"Born in the USA" - Neil Young & Crazy Horse, February 9, 2013
Maybe it's just us who found Neil Young covering "Born In The USA" at the Bruce Springsteen 2013 MusiCares Tribute to be quite perfectly amusing.
Afterall, when we ran a poll on what song would Neil cover, virtually no one saw this coming.
As we mused on Thrasher's Wheat Radio, the "Born In The USA" irony when completely unremarked -- even up in Canada where we thought someone would've gotten all righteous.
Is it too far a stretch to suggest a connection between Neil Young's iconic -- and misunderstood -- "Rockin' in the Free World" and Bruce Springsteen's iconic -- and misunderstood "Born In The USA"?
So what was the deal with those "The Signing Cheerleaders"?
Afterall, just last year Neil Young & Crazy Horse released a song "Born In Ontario" on the album "Psychedelic Pill".
w/ Nils Lofgren & "The Signing Cheerleaders"
Photos via Wildaboutmusic - David Wild
(Click photo to enlarge)
"Neil Young made me sound like the Sex Pistols. Tonight made me proud to be a musician."
"Two sign-language interpreters dressed as cheerleaders"
Young shut down the pre-Springsteen portion of the evening with a "Born in the USA" that included two sign-language interpreters dressed as cheerleaders signing along to the lyrics.
"John Legend made me sound like Gershwin," Springsteen said. "I love that. Neil Young made me sound like the Sex Pistols. I love that. What an evening."
Of course, not everyone was thrilled by Neil & The Horse's rendition of the Bruce classic -- especially Springsteen fans. From the fan blog Backstreets.com:
But the night's worst performance came from the person one might have expected would deliver the best. Neil Young and Crazy Horse (joined by Nils Lofgren on synthesizer) absolutely butchered "Born in the U.S.A." Instead of "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World"-izing it, the arrangement seemed to be a kind of misguided attempt to turn it into Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," right down to the addition of two cheerleaders who were "cheering along" on stage in matching uniforms. That terrible creative choice (the poor women didn't know what to do with themselves 30 seconds into the song) coupled with Young's unfamiliarity with the lyrics (all performers save for Kenny Chesney used prompters) created a shambolic mess, with Neil shouting lines with apparent passion but missing the plot both literally and figuratively. That signature Crazy Horse fuzz guitar always appeals, but not this time. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise (Bruce included, who later said Neil had made him sound "like the Sex Pistols"), it was awful.And here's a counterpoint to Backstreets.com from MusiCares’ tribute to Bruce Springsteen, and the art of the cover version - National Performing Arts | Examiner.com by Harold Lepidus:
To me, Neil and the Horse nailed it. It was the best thing all night, a complete surprise, the only performance to match the magic and manic intensity of a Springsteen show. The addition of two awkward, clueless cheerleaders holding invisible rifles was a stroke of genius, and the sound had the smell of the Horse all over it. No one would misinterpret this “Born in the U.S.A.” as a jingoistic anthem. Springsteen compared it to the Sex Pistols, and he wasn’t far off. It's better to burn out than to fade away. Phillips, for whatever reason, didn’t get it, and insisted “it was awful,” and to not “let anyone tell you otherwise.” Well, I’m telling you otherwise. I also know many of my friends would agree with Phillips. Which is what makes Young, Springsteen, and their fan’s musical passions, fascinating.
@nilslofgren in his old band @crazyhorse with Neil Young.Wonderful home coming for Nils.Born in the USA. twitter.com/azsweetheart01…
— Amy Lofgren (@azsweetheart013) February 9, 2013
Neil Young & Crazy Horse with Nils Lofgren at Bruce Springsteen 2013 MusiCares Tribute.
And on the far left? Might that be Zeke Young?
More coverage on Neil Young News: Bruce Springsteen 2013 MusiCares Tribute: Neil Young & Crazy Horse cover "Born In The USA"!?! and YouTube: Neil Young & Crazy Horse cover "Born In The USA" - Bruce Springsteen 2013 MusiCares Tribute.
Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young
"You know, the difference between the greatness of Bruce Springsteen and that of Neil Young as someone once explained to me back in college: Bruce makes you think you, too, can be as great as he is; Neil makes you think he is really no better than you are to begin with. Remember that."
Dr. Eric Alterman - Altercation
Also, see The Difference in Greatness: Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young?