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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Cork, Ireland: Highlights of Neil Young & Crazy Horse Concert - July 10, 2014

Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Cork, Ireland - July 10, 2014
Photo by Paul Docker | Facebook
(Click photo to enlarge)

By all measures, the Neil Young & Crazy Horse Europe tour is off to a very promising start.

Here's a comment on Cork, Ireland concert by Minke Toer:
Dear Youngsters,

Allow me to share a thought with you.

The ongoing tour of Neil Young and Crazy Horse has been marked by Billy Talbot’s unfortunate health accident. There has been a discussion about whether a Horse without Billy Talbot is Crazy enough. Interestingly, the inclusion of the wonderful bass player Rick Rosas draws attention to the role of Billy Talbot in the regular Horse lineup. Listening to the recordings of the first concerts of the present tour we can hear – as far as YouTube allows – marked differences in sound and approach in comparison to the performances of the Alchemy Tour of 2013. There is a different handling of rhythm in the ‘new’ Horse constellation. Yes, the alchemy is different. They’re cooking things differently than last year. And why should it be otherwise, when you change one pivotal player in a team of four, you bet the band will sound differently. Apparently, Rick Rosas has a more sparing, laid back, lighter tone than the fat and heavy, stomping style of Billy Talbot. And with that, he influences the sound of the entire band.

This – admittedly very superficial – observation made me think about a listening sensation. Over the last 25 years, I noticed that Crazy Horse has developed a rough, stomping style of playing that presents a perfect carpet for Young to perform his guitar solos. But the Horse’s sound has become less agile, less flexible over time. It probably started around 1990, with Ragged Glory (the Live album still had a greater variety in rhythm and sound). Now Ragged Glory contains more than a few wonderful songs and it is a spectacular example of how the Horse inspires Neil Young’s guitar playing. However, I seldom play the entire album in one go; it is too much, and too much of the same. Psychedelic Pill has the same effect, even to an extreme. It is like listening to all Anton Bruckner’s symphonies in one day. If I had to characterize it, I’d call it a typically white elderly male stomp, an elephants’ stampede in slow motion. I’ve often thought that the sound originated in the band members putting on weight, becoming more sluggish and heavy. One too easily gets the impression is that – indeed – it’s all one song. There is a heaviness, a monotony of pulse, which to my ears stymies Neil Young’s versatility. Needless to say, I have always preferred the more funkier, punkier, speedier Neil Young (or the lyrical one, of course). (Perhaps a good example is the Eldorado album – with Rick Rosas on bass – which is an often neglected highlight of Neil Young’s oeuvre.)

This may sound as a severe judgement, and perhaps it will enflame some big NY fans. But let’s not forget that appreciation is also – and preferably – critical appreciation. We’re taking this artist seriously, after all. Of course there is an enormous space for disagreement here (please do!), as many may particularly like the fat stomping sound of the post-1990 Horse. But that’s a matter of taste. The real point of discussion is whether we indeed hear this happening, and whether the Horse, and Billy Talbot in particular, has heavily influenced Neil Young’s sound over the last decades. We tend to see Young as a master choosing his comrades according to his inner voice, but have we really thought about the fact that influences also go the other way?

And now we’re in the midst of the Alchemy Tour #2. It’s fascinating to see what’s happening.

As I said, just a thought.

Cheers from Europe
Thanks Minke! Excellent assessment.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Don't Cry No Tears Live at The Marquee Cork Ireland 2014

Thanks EyesOfRust! More videos in EyesOfRust playlist.

Photo by Alvaro B.

Also, see Neil Young & Crazy Horse 2014 Concert Tour Dates for reviews, photos, videos and more.

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At 7/12/2014 07:56:00 AM, Blogger David McPherson said...

Fair enough assessment. I would've liked to see this reviewer go out on a limb though and say he prefers the unpredictable, far-out Neil of "Landing on Water." I thought praising "Eldorado" was kind of a "safe" choice for an under-appreciated album. I mean who is going to say that "Eldorado" is a "bad" effort? Pretty much no one. At worst, it's sort of a good but not great album in Neil's discography.

At 7/12/2014 09:19:00 AM, Blogger Raincheck said...

Well said, interesting, brave.

It started, really, with Rust. Listen to the Horse there versuson Zuma, and then go back to Everybody Knows. Over time they got heavier, which was cool, but also less versatile, less agile, it became a little more "all one song."

Now I don't know if is fair to lay all that at Billy's feet. The loss of Danny and somewhat of a natural evolution of the band, and maybe what Neil wanted to hear, all had an impact.

Having said that, looking at the videos, I miss the hell out of Bill'y's energy level on stage. And I'm sure a lot of fans PREFER the more frontal assault of later Horse. I love it myself, but I could listen to Zuma or the 1976 shows for hours. The later stuff fits a certain mood.

At 7/12/2014 10:05:00 AM, Blogger Lloyd Walton said...

It's all about the passion. Some nights the muse is conjured in stronger than others.
I heard Rick Rosas drive Neil to a very powerful night
back in Sault Ste Marie a few years ago.
Funny how some shows still resonate.

At 7/12/2014 11:58:00 AM, Blogger Owen Tromans said...

Really enjoying what has emerged from this leg of the tour... Some great choices. I personally love 90s Horse. Hearing Weld was what sold me on Neil in the first place. Growing up with Sonic Youth and bands who revelled in waves of feedback, I loved to hear Neil make his guitar sound like the end of the world. Nobody else does that so well. And last time I saw him I thought Walk Like A Giant was stunning. Great stuff. Of course I like much of Neil's other work too, he's a very versatile artist as we all know... But the molten dinosaur thud and klang of the Horse is a unique experience. What we REALLY need is an Alchemy live disc/film to put this period in perspective.


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