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Saturday, April 06, 2019

"The Final 50": Revisiting Neil Young & Crazy Horse in Oslo 2013

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 updated thoughts from our good friend Mark "Spook The Horse" Golley looking back on the Europe 2013 tour of Neil Young & Crazy Horse. Back in 2013, Mark "Spook The Horse" witnessed what he called "END OF THE LINE (a.k.a The Final 50): Thoughts on Crazy Horse". "The Final 50" tells the tale of Crazy Horse's last amazing gallop with Poncho. Read all all about it and get pumped up. -- what would be defined as the end of an era and the beginning of a new era and spirit that would soon get REAL.



Recently I had the pleasure of working with UNCUT magazine editor Michael Bonner as he curated the cover story special on NYCH at 50. It was fascinating to see the features contained within the whole piece come together, one by one, as Michael and his team of writers constructed one of the most entertaining pieces on Neil that I’ve read in the printed press here in Britain for many years.

One of the interviews that Michael conducted himself was with Poncho Sampedro, out in his home on Hawaii. I had some excited emails from MB soon afterwards and had a sneak preview of the content. Amongst many things that cropped up in conversation was Poncho’s retirement from Crazy Horse ~ Ralph Molina had confirmed as much a couple of months ago when the subject was raised via Facebook but here was Frank telling Michael that it was over ~ close on 40 years as a member of the best band Neil Young has ever worked with were, officially, done.

That was that and Poncho seemed utterly unfazed by it.

It turns out that I was lucky enough to see Poncho’s last Crazy Horse show, at Colmar, France in August 2014. The show was one of the better ones from what, I thought, was a largely disappointing 17 gig European tour. This was a band that (to my eyes and ears) clearly missed Billy Talbot (who was at home in America, recovering from a stroke) and despite the late Rick Rosas filling in admirably, the lack of a key member of the band and the (curious) addition of backing vocalists Dorene Carter and YaDonna West took the vibe some distance from what was (and still is) the true Crazy Horse and it cantered off into a different band’s realm altogether (that said, the Colmar “Hurricane” was remarkable and “Be The Rain” wasn’t far behind).

Turn the clock back exactly a year and a day before Poncho’s final, final CH show in Alsace and you alight on August 7 2013. An unassuming Norwegian Wednesday evening, this was, as we know, the very last Neil Young & Crazy Horse show to feature what remains, for many, the classic line up of this extraordinary band who so many of us hold dear.

A line-up that had been in place since 1975.
A line-up that had performed over 500 shows together.
A line-up that recorded some of the very finest albums within Neil Young’s mighty musical legacy, starting at “Zuma” and ending with “Psychedelic Pill”.

As it happens, I was fortunate enough to be in Oslo to witness that “other” final Poncho show too. A show that has taken on (for me) some significance over the last five and a half years as the realisation dawned that the Neil, Billy, Ralph and Poncho Horse were seemingly done.

Soon after I came back from Oslo, when the extent of Poncho’s injury after his freak accident weren’t fully known, I wrote a piece for Thrasher’s Wheat entitled “End of the Line (a.k.a. The Final 50)”. That was my attempt to convey the majesty of the show’s last 50 minutes, 50 minutes which may have been the last for Crazy Horse full stop. That, obviously, wasn’t the case but, as we know now, there was a significant “finale” element to the Norwegian show…

I mentioned this a couple of times to Michael Bonner at UNCUT, assured him that the Oslo performance really was as extraordinary as I tried to tell him it was ~ I then dug out the file I sent to Thrasher’s Wheat and re-read what I’d written. I still feel strongly that I got it right. It was that good a performance.

By one of those lovely little quirks of fate, as I was finishing off reading some proofs of the UNCUT material, I took a look at what was playing over on Roel van Dijk’s brilliant “RUST RADIO” website. Fate played her hand there and then, in five minutes the NYCH show from the Oslo Spektrum was about to start. Some two hours later, I was still rooted to the chair. It was really was one heck of a show, the ragged bits were nowhere near as ragged as I remembered them to be at the time and the good bits were still good. Like, really good. And that “final 50” absolutely held up on my first listen to the show since I left the venue.

So, I’ve revisited that “End of the Line” piece. Rather than trawl through everything from then, I went to the part of the gig that excited me most. The final 50.

Try and track down the Oslo show. The recording captures vividly an exceptional performance. I really hope that my excited words from 2013, tweaked slightly in 2019, manage to convey the extraordinary vibe I felt that night as something very special happened.

A happening that has become ever-more special as the curtain came down on one exceptional incarnation of Crazy Horse.

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

OSLO SPEKTRUM Wednesday August 7, 2013

Three-quarters of the way through one of the most plaintive, melancholy and downright beautiful presentations of "Ramada Inn" that you could ever wish for, it happened.

There was a tangible shift in the onstage dynamic as Crazy Horse went from just plain greatness to something that went in to another (fabled) dimension. Neil and Poncho’s guitars locked and inter-twined in the most beguiling manner; you could see Neil Young had found that special zone that he’s talked about in sometimes reverential tones; blissed out, lost in the moment as he locked in to somewhere unquantifiable with his allies. The groove was there, right there, in that single moment as the spook nestled across the stage. It felt magical at the time and it still felt magical as I listened to RUST RADIO. You can hear, and sense, the shift to this mysterious musical place ~ it sent shivers down my spine at the time and I was surprised at how it moved me six years on too…

This extraordinary moment, within one of the greatest songs that Neil Young has ever written, kick-started a sublime and unforgettable final 50 minutes: what followed astonished and delighted in equal measure, expectations confounded once again by this gnarly old foursome.

It’s odds-on that no one would ever have thought that "Sedan Delivery" could be the song of the night at any NYCH show, but the band fizzed and crackled through it like a sonic Catherine Wheel, a ferocious assault on the ageing song. From five rows back, it felt as though the band were as close to capturing a moment in time, from fully 35+ years ago, Crazy Horse in as full-on a 1978 “Rust Never Sleeps”-mode as anyone had seen since. Jaw-droppingly good, fast & furious, they were turning back the garage rock clock. "Surfer Joe" (complete with infamous” X-rated” verse) was a fairground colossus, taking you around the back of the ferris wheel, lean, mean and fist-fight tight, while the twin Gibson assault on "Mr Soul" melded and mashed the song in to a psychedelic punk pulp, shards of booming sound dropping down from every inch of the ceiling and walls of the Oslo hall.

The solitary encore (“Hey Hey My My”) was triumphant, victorious and glorious, as loud and as tight as you like with a sound that, once again, harked back to a vintage time for this quartet. The climax hurtled along like a freight train, the grand finale returning to a dramatic and electrifying conclusion, suitably (perhaps appropriately) brutalised, battered and bruised but, crucially, still in tact, like a triumphant heavyweight standing proud in the ring after an epic bout.

Another gaze up at the big screen, a quartet of smiles stretched across the stage.

Neil, Billy, Ralphie and Poncho.

Four old men, four trusted friends. Wrapped in each other’s arms. They’d been doing what they wanted to do and with whom they wanted to do it. They had just made one hell of a racket. And, for 50 peerless minutes, they made the best noise, the loudest noise, made by man. Ever. The smiles said it all. They’d nailed it and they knew it. With grins as broad as fjords and an excited “whoop whoop”, they were gone, laughing and joking as they descended the stage, a scene we know now is likely never to be repeated with this particular classic incarnation of Crazy Horse…

As grand finales go, it was quite something, a swansong of rare beauty. A show to cherish.

We’re fortunate that the Crazy Horse has realigned once again, Nils Lofgren bringing a different kind of beauty to the band, subtle, delicate, fragile even. Fresno brought tears to my eyes and Winnipeg’s second show captured the country punk that I’ve craved from them for decades. Ad hoc, informal and no set lists? Long may that continue.

The barn door is ajar. Shows are being booked. Maybe a new record might come. Time ticks by and projects abound for Neil Young, solo, with POTR, in the depths of the Archive, but it’s the Horse that many of us hold dearest and who we want to see, and hear, most.

Who knows where NYCH will end up (and who will end up in it) but I so want to be there for the rest of the ride…

Mark "Spook The Horse" Golley
NYAS #1098

Thanks Mark! And thanks again so much Mark "Spook The Horse" for those "The Final 50" memories. Too soon, too late.

Your original article in 2013 generated a fair amount of comments. Let's see how we down below here in 2019.

As we said back in 2013, we certainly (of course) hope it's not the end of the line for The Horse. And it wasn't. We had the oh-so brief Rick "The Bass Player" Rosas era.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse with Nils Lofgren & Zeke
Backstage @ Bruce Springsteen 2013 MusiCares Tribute

And we now know that The Horse has evolved back to its roots with the return of Nils Lofgren.

More on Neil Young & Crazy Horse's Alchemy Concert Tour Reviews in Summer 2013 Europe Tour.

Fall 2012 N. America Tour
Spring 2013 Australia/New Zealand Tour
Summer 2013 Europe Tour
Europe Summer 2014 Concert Tour

Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Thrasher's Wheat Radio Supporters Go To Europe

Also, how about it Rock Hall?! 50 years of Crazy Horse! It is quite bittersweet that there appears to be no proper sendoff for The Horse after 50 years of galloping about. But we have a dream...

After we have Crazy Horse inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there will be one last romp out of the Barn. One last feedback drenched crescendo w/ Neil & The Horse.

yes, we can dream. So lets make it happen @RockHall! C'mon. 50 years. What are you guys waiting on? Don't be too late.

Let's Induct Neil Young & Crazy Horse into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!!! Let's Induct Neil Young & Crazy Horse into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!!!

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At 4/06/2019 04:37:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

What a beautiful and well written piece. I have yet to read the article so I hadn’t heard that Poncho was done..... for good. I’m sad about this but I respect the man and honor his wishes. As the article says so eloquently, those four men will always be Crazy Horse regardless of the many incarnations (all of which are incredible).

I have been extremely blessed to have seen these four men live many many times over the years and they never disappointed. Ever!! The last show was the second night of the 2012 tour at Red Rocks August 5, 2012. This was my lovely wife’s first Crazy Horse show. From the first note there was a palatable giddy quality between each member of the band. I don’t ever remember that feeling at any other show. They all just seemed really happy to be together.

Love and Only Love opened the show with gusto, all cylinders firing. Powderfinger kicked up the energy to 11, then came a new song Born in Ontario. The crowd were all in by this point and then came one of those Crazy Horse moments that we all dream for, that special link between song and artist where everything just dissolved into Horse heaven. A EPIC Walk Like a Giant. New song as of that moment, but it was clear to everyone this was to be one of those songs that would be placed in that sacred space with the legends like Cowgirl in the Sand, Cortez the Killer, Like a Hurricane, Down by the River, to name four. As this moment progressed the band came together with a ferocious intensity as they made a circle in front of the drum set, and then came the stomping footsteps of the GIANT in a way only possible from the Horse. It went on for what seemed an eternity. Stomping again and again and again. By the time they finished I think the crowd was shell shocked, you could feel it all around us. It was extremely powerful and a Crazy Horse moment I will never forget. Fortunately we have been able to get the whole show on DVD and CD and after several viewings I still get goosebumps and as everyone knows.... you can’t fake goosebumps.

The rest of the show was just excellent. We got Needle, a groundbreaking Ramada Inn and Cinnamon Girl which had the crowd on there feet, singing at the top of their lungs. And with a 15 minute Over and Over encore, everyone walked out into the cool Colorado night air exhaustied. What a first Crazy Horse show for my wife. She’s still blown away, and with the news of Poncho’s retirement we are both just that more grateful to have been able to be there at that magical moment when the Horse found their way to the promise land.

Thanks for the great article that brought that night back to me and inspired me to share it with you all.


At 4/07/2019 10:12:00 AM, Blogger adrianfish said...

Thanks Mark
So most ironically,the final song that this definitive version of Crazy Horse played, was.....

Hey hey, my my
Rock and roll can never die
There's more to the picture
Than meets the eye.
Hey hey, my my.

Out of the blue and into the black
You pay for this, but they give you that
And once you're gone, you can't come back
When you're out of the blue and into the black.

The king is gone but he's not forgotten
Is this the story of Johnny Rotten?
It's better to burn out 'cause rust never sleeps
The king is gone but he's not forgotten.

Hey hey, my my
Rock and roll can never die
There's more to the picture
Than meets the eye.

At 4/07/2019 10:14:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks so much Dan for the CH memories.

And thanks again so much Mark "Spook The Horse" for those Final 50 memories.

It is quite bittersweet that there appears to be no proper sendoff for The Horse after 50 years of galloping about. But we have a dream...

After we have Crazy Horse inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there will be one last romp out of the Barn. One last feedback drenched crescendo w/ Neil & The Horse.

yes, we can dream. So lets make it happen @RockHall! C'mon. 50 years. What are you guys waiting on? Don't be too late.

Let's Induct Neil Young & Crazy Horse into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!!!

At 4/07/2019 11:21:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ adrianfish - Thanks on lyrics. yeah, quite ironic the final song that this definitive version of Crazy Horse. on anniversary of Kurt's passing too.

btw, just got word that Rust Radio will be streaming full Oslo Final 50 concert in about 1 hour from now. enjoy and turn up volume.

if you haven't heard the Oslo Final 50 concert ass of yet, you're in for a real treat.

At 4/07/2019 12:47:00 PM, Blogger Lloyd Walton said...

A band that could make moments of your life stand out. in the first hearing of the live version of RAMADA INN, I broke into a sweat of rapturous sadness.

At 4/08/2019 01:57:00 PM, Blogger Ken N. said...

Thanks for posting this. I am going back into the 2013 shows.

And thanks to Rust Radio!!

Neil has just answered more letters at NYA!

NEW CRAZY HORSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Archives Vol. 2 has so much content it has been split into two parts. The first part is 10 discs
and includes Odeon Budokan.

Also. Homegrown promised for the Fall.


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