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Thursday, August 15, 2013

END OF THE LINE (a.k.a The Final 50): Thoughts on Crazy Horse

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Cologne, Germany, 2013
Photo by Roel @ Rust Radio!
(Click photo to enlarge)

So where does Neil Young & Crazy Horse go from here?

Here are some thoughts from our good friend Mark "Spook The Horse" Golly.
END OF THE LINE (a.k.a The Final 50)

August 8, 2013
For immediate release:
Due to an accident involving Crazy Horse, the remaining dates on the Neil Young and Crazy Horse tour of Europe and the British isles have been cancelled. We are sorry for any inconvenience this causes to our fans or the Festivals where we were scheduled to appear. As you must be, we too are disappointed at this unfortunate turn of events.
-- Neil Young and Crazy Horse

…that was that then…. The end of the (Euro) line had just have moved in to view for Crazy Horse….

Already Thrasher’s Wheat has seen a heap of semi-invective directed towards the band, Neil Young, Lookout…take your pick. There’s a lot of frustration and upset out there (not hard to see why really) but this isn’t about that anyway ~ people say and think what they want to, vent their feelings in ever more forthright ways. However accurate or misguided the mounting opinions, thoughts and (whisper it) conspiracy theories may be, we’ll leave those all to one side…

London August 8th

So…. I got off the plane at Heathrow’s T5 after a brief sojourn in to Oslo last night. I’d sent friends a few texts whilst in Norway’s lovely capital and sent one more before heading on to the Underground, mentioning the sublime last 50 minutes of the Spektrum show and just how much I was looking forward to heading to Copenhagen on Monday.

As I emerged from the dank Central Line sauna, my battered Nokia was lighting up with texts in the midst of the back end of another London rush hour. One by one as I opened them, the words “tour off” were the only things to compute in a travel-weary brain.

I made a swift call to someone who’d know, and that momentary sense of dread that something truly awful had unfolded in the 18 hours since they went off stage were swiftly put to bed ~ Poncho had a busted hand ~ so, y’know, that was good-ish news, but it meant that there was now a whole heap of unpicking of travel, hotels and ticket refunds to be sorted, money would be lost and some would come back.

Coming back.

Money coming back.

But are Crazy Horse? Crazy Horse coming back…?

Seven Euro tour shows have gone to the wall, but the early signs are that the four in the US and Canada in late August & early September are still said to be ok. They’ll be honoured. Lucky them…

…for those people who had eyes on Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Belgium and England the words “oh, that’s a shame” seem almost trite. On the evidence of that final, incendiary, revelatory 50 minutes in Oslo they do make sense. They make one hell of a lot of sense.

That show at the Spektrum on Wednesday night was special. This was Show 9 on “my” Alchemy tour, thousands of miles and thousands of pounds invested in one last hurrah for the Horse ~ starting in Seattle last winter and ending (now) in Oslo ~ and the grand finale was as good as I’ve seen them on this tour. Jeez, it was as good as I have ever seen Crazy Horse…

Everything started off well on the night and progressed, with a typically thundering clip-clop, to something that became more and more out there...there was a funky setlist too (within the, admittedly, restricted parameters of the tour, especially latterly) and although it was a familiar, well-worn (though beguiling) path through to the acoustic set it remains a path like no other.

A lovely long, drawn out "Human Highway" and delicate, fragile, bare bones reading of "Red Sun" were the headline contenders for “moment of Hour 1”, the latter even trumping the ever-stellar "Love & Only Love" and the deafening clamour of tectonic plates pounding and colliding together during "Walk Like A Giant" (Neil, head tossed back, eyes shut, howling whilst he waggled the amp knob hidden behind the mesh on the cartoon Fender stack....on the big screen, Young appeared like some sort of demented, immense rock'n'roll T. Rex ~ a dinosaur indeed in one respect, but not in the regular, “tired old artist” cliché way ~ this was a beguiling and a quite extraordinary sight...and sound).

Typically, there came a momentary Crazy Horse wobble or two through “Hole in the Sky” and then a beautifully harmonic “Singer Without A Song”, as pretty and as sweet as this song has sounded to my ears. Gut-churning, hell-hole deep chords pronounced the (predicted) arrival of “Ramada Inn” and then…. and then, something began to change. Something began to emerge from the shadows to make a really entertaining and a really very good Crazy Horse show in to something just that extra bit special….

Three-quarters of the way through one of the most subdued and melancholy "Ramada Inn" renditions I’ve heard (no bad thing by the way), the dynamic changed. Crazy Horse went from just plain greatness to something that went way out in to another dimension....Poncho and Neil's guitars locked and inter-twined in the most heavenly and divine manner ~ on the big screen you could see that Neil Young had found that special zone that he always bangs on about...blissed out, lost in the moment with his friends ~ the groove was there, right there, in that single capture as the fabled spook began to nestle across the stage like a melodic shroud.

It was the kick-start to something utterly sublime and totally unforgettable...what followed blew me away, expectations confounded once again. Damn, this band keep doing this to me! 63 shows on the register and they do this to me…unbelievable…

Funny, afterwards, talking to my friends Ragnar and Joost (fellow long-time, seasoned NY observers and travellers) we all mentioned, almost as one, just how none of us would ever have thought that "Sedan Delivery" would be the song of the night at any NYCH show…

…but the band fizzed and crackled and exploded through it like a sonic Catherine Wheel ~ a genuinely ferocious assault on the song, and for a few minutes, it felt as though I was as close to capturing a moment in time, fully 35 years ago with the Horse in full '78 “Rust Never Sleeps”-mode, as I've ever seen them. Jaw-droppingly & furious, Crazy Horse turning back the garage rock clock I guess.

"Surfer Joe" was a fairground colossus, taken around the back of the ferris wheel where he became lean and mean and fist-fight tight machine...while the twin Gibson assault on "Mr Soul" melded and mashed the song in to a psychedelic punk pulp. The solitary encore ("HHMM") was triumphant, victorious and glorious....loud as f*ck....with a nod to JJ Cale as well it seems....the climax hurtling along like a freight train...the song returned to the dramatic conclusion looking suitably (appropriately) brutalised, battered and bruised.

Another gaze up at the big screen ~ there were smiles all round the stage. Four old men. Trusted friends. Wrapped in each other’s arms. Doing what they wanted to do best. With whom they wanted to do it. They had just made one heck of a racket. And for 50 peerless minutes they made the best noise made by man. Ever. The smiles said it all. They had nailed it. And they knew it. They really did....with grins as broad as fjords and a “whoop whoop” they were gone, laughing and joking as they descended the stage.

For the final 50 minutes or so of Oslo, Crazy Horse were the best I'd ever seen them. The best. No question. Unfeasible tight (for them), well drilled and precise in a way that only Crazy Horse can be. This was a band making the most heavenly rock’n’roll clamour ~ shards of sound dropping down from every inch of the ceiling and walls of the hall.

….and then, less than a day later came the texts.

As things began to sink in on the Liverpool Street concourse, the most extraordinary moments of bitter-sweetness came along too….maybe, just maybe, I’d actually just seen the final Crazy Horse show in Europe. Fate often plays a hand (sorry…) in the constant career arc of Neil Young ~ before anyone really knew what was what, I did wonder whether the stable door would be locked and bolted and the key thrown away for good. Out to grass they would go as the pack leader ventured off to pastures new.

…thankfully, as it stands, that doesn’t seem to be so. Interlocken could be the finale and the final farewell. Who knows?

Maybe the studio door will open again and an unparalleled third CH album in a row may come along. Maybe the tour will find extra legs. Maybe, maybe, maybe…

...the general feeling is that most folk will be staggered if they ever make it back to Europe...but with that bittersweet smile creeping back again, at least I can say “I was there” for what may have been the grand exit of the Horse from the European barnyard....

I so hope not.

And, as ever with Neil Young, time will tell.

NYAS #1098
Thanks Mark!

Certainly hope it's not the end of the line for The Horse. But if it is, what a great ride it has been.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Rock in Roma, Italy - July 26, 2013
Photo by Francesco Lucarelli
(Click photo to enlarge)

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At 8/15/2013 09:37:00 AM, Anonymous The Zuma Band said...

..and as the band left the stage, full of exuberance at what they knew was a stellar performance, Poncho yelled "Whoo-hoo! That was incredible! Boy, was I wrong! We can keep this rolling for years! I feel like a teenager!" slamming his hand onto the door frame for emphasis...

Anyways, many seem to be reading too, too much into this unfortunate incident. They know they still have the fire, as that report is proof. They also know that, with proper care, they have a few more cycles. Reports of their demise are highly exaggerated.

At 8/15/2013 10:08:00 AM, Blogger Robert said...

At 8/15/2013 11:20:00 AM, Blogger William McNicol said...

And when it was over it felt like a dream?

Don't say it's over.

Don't you be caught with a tear in your eye.

At 8/15/2013 11:30:00 AM, Blogger rdvdijk said...

My story slightly differs from Mark's. I had seen the band play 5 times earlier on the European tour, in 5 different countries. I didn't go to Oslo, I chose to go to the Way Out West festival in Gothenburg the day after.

I met some "friends I've never seen" there, after many years of online friendship. We met at the festival the moment that Alabama Shakes took the stage, and when they ended their set we finally had time to chat "in real life".

Soon after that, disaster struck. My Swedish friend glances over to one of the big screens and says: "The show is cancelled." Written on the screen was a translation of the official statement of the tour cancellation.

The empty feeling that I immediately had is hard to describe. You'd have to be there to know how it feels. Emptiness. Disbelief. Sadness. And that feeling still lingers with me, a week later.

Neil had cancelled a show on me before: The second Brixton Academy show in London, in May of 2002. But at least then I had just seen him the night before. But the feeling was exactly the same. Emptiness.

I really hope that Neil and the Horse will make it up to us. Soon. Time is running out, let's roll.

At 8/15/2013 11:34:00 AM, Blogger The Loner said...

The show in Oslo was really great. You are describing it much better than I am able to. When the show was over I really feilt that it was something special, even better than the shows in Lucca and Rome, though both were great. So I can live with the cancelation of the Gothenburg show, though it (and the other cancelations) was a disappointment - to everybody of course. Hoping to see Neil with or without the Horse further down the road!

At 8/15/2013 01:32:00 PM, Anonymous Doubter said...

as a veteran of 31 NY shows, not surprised in the least Sedan was best song of the night. If you place it in comparison to any of the dreck PP provides it towers over those lame tunes. Its hurts me to say that but the record is just a huge disappointment of over used rhythms previously played to death by the guy. The record PP is like a shark, it has to keep moving or it dies. I think what we have here is a dead shark.

At 8/15/2013 02:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have listened to Ramada Inn about 200 times since its delivery in 2012. That is 197 times more than I have ever listened to Sedan Delivery. Better guitar, better vibe, better song, and 5th best song of the year in Rolling Stone. Sorry, another doubter goes down for the count...

At 8/15/2013 02:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Doubter - pretty harsh words about PP. I have a mixed opinion compared to yours. We all should know that Neil has been using many of the "same" chords & chord progressions for decades in his songs. Yet he has always had the gift of melody that made each song unique and mostly great - despite repeated riffs, progressions, etc.

PP doesn't change the formula - I agree with you there. And there are a few tracks on PP that I skip over - Drifting Back is way to tedious to sit through more than once or twice - although I do love it up till about the 5:00 minute mark - after that it's a bore.

The title track just sucks. Period.

But Doubter - how can you overlook the majesty of Ramada Inn? I'm sorry - it's a gem. There are instrumental passages that soar especially the final one before the last chorus. WLAG is fucking great but the ending drags on - so what?

I will say that after being out for almost a year now, PP has mostly left my rotation. Ramada Inn is sit down and listen material - I won't just have it on in the background or turn it off mid-song.

Play small theaters again Neil! It's where you shine the brightest!!!

At 8/15/2013 04:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gonna get a hop hop hair cut
Gonna get a hip hop hair cut....

(You think that comment doesn't fit here? Well where the Fuck does it fit then?)

At 8/15/2013 05:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is better to burn out then it is to rust...

At 8/15/2013 06:37:00 PM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

Ladies and gentlemen, can I please have your attention? I've just been handed an urgent and horrifying news story. And I need all of you to stop what you're doing and listen:




But anyways, thanks Mark for being such a great fan of Neil and music in general, and for giving me a great feeling of what it was like. And don't worry, The Horse will ride again.

And if I had a dollar for every time I've heard that Dead Shark metaphor, I could retire and follow Neil down every turn of that long Twisted Road!

At 8/15/2013 11:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Psychedelic Pill leaves a lot to be desired lyrically. Ramada Inn and WLAG are great guitar songs though.
Overall I don`t find it that different than Chrome Dreams II. A couple of really great guitar songs, and then mostly filler. Lyrically Chrome Dreams was probably better.
I am hoping Born in Ontario makes it back on the set list in a couple weeks though when the Horse returns to play in Ontario. Red Sun, Singer without a song, and Sky are all buzz kills in my opinion, so I`m hoping if there has to be slower songs, maybe Helpless will get a spin as well since its another Ontario song.

At 8/16/2013 12:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, people, you're missing the point of the article. Download the bootleg and listen to the last 50 minutes of the Oslo show. This dude is right! It's crazy good. The Horse just tore it up. At this ripe old age, they just fucking killed it. Thank you Zuma Band so much for pointing out the obvious. There's just so much to take in, but this moment is truly special. Made even more so by being the end of the European tour. God damn they were just fucking killing it. Movie, movie, movie movie........please?!

At 8/16/2013 03:32:00 AM, Blogger asg said...

pointless useless bickering...explain it to me, maybe I'll understand...

At 8/16/2013 11:01:00 AM, Anonymous Thos said...

asg, no point asking for a movie of the tour - it will never arrive!

I adore nearly all of Neil Young's music and most of his filmmaking, but do not like the way his management team treats the fans.

I am sure it is all well-intentioned, and genuinely comes from a sense of excitement for each project, but the frequent announcements of new album series (Special Edition Series), remixed versions of old albums (Time Fades Away II), unreleased gigs (Odeon-Budukan, etc), concert films (Trunk Show) goes on and on and on, with very little to show for it - not to mention the archives.

It is massively unprofessional for these to be official announcements through proper channels, yet the vast majority of them amount to nothing, which fans feel as real disappointment - I am speaking from experience here!

You just don't get this from the people who look after the equally important archives of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen etc, and I do think that I would rather not hear about all the amazing things Neil Young has stashed in his barn than hear about how brilliant they are and they'll be out next year, isn't it exciting, wait till you hear it guys, etc etc, only to be let down again!

Anyway, rant over!


At 8/16/2013 11:42:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a fair rant Thos.
I remember buying I think it was the greatest hits that came in 2 versions. One was a CD version only and the other was a CD & DVD combo.
I spent the extra bucks for the version with the DVD only to find out it consisted of the same songs, with only a picture of a record spinning. No actual footage of anything.
Neil can definately suck sometimes.

At 8/16/2013 11:57:00 AM, Blogger asg said...

*I* didn't ask for a movie of the tour, but if Neil can afford to do that I wouldn't feel so bad about missing a tour--keeping in mind that no two shows are alike...I don't think Neil is saying "fuck you" to anybody...I think he's saying "this is what I'm doing, take it or leave it..."

At 8/16/2013 01:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thos is so spot on with his rant. I remember buying 'Live at the Fillmore East' in 2006 and with it came a nice little card advertising the soon-to-be released Archives Volume I. Coming in 2007, etc.!!!!!

Three years later it was finally released.

It's similar to Charlie Brown & his sister Lucy playing football in the backyard. Charlie knows she's going to trick him every time, yet he continues to fall for it.

I'm beginning to feel that way towards Neil.

Remember when Toast was up on NY Times as a 'coming soon' teaser accompanied by a small article describing the sessions, etc.

Still waiting on Toast.
Still waiting on Trunk Show.

Oh yea and then there was the tease on Neil's website a few years ago about the unreleased albums 'Oceanside/Countryside' & 'Homegrown' and the original 'Chrome Dreams' and how they were coming out on re-mastered vinyl - "get your turntables ready" was the rallying cry!

Still waiting on those too.

The more I think about it, the angrier I become. I know Neil is an artist & that he does what he wants. But the constant teasing of new releases that never happen is beyond old and frustrating.

Still waiting on those Sheppard Fairey paintings for the 'Americana' tour as well - lol - remember that? Oh that's right, it never happened.

At 8/16/2013 04:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn you had to remind us of those paintings. That fuckin blows. Now I'm pissed too! Screw it that we just got a year long Crazy Horse tour. They played the same shit over and over anyway. Maybe someday Neil will do something to make us all happy?! We can only hope......

God Bless Neil Young & Crazy Horse

At 8/16/2013 04:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just play "Americana" really loud and look at them online (click and they enlarge):

At 8/16/2013 05:31:00 PM, Blogger Dmitri Karamazov said...

God bless Frank. Speedy recovery! God bless Crazy Horse and Neil Young!

At 8/16/2013 08:28:00 PM, Anonymous Doubter said...

I see your point Mr Henry ( Im no Mr. Henry ! Ive been told) and can absorb that. Ive been a bit of a broken record (PP?) I admit. Next time though, inside voice please. Its just that everytime people say how good PP is Im here to remind them its less than mediocre. Im not trying to call it PP (pee pee) just can't spell Psycadelic right everytime. If I were not such a huge NY fan I just wouldnt care. "I want to walk like a giant on the land". Yes, Neil, we know. Thats your ego getting through desperate for relevance again. Its exactly why you almost completely ignored the Americana record in show. That was a all covers record, hardly counts in your mind, yes? We did get the Comin Round the Mountain song in Tahoe a lil over a year ago. A show I shed tears in, so emtional at times. Theres no way Ramada Inn beats Sedan Delivery. Its impossible. Back when the "Its all one song" statement by NY was made around Year of the Horse I got the joke and smiled. Now thats its a reality its not so funny. Ol Neil has some King Kong Balls saying "Fuck the Doubters!" after such a derivative effort. Thats part of what gets me.

At 8/17/2013 12:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

King Kong Balls, ping pong balls, who cares doubter? Did you really cry when Neil played "Comin round the mountain"? Jokes on you. Fuck the doubters indeed.

At 8/17/2013 12:40:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some good points being made. We certainly can't take Neil at his word. But we do get to revel in theses amazing concerts over the last decade.
that beats the Archives any old day.A couple albums of the last decade I can do without, but not PP. And PP is one of my favorite songs on that record.
I was at Tahoe too and that was one sweet concert. I wish I could have the Americana posters too, but not at the expense of performances like that. For me, keepin it real and current nudges out keepin his word.

At 8/17/2013 12:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bumper stickers should be issued: Release the American posteriors. Release the American imposters. Release the Americana posters, dammit! How about for Christmas giving? That keeps it current, it's still 2013, the boys have been playing thru October, Americana and PP are inextricably wed. with a mini Americana revival in the remaining shows, it'd work. OK, just dreaming.

At 8/17/2013 01:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


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