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Sunday, December 02, 2012

On The Rail: Neil Young & Crazy Horse Concerts - Philadelphia, PA & Fairfax, VA

Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Philadelphia, 11/29/12
Photos by thrasher & thrashette
(Click photos to enlarge)

We're still just recovering from seeing Neil Young & Crazy Horse's 2012 Alchemy tour in Philadelphia, 11/29/12 and Fairfax, VA, 11/30/12. Trying to put into words and pictures what we experienced is often quite impossible to describe -- words fail -- even when one is literally riding the rail in all of its splendid, ragged glory.

Read the reviews.
Check the blogs.
Watch the YouTubes.
Follow the tweets.

Chat with those attending and the range of impressions of the concerts is nearly staggering. All the way from the best concert of a lifetime to the worst, depending on the setlist to the stage props to the venue's volume/acoustics and pretty much everything in between, needless to say that the universal consensus is that the tour must be doing something right in order to both thrill and piss off so many, to such extremes.

Like we sometimes say -- either you "get" Neil or you don't.

The twisted road has been a groovy psychedelic trip that at times has transcended into something so raw, so sublime, so primal, that one felt literally transported to another dimension in what Neil called his "analog time machine".

Neil Young sums up the situation with a mini rant just before launching into "Cinnamon Girl" by cursing "the doubters" and dedicating the song to "the believers."

Personally, we have seen Neil Young & Crazy Horse in the 1970's, 80's, 90's, 00's, and now 10's. For five decades now we have ridden that crazy horse, galloped along the rail,  smelled the force of the Horse and it has never been such an emotionally satisfying ride. Neil, Poncho, Billy and Ralph have all hit their strides as the tour draws to a conclusion across the North American megalopolis leg from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, PA and Washington/Fairfax.

"I sing this song because I love the man
I know that some of you don't understand"

The Philadelphia and Fairfax concerts were our fourth and fifth occasions to catch Neil & The Horse this Fall for which we feel fortunate, grateful, lucky, honored, and blessed. As has been the pattern over the the years, the concerts continue to improve, tighten, focus, and transcend as the tour moves from town to town towards conclusion.

As we noted in our earlier posting Thoughts & Memories on Alchemy Tour (Cleveland and Pittsburgh), the band has fully gelled into a wondrous blitzkrieg spectacle of howling, stomping feedback in "Walk Like A Giant", beautifully gentle pin drop acoustic of "Needle and the Damage Done", the anarchy garage punk of "Fuckin Up", and the triumphantly anthemic power of "Hey Hey My My".

"Ramada Inn" continues to just totally devastate and reduce grown men and women to veritable tears. Will the song "Ramada Inn" have the staying power to be a forever Neil classic? Yes, we think so. It just that good.

"He loves her so.
He does what he needs to.
She loves him so.
She does what she needs to."

When Neil and the Boys bring us into their intimate huddles on center stage, its as if we're sucked into the vortex's zone with them. At this point, its as if there is nothing in the existing universe other than the vibe, music and love that is pouring off the stage in torrents. Time stands still. Completely.

The legendary promoter Bill Graham once called Crazy Horse "the 3rd Best Garage Band in the World". To which we say simply, these guys are the North American Rolling Stones. Period.

Let us just say that  Crazy Horse's 2012 Alchemy tour, the final chapter of the Rust Trilogy, is for the ages.  Our first experience was with Rust Never Sleeps in 1978, and continued with Weld in 1990, now these shows.  While many things have changed indeed, the song still remains the same. As Neil has said: "Alchemy, like Rust and Weld, finds the boys at another stage of life's journey. Time has taken its toll, yet the spirit seems unstoppable."

It is magical brilliance that has brought us to this point. And we see very, very few signs that there is anything less than years ahead of us all of being on that never ending road where the music and love never stops. He definitely still hears the Muse and sees the Vista. And that makes us very happy.

peace, love and only love to all of our dear friends around the world,
thrasher & thrashette

ps - As we noted earlier, Arkansas Girls (HEART) Crazy Horse. And now, after the Fairfax concert, we have confirmation that Crazy Horse and Neil indeed do love Arkansas Girls. We'll have more of this extraordinary roadtrip tale in the near future. In the meantime, you can listen to us rave on about this on this week's Thrasher's Wheat Radio Hour Epic Road Reports Edition.

"It's a dream
Only a dream
And it's fading now
Fading away
It's only a dream
Just a memory without anywhere to stay"

Patti Smith

"People Have The Power"
(Dedicated to Neil's Old Black Guitar)

Patti Smith's setlist

The Philly rustie rail crew "With a big red beacon, and a flag, and a man on the rail..."

More photos on ThrashersWheatNeverSleeps | Facebook

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At 12/03/2012 12:26:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And to think, just 12 months ago, none of us - come on lets be honest - not a single one of us could have ever imagined that 2012 would be another year of the horse. Then they played at the Paul McCartney celebration, and rumours started, and then one day on neilyoung,com - completely out of the blue - the "Horseback" video appeared, and all thoughts of a pretty little Buffalo Spring reunion tour instantly fell off the radar screen, replaced with the potential for a reunion of the band that so many of us really wanted to see tour one last time.

And then they took it to the next level. We all knew that Neil was still in pretty good shape, given his excellent tours of 2008 through 2010. But there were concerns about the state of the horse: was she training; was she still able to jump high and run fast.

The stars did indeed align in 2012. The band is as good and healthy as ever, and for many of us in attendance, we still have our wits about us to soak it all up.

Even if I wake up tomorrow and realize this was all just a wonderful dream, it would be fantastic.

Great read Thrasher et al. Happy holidays to everyone. Christmas came early for many of us this year. Love and only Love will endure....

At 12/03/2012 04:30:00 AM, Blogger TonyACT said...

Truly awesome review and event coverage. I have my two tickets for Sydney next March and can't wait to see Neil and the Horse for the first time ever. I have every album, some bootlegs, the Farm Aid 'Interstate', lots of videos and I love the Pill. Oh my!!!

At 12/03/2012 05:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a great radio interview of Neil posted on the "Neil Young times"

A jalous euro fan...;

At 12/03/2012 08:51:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just want to say to those fans in Europe, GA is the way to go. In the US these were the cheaper tickets and by far the best way to see this show. Get on the floor Poncho side so you can see Neil and hear that delicious tweed Deluxe howl the spirit of the horse. In the bigger venues the main PA just didn't translate. Get down on the floor with the believers!

At 12/03/2012 08:54:00 AM, Anonymous SandCowgirl said...

We Arkansas girls <3 Crazy Horse now more than ever...
Tami C. (SandCowgirl)

At 12/03/2012 09:22:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well written, thrasher. This truly is a tour for the ages.

I know this if off topic, but does anyone know where I can find a recording of the Boston show? Its been a week since then, and I need to relive the best concert I've ever been too!


At 12/03/2012 09:30:00 AM, Anonymous RubyInthedust said...

I absolutely agree with your wonderful review. It really mirrors the spirit and the psychedelic experience while being carried on a flying carpet of powerful and pure sound woven by Neil and his congenial music-soulmates Crazy Horse.

My husband - a Neil-fan from the beginning - and I especially came over from Germany to attend the concerts in Boston, MSG and Philly, with Philly being the climax for us! We never saw Neil and the Horse in such a good mood and so connected to the audience. We felt so blessed and honoured - it was like they were playing just for us. We are so deeply grateful to Neil, Poncho, Billy and Ralph!

And having Patti Smith as a supplement was just amazing!

We will keep the memory of that Philly night in our hearts forever!

And we must tell this sweet story: At the end we were asking for a setlist and the only one available was given to a girl next to us. When I mentioned that we came all the way from Germany, she generously gave it us - that was so sweet - we will cherish that piece of paper forever!!

At 12/03/2012 10:15:00 AM, Blogger setlistthief said...

“Why do you ride that crazy horse inquires the shadow with little remorse?”

Speaking as an unabashed Rustie who does feel that Neil can do no wrong, even when he fails spectacularly (“Are You Passionate,” anyone?), 2012 rivals 1976 as a year of unparalleled artistic growth and creativity. From the sobriety to the book to the renewed energy of working with Crazy Horse, Neil has indeed definitively shown that rock and roll is an old man’s game, too.

I read “Waging Heavy Peace” a couple of months ago. As Jon Stewart put it, it is like walking around in Neil Young’s brain for awhile. Written simply (but not simplistically) I found it compelling, joyous, sad, and wonderfully illuminating. After having listened to the warm-up “Past, Present and Future” shows this summer I was convinced that sobriety has sharpened Neil’s songwriting and playing skills. Then my copy of “Journeys” arrived with its mundane, but lovely, reminisces of a childhood in Omemee. And then the Neil Young and Crazy Horse show in Fairfax on November 30th was announced.

How to describe the indescribable? I’ve seen Neil and the Horse perform 5 times now: twice in ’86, ’91, ’04, and ’12. Each time was the same, and different. The melodies, drive, and volume are all there. But this time I witnessed a camaraderie and a shared sense of humor among the players, as if these 4 guys pushing 70 were just happy to be alive making the noise they’ve been making since they were kids. And as a result, we all became kids again last Friday. As Lou Reed once said (and I paraphrase), there’s nothing like two guitars, a bass and drums.

Neil’s not the same guitar player he used to be (or maybe I just haven’t noticed before). His playing is more fluid, the leads lighter, melodic. He tends to play without a pick, employing all five fingers on his right hand to “feather” the strings moving up and down the fretboard in a manner resembling that of Wes Montgomery. This technique has opened up his guitar playing and it’s wonderful to watch and hear.

Not one to dwell on the negative, but as we age the opportunity to be a kid again is a rare privilege and one to be cherished. For you folks who have seen this tour (both the doubters and the believers) hold onto that. We can listen to the shows online, we can watch the Youtubes, but nothing, nothing replaces riding that horse. I know I’ll be there next time it comes through town.

At 12/03/2012 10:16:00 AM, Blogger setlistthief said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12/03/2012 11:09:00 AM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

Wonderful've somehow managed to describe the indescribable. This tour will live on as one of the greatest ever in the history of rock and roll, in the history of music and art. For those who couldn't be there, it's the next best thing. For those who were there, it's a pure time machine.

I'm hoping so much that Neil will choose to stay with this beyond the next leg. Imagine a Summer Tour, hearing this music outside in all its glory. Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, another Central Park show, really anywhere they want to play...I'll start making plans right away. Solid Sound 2013 is less than seven months away--that would truly be indescribable! First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is....

And one more time, thanks for everything that you do. You are truly the James Boswell for a special time in American Music.

I'm happy to say that I actually did predict a major tour with Crazy Horse was coming in 2012 (it's out there somewhere on TW). I just didn't realize how major it would be!

At 12/03/2012 03:06:00 PM, Blogger MARIAN M. said...


Maybe it's just me, but I get very annoyed every time I hear people put down "Are You Passionate?"
(Setlist Thief, 12/03/2012 10:15:00 AM).

That's like someone saying that they REALLY like your first child, but your third child is a failure, just no good.

I'm thankful that Neil doesn't feel responsible to please everyone. He just does what he does; and if we want to join him at the proper time to watch, he welcomes it.

Thrasher, thanks for your reporting! I missed them at MSG in NY due to illness, but your reporting has warmed my heart!

Marian M.

At 12/03/2012 03:56:00 PM, Blogger setlistthief said...

@Miran M.-apparently you didn't read the first part of the sentence where I said Neil can do no wrong. My point is that our failures, as well as our successes, define who we are. Especially artists.

Imagine a world where everything was perfect, no pieces of crap. Boring, no? But I, too, am grateful that Neil does what he does. And I have joined him every step of the way since 1972.

I hope your health improves, so that you can join him next time, as well.


At 12/03/2012 04:22:00 PM, Blogger MARIAN M. said...


Thanks for responding.

It's just that I love "Are You Passionate?" so darn much!

I think a lot has to do with not only the content, but the timing of the release (so close to 9/11).

I am a New Yorker, through and through and through, and it was just like receiving a love letter from Neil (which all of his albums really are) just at the perfect time.

But it's always about a feeling, and that album makes me FEEL BIG TIME.

Thanks for your kind wishes about my health.

I'm all better now!

Happy Holidays to you and your Loved Ones,

Marian M.

At 12/03/2012 04:40:00 PM, Blogger setlistthief said...

@Mirian M.-The connection with New York and 9/11 was not lost on me, but I didn't want to make any assumptions.

I, and so many of us here (thanks so much, Thrasher, for giving us this space) feel Neil speaks to us through his melodies and words. And each of his albums connect, or they don't. That's a good thing. AYP just doesn't speak to me the same way it does to you.

Thanks for the kind holiday wishes. Same to you and yours!

Take care!

At 12/03/2012 04:52:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you SO MUCH, Thrasher & Thrashette for the amazing photos and sincere, heartfelt accounts of these recent shows. I admit to feeling envious because the only show I was part of this year was Austin City Limits outdoor music fest, so it with all of the other bands and no "Rust" relics, it was a great performance, but no "bells and whistles" e.g. the giant amps, crazy-costumed road crew, no "... Hurricane" destruction-- JUST THE MUSIC (which was of course more than good enough... Hell, Austin they played the only "Down By The River" of this tour !!!)

I was only 11 years old when RUST NEVER SLEEPS happened, so I was too young to witness that. My first show was 1986 "Live In A Rusted-Out Garage"... Why is that tour never counted among The RUST trilogy? They were GREAT then, too !!! Next I saw NY in 1989, just post-Blue Notes, then not until TWISTED ROAD 2010 which was astonishing. Until this past October in Austin, I had thought that was THE VERY GREATEST concert--just NY solo-- that I had EVER seen, of any musical experience in my life. Now this ALCHEMY tour has pushed the speedometer and odometers both way past the "red"... Just astonishing and so multi-dimensional, from the poignancy of "Ramada Inn" to the hilarity of "F#!kin' Up"... Nothing I have ever witnessed can compare.

Thank you for everything, Thrasher. You walk like a giant... And take some GREAT photos !!!


-- Eric in sunny FLA

At 12/03/2012 05:33:00 PM, Blogger Electrocrusier2010 said...

After reading the comments about AYP, I am going to go home tonight and listen to it again. I enjoy how passionate the people on this site are about Neil's work.

At 12/03/2012 05:52:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

I heard the opener from Are you Passionettte on the radidio today! You're my girl, I'll be letting you go someday. Means alot to me at the moment too with my lil girl heading to college in the fall....I'll never be lettting go though...only in space and time, never in heart and soul..

We all have our favorites, but like my children, my family and my friends - I love 'em all. I may not like each album all the same, all the time, but it is afterall Neil's Family Portraits of work. so...

Thrasher, glad you had the fun on the trip. The reviews and photos are splendid. THANK YOU SO MUCH for all you do for us. We'd be off the beaten path without ya!

At 12/03/2012 05:59:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

Thrasher, thanks for the never ending inspiration and perspective! So glad you saw so many of these marvelous shows!

Setlistthief, I happen to love 'Piece of Crap' :) ... and jealous that you've been tuned in since '72 ...

Mariane M. feel better!

At 12/03/2012 08:47:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks to all for the kind words.

Neil stills hears the muse and sees the vista.

@Mr H - thanks for the compliment. Are we worthy of a comparison Boswell??

Well, coming from someone as well written and read as you, we're sincerely humbled.


At 12/03/2012 11:25:00 PM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

"Perhaps that had been the only pure time, at the beginning, when the ancient artist, knowing no other land, had learned to look at his own and had seen it as complete."
--V.S. Naipaul from In A Free State

Sometimes I set alone
I wonder about the things
My mum and daddy told me
--Junior Kimbrough

At 12/04/2012 03:53:00 AM, Blogger doc said...

so looking forward to neil and the horse down under in march


At 12/04/2012 08:24:00 AM, Anonymous growl said...

I am also an "Are You Passionate" lover. A very cool album.

At 12/04/2012 02:05:00 PM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

Here's the schedule for first three weeks of March:

March 1 Fly to Australia
March 2 Perth
March 3 Travel Day Off
March 4 Travel Day Off
March 5 Adelaide
March 6 Travel Day Off
March 7 Brisbane
March 8 Travel Day Off
March 9 Hunter Valley
March 10 Sydney
March 11 to
March 14 Days Off
March 15 Melbourne Laver Arena
March 16 Surf Coast
March 17 Day Off (St Patricks)
March 18 Fly to New Zealand
March 19 Wellington
March 20 Travel Day Off
March 21 Auckland

They seem to have some down time scheduled to recharge. Or maybe something else will appear. All of these shows will be incredible. The one at Rod Laver Arena will be epic. Hope for a continued happy and safe journey, as Neil continues loving life and music the way that he does.

"The heavens may send driving snow and bitter ice, but nature is in harmony. To find harmony man must also travel the path through storms and turmoil. And so the magic of the great peace came to the five nations, and the warmth of the stronger sun gave healing light".
--Iroquois saying

At 12/05/2012 08:40:00 AM, Blogger dyecraig said...

some shots from the fairfax show:

At 12/07/2012 07:56:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I'll have the show soon

At 12/18/2012 09:49:00 AM, Blogger doc said...

Mr henry, I've got gold tickets for the show in Sydney..i am so looking forward to neil returning with the much as I enjoyed Keith rick and anthony..theres nothing like that raw playing and inter connection between the horse and Neil..We've all dreamed about resaddling the horse..and by all accounts..the ride so far has been amazing.
i have been playing americana and physcodelic pill in heavy rotation for a couple of months now...and i'm lovin the new anyrhing else from the past will be an added all accounts..neil is playin as good as ever..and his rapport with the horse is legendary. he is the horse whisperer..and doesn't need to pull on the reigns too hard to get a response..long may you run neil..and bring the horse with ya!!



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