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Friday, May 09, 2014

"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".

Neil Young & Crazy Horse cover "Born In The USA"
w/ Nils Lofgren & "The Signing Cheerleaders"
Photos via Wildaboutmusic - David Wild

Bruce Springsteen
via SFGate
(Click photo to enlarge)

"Neil Young made me sound like the Sex Pistols. Tonight made me proud to be a musician."
~~Bruce Springsteen

"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
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 from MusiCares’ tribute to Bruce Springsteen, and the art of the cover version - National Performing Arts | 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.

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-electric-open.jpg neil_young_oldblack_flannel_hat
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?

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At 5/09/2014 01:08:00 PM, Blogger Lloyd Walton said...

I'd say that that's the sound of Neil being re-born in the USA.

At 5/09/2014 10:34:00 PM, Anonymous Harold Lepidus, said...

Here's my take (Very Pro-Neil):

At 5/09/2014 10:49:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher Wheat said...

Thanks Harold! And thanks for all the Dylan updates.

At 5/11/2014 08:46:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

That performance is a ROCKIN' MONSTER! That is balls out USA EY EY! That thing made me cry twice watching it with it's passion and the full Neil treatment, and Pancho in full Bruce headdress and voice. WOW, I liked it before but I love it right now. They killed that song, warts and all.


That's a love song straight from Neil to Bruce man, YoW!

At 5/12/2014 01:02:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher Wheat said...

Glad you enjoyed SONY.

Good to hear from you, as always.

At 12/11/2014 04:08:00 PM, Blogger George Kriza said...

I think the Born in the USA performance was truly outstanding... and agree it was the best of the night.

That reviewer is an idiot. And I am both an Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen fan.


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