchored each end of the stage. Throughout the concert the screens featured close up shots of Neil and CH for the benefit of those situated in the dank nether regions of the TCC. In the interim before the show both screens displayed the old black and white Indian Head Test pattern; a symbol of great nostalgia from the sleepy-eyed childhoods of American Baby Boomers.
Quite unexpectedly the lovely voice of John Lennon came floating in on the air. A giant replica of a vintage microphone descended from above to join the floating barrage of Fender amps. As JL sang "I’d love to turn you on" and A Day in the Life descended into its chaotic, electrically-charged climax, the audience revved up like a Rocket 88 suddenly brought back to life. Neil Young came strolling out dressed comfortably in a t-shirt and a faded pair of jeans and the place went wild. Before the band began their set the American flag was set out on display and Neil could be seen singing along with the audience to the national anthem. Oklahoma musician Susan Herndon later posted that the beginning of the show was "more patriotic than any words spewed forth by the yutzes they’re giving us to choose from for this presidency."
At the conclusion of the anthem Neil strapped on Old Black (his customized 1953 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop) and prepared to go to work. The first sound to erupt from Crazy Horse was Ralph Molina sounding out loud staccato shots from the drums. Neil, Pancho Sampedro on rhythm guitar and Billy Talbot on bass joined together and fittingly kicked off the performance with an extended jam to introduce Love and Only Love. The old friends and band mates faced one another before a jewel box of illuminated amps. Neil howled out, "Hate is everything you think it is, Love and only Love will break it down" and somehow as he wielded Old Black like an axe the idea that the music could chop down hate seemed a trenchant and real possibility.
NY looked and sounded strong. Sobriety suits him. The television screens turned to Technicolor and Neil stomped the stage with his stringy hair floating around his head like a dirty rock-and-roll halo. The song dropped quickly into a lull that could not be taken for granted because everyone knew the danger that lurked just beneath. Next was a straightforward and rocking delivery of Powderfinger. The background vocals were tight and spot-on perfect from Sampedro. For a moment Neil’s guitar solo took on a Latin feel, then he returned back to his traditional sound. He massaged the tremolo like a man in love. Afterward the lab coats returned onstage and milled around while Neil gave a curt address to the crowd, stepping up to the mike and asking, "How you doing out there?" Born in Ontario followed, and the new lyrics were a relief to hear since Neil revealed in his recent autobiography Waging Heavy Peace that he had been unable to write any songs after he quit smoking grass. At this point in the concert the crowd calmed down and managed to settle in their seats for the first time. Their respite would not last long.
Walk Like a Giant
began with the cheerful whistle of all the men onstage but quickly descended into a rumbling, grumbling, low guitar echo that matched the lyrics as they described the death of the hippie dream. The whistle always carried on, the trademark sound of the song, which perhaps represents the constant truth that life must always carry on. Sampedro uttered "Walk, Walk, Walk," in the background and it was understood that no matter how alluring the utopian vision of the 60s and 70s, time and its people had to keep moving. Here the rhythmic chemistry with Crazy Horse was on full display and the sound seemed to fill every atom in the room, creating a static buzz – the very attributes that mark the CH sound. Neil claw-hammered away and if he hadn’t been so charming in his own cranky manner he might have appeared Frankensteinish up there stomping around and pawing at the guitar. The light show changed with each strike of the drum and the band teased out the end bathed in alternating pulses of red, orange, purple, pink, green & blue. And like the hippie dream, they were not prepared to let the song go. But at last they finally allowed its final release and the Oklahoma audience was barraged by a familiar sound overhead: the violent crash of a thunderstorm.
Following the intense rendition of Walk Like a Giant, Neil came out alone with his acoustic guitar and sang Needle & the Damage Done. The audience sang along loudly with every word, not just because they were familiar with the lyrics but because all understood the heavy toll of addiction. Neil wore his harmonica around his neck and the moment was a incredibly tender experience shared between the artist and his admirers. Twisted Road and Singer Without a Song filled out the middle part of the set. During the latter Neil went to his piano and evinced an old saloon-type sound.
followed, a signature CH song if ever there was one, forget that it was only written in the past year. The song tells the story of lasting romantic relationships the world over along with the difficult requirements of self-sacrifice and compromise required for long-lasting love. Neil began stalking the stage again when the overhead screens went black and he returned to his giant amps again and again like a trusted old friend. He was in a serious groove, high stepping and stooping low while he played. It was clear that Crazy Horse had once again given him the open canvas to freely display his gift. They crow-hopped and hunkered down along with him. The band appeared as a weird, happy grungy family. They had his back and he knew it.
Neil introduced his next song by stating, "I always like to say, ‘Here’s a song I wrote this morning’" then launched directly into a driving rendition of Cinammon Girl. One of the finest songs of the night was Fu*@in Up. Crazy Horse came together in the middle with the drummer setting the driving, cycling beat. Sampedro flipped off the audience with both hands at every opportunity. The notes were raw and someone howled out like a dog, during a hard hitting solo that took the sound to an ultimate high. Sampedro and Young dueled it out, absolutely slaughtering their guitars. Pancho stepped up to the microphone and yelled, "JUST A F^CK UP!" Again there was a hesitation to close out the song; pausing, starting, and ending again until at the conclusion Neil said, "we f*cked up the ending", and the crowd went wild with laughter and applause.
The oldest song from the set was Mr. Soul, which was accompanied by psychedelic colors swirling onstage to reflect the time period in which it was written. It seemed inconceivable that Old Black was not in tatters by this time after the beating she had been through. Ralph Molina’s skills on the drum set were never more evident during the show than at Mr. Soul’s conclusion.
At the inception of My, My, Hey, Hey (Into the Black) a curtain dropped behind the band and incredibly these old guys still wielded more energy than pre-teen kids hopped up on corn syrup and soda. Neil launched a classic solo and gave the audience the line they had been waiting to hear all night: "Rust Never Sleeps" and repeated "The King is Gone, The King is Gone". At the conclusion he yelled out "Thank you Tulsa!" and waved out at his fans. Although it surely cannot be, for a moment it appeared as though smoke could be seen rising from the strings on Old Black, who steadfastly withstood a furious barrage in the end.
Afterword the Lab Coats returned and like a thousand angry toddlers in demand of more candy, the audience stamped their feet and yelled and threw awful hissy fits until the band returned. Out rang a haunting echo. The finale was a bewildering version of Tonight’s the Night. Neil worked the knobs on Old Black to achieve an undulating effect, complimented by Talbot's steady bass line. Even though more than forty years have passed since the loss of his friends for whom the song was written, the emotional grief can still be heard in Neil’s voice, not just for Bruce Berry and Danny Whitten, but many more since. A searing heat rolled out on the sound as though a release of emotion and energy was exchanged. Perhaps it was a kind of musical osmosis from these few men out into a few thousand, so that the intense energy they held inside might dissipate and be stored away benign in the hearts of so many. Near the end he distorted his voice in a deep, strange and even comical fashion that caused some in the crowd to look around in bewilderment. At last he whispered to the audience and brought the night to its knees in a heavy conclusion. Before he left the stage Neil appeared jubilant and held his arms out to the audience as if to take in all the love and admiration sent up to him from the people.
While the audience walked out of the venue, with heads abuzz and ears ringing, the melody of the Christmas song, What Child Is This played and the message "Thanks to all who supported the Bridge School" was posted on the overhead screens. Although it was in truth Neil's own contribution that made it possible, he managed to make the fans feel that they had contributed to something bigger and more important than any concert: the support of a school that helps physically challenged children overcome impairments through the use of technology.
In his new book, Neil explains to his reader:
Am I too cosmic about this? I think not, my friend. Do not doubt me in my sincerity, for it is that which has brought us to each other now.His words ring of the truth and that must be the basis for Neil's long, loyal following. It blossoms and is rebirthed through the artist's lifelong allegiance to truth and sincerity through the music. That's one dose, psychedelic or no, of which music fans can never have enough.
Also, see Neil Young & Crazy Horse 2012 Concert Tour Reviews.