END OF THE LINE (a.k.a The Final 50): Thoughts on Crazy Horse
Photo by Roel @ Rust Radio!
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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)Thanks Mark!
TOUR DATES CANCELLED
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.
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 great...fast & 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.
Certainly hope it's not the end of the line for The Horse. But if it is, what a great ride it has been.
Rock in Roma, Italy - July 26, 2013
Photo by Francesco Lucarelli
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