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‘Concert Reviews’ Articles

BSB Concert Review: San Francisco Chronicle

Wearing a red flannel shirt over a second red flannel shirt, a scraggly Neil Youngbrought the 26th annual Bridge School Benefit Concertat Mountain View’s Shoreline Amphitheatre to a chilly close on Saturday with his usual all-star run through “Rockin’ in the Free World.” Only one thing was lacking – any discernible stars.

It was an anticlimactic end to an unusually anticlimactic concert that started some seven hours earlier with Young standing in the same spot. The venerated rocker and his wife, Pegi, typically have no problem drawing rock ‘n’ roll heavyweights to their annual shindig benefiting children with severe physical and speech impairments – from the Who and Paul McCartneyto Green Day and Radiohead. It’s a great cause and an honor to share the stage with the host.

But this year’s lineup felt lacking from the start. The most popular names on the bill could have made up an “I Love the ’90s” package show: Sarah McLachlan, the Flaming Lips, k.d. lang, Lucinda Williamsand whatever passes for Guns N’ Roses these days.

Even worse, they performed like it.

An unkempt Axl Rosearrived onstage late, hunched over a microphone stand and huffed his way through tunes that sounded vaguely familiar with a cast of misfits that looked vaguely like a band. His voice and blue jeans equally shredded, Rose forgot the lyrics to his group’s biggest hit, “Welcome to the Jungle,” and delivered an off-key version of “Sweet Child o’ Mine” that most likely had all the dogs within earshot of the concert howling in pain.

The Flaming Lips did their best to scale down their acid-infused psychedelic pop to the concert’s acoustic setting, even drafting the comedian Reggie Wattsfor live beat-boxing duties. But singer Wayne Coyne, in his unwashed gray suit, seemed unsettled. Determined to rile the crowd, he flapped his arms and beseeched, “Come on! Come on!”

Arriving onstage after the woefully mellow double shot of McLachlan and singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagnedidn’t do his band any favors. Nor did its surreal set, in which Coyne rambled incoherently, played “Taps” on a broken bugle and attempted a cover of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” with Watts reading the words off an iPhone.

Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder, putting in a surprise guest appearance, provided some relief from the general incompetence of the night as he efficiently revived a couple of his band’s “Seinfeld”-era hits. “When I woke up this morning, this is the last thing I thought I would be doing,” he said, having been drafted to kill time before Guns N’ Roses’ late arrival.

This year it was the more contemporary acts that put in the most memorable sets. Jack White, backed by a pale all-female band resembling zombies, charged through a handful of blues-tinged songs from his solo album, “Blunderbuss,” while coyly flirting with the musicians. He also threw in a couple of White Stripes classics, “Hotel Yorba” and “We’re Going to Be Friends,” for good measure.

Foster the People, who had a huge hit last year with “Pumped Up Kicks” but skipped it altogether on Saturday, also managed to make the most of their brief time onstage, revamping their synthetic pop tunes with remarkable practicality.

Earlier in the day, Steve Martinand the Steep Canyon Rangers performed a passable set of bluegrass as the comedian recycled his old stage jokes (“People say to me, ‘Steve, why a music career? Why now?’ And I say, ‘Hey, you guys are my band.’ “); Lucinda Williams warbled tentatively; and k.d. lang, well, apparently she was there too.

The lackluster lineup left the weight of expectation on Young and his band, Crazy Horse, to close out the show with something substantial. Instead, the band merely revisited a bulk of its Outside Lands set from August – most of it new, unreleased or entirely forgotten material – only without the gnarled gusts of feedback to drive it along.

Toward the end of the night, Young performed a lovely rendition of “The Needle and the Damage Done,” which took on gut-wrenching intensity in light of the past-their-prime performers that came before. Its mournful note struck a tone – with even Rose and White bailing on the jam session, this was clearly a year to forget.

Aidin Vaziriis The San Francisco Chronicle’s pop music critic.

Concert Review: Austin City Limits Festival by Houston Press

Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Bud Light Stage
Austin City Limits Music Festival, Zilker Park
October 13, 2012

With all the members knocking on the door of 70, it would be easy for the youngsters at ACL to call Neil Young and his band Crazy Horse decrepit and foggy. But their blistering set was a brute-force display of proto-grunge and Bernard Shakey hymns to the hard land and the harder life.

Simply put, the band was louder and tighter than most anything else one would see in Zilker Park thus far. Keep in mind that the Iggy & the Stooges’ Sunday-evening set tonight could tie up that score.

Saturday night, festival-goers had two options for evening entertainment: the aggressive history lesson on the Bud Light stage with Young and company, or Jack White’s formidable solo display on the AMD outpost hundreds of yards away. It wasn’t possible to see both, plus I was entrenched in the front of the Crazy Horse crowd early on.

Opening with “Love And Only Love” from 1990’s Ragged Glory, the band raged with Young’s signature stomping and wrenching for ten minutes, before pulling things back for a towering recitation of “Powderfinger,” complete with crazy interplay and feedback.

The thought of the band rehearsing these songs in some rustic barn at full bloody volume makes me giddy. The band is no frills, and compared to the rest of the dress of the festival’s flashy lineup, they looked like roadies or stoner grandpas in comparison. Young threw off his Willie Nelson camp into the photo pit early on, with a fan just losing it from his hands.

Young took on the mournful “The Needle and the Damage Done” alone with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, thrilling the old stalwart fans in the crowd. With each strum of his guitar, there was history dripping onto the stage.

“Cinnamon Girl” would have been the most immediately recognized song for the wet-behind-the-ears set at the show, Young dedicating it to his wife somewhere backstage.

Seeing Young sans Crazy Horse is only seeing a third of his spirit. The last time I saw Young was at Houston’s Jones Hall on his “Le Noise” tour, a jaunt that saw him alone with just pedals, his prized guitars, and some snarl. Saturday night’s headlining set was the same, just done widescreen and with a lot more smiles.

Young is an act that we have all long waited to make his ACL debut. He was the only glaring hole left in the festival’s 11-year history, and thankfully he filled it and overflowed the empty space that was there.

SET LIST (Courtesy of Sugar Mountain)
 Love And Only Love
 Born In Ontario
 Walk Like a Giant
 The Needle And The Damage Done
 Twisted Road
 Ramada Inn
 Cinnamon Girl
 F*!#in' Up
 Psychedelic Pill
 Down By The River
 Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)

Appropriately so, the band launched into “Down By The River”, just paces from the Colorado which cuts through Austin. The crowd was raging for it.

Houston Press.

Concert Review: Chicago

A howling Neil Young rocks United Center

Neil Young and Crazy Horse play at the United Center Thursday. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune / October 12, 2012), Greg Kot Music critic, 9:59 a.m. CDT, October 12, 2012

Frank “Pancho” Sampedro, the longtime guitarist in Crazy Horse, is a barrel of a man. He wears the look of a retired linebacker who has put on a few pounds. But he went airborne Thursday at the United Center as he and Neil Young squared off and stomped around the stage.

Instead of hunching over his guitar, bending at the waist as he normally does, Young turned his instrument into a machine gun, his legs splayed, straw hair flailing. “I (messed) up again and again,” he roared, first raging, then pained, as if he were reliving some trainwreck moment from the past.

By the end, the singer was a demon-eyed street oracle howling at the audience. “They give you this, but you pay for that,” he spat, turning “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” into an Occupy manifesto.
* Photos: Neil Young at United Center

Young and Crazy Horse have been an off-and-on proposition for more than 40 years, but Young has indisputably made some of his best – and most violent – music in the company of Sampedro, bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina.

Now they’re on the road for the first time in nearly a decade. A few props were resurrected from the late-‘70s “Rust Never Sleeps” tour – the giant amplifiers and parade-float-sized microphone serviced by lab-coated roadies. But that was about it for nostalgia. The quartet has released two new albums this year, and the set list Thursday brimmed with new songs, rejiggered arrangements and feverish intensity.

Make no mistake — the past kept creeping into the songs. The passage of time and how it twists perceptions and tests relationships is a major theme in Young’s new work. Wistfulness oozed from several songs, including the 17-minute “Ramada Inn,” in which a couple finds that even love isn’t enough to keep them from drifting apart. He shuts down, she pulls away, and time rolls on.

But there was nothing particularly genteel or overly familiar and comforting about this music. Like one of Young’s beloved trains, Crazy Horse is a large beast that tends to ease into its work. But once it gains its bearings and picks up speed, it’s awfully difficult to slow down. At least five of the 13 songs performed Thursday surpassed the 10-minute mark. “Love and only Love” began like an extended exhale before finding its pace, with Young, Sampedro and Talbot huddled in front of the drum riser. Whereas most bands spread out to fill a big stage such as the United Center’s, Crazy Horse bunches together, as if defending their home against invasion.

The group works itself into a trance-like frenzy, Young’s guitar piercing through a thicket of bottom-heavy tones and rumbling drums. For the relatively pithy “Cinnamon Girl,” the feedback that shut it down lasted nearly as long as the song itself. The band turned the period psychedelia of Young’s old Buffalo Springfield hit “Mr. Soul” into churning acid-punk. Molina’s drums on “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” pumped like pistons in a factory.

Normally, the encore is a time of a celebration, of release. But Young and Crazy Horse instead shook loose the ghosts of the harrowing “Tonight’s the Night.” Expanded to 10 minutes, the song became a long, lonely howl for fallen friends, a séance. “Tonight’s the night,” Young whispered. “Yes, it is.”

Chicago Tribune

Concert Review: Global Citizen Festival

Music Review
Turning Up the Volume on Global Poverty
Global Citizen Festival, With Neil Young, to Combat Poverty

Julie Glassberg for The New York Times
Global Citizen Festival Neil Young and Crazy Horse played in Central Park on Saturday as part of this event organized to combat poverty around the world.
By JON PARELES, Published: September 30, 2012

Cranked-up guitars and sobering statistics shared a Central Park audience of more than 60,000 people on Saturday at the Global Citizen Festival, a five-hour concert on the Great Lawn devoted to ending extreme poverty worldwide. The concert was also webcast internationally.

The headliner was Neil Young with Crazy Horse, the band that has perfected rock as a primordial stomp. Sharing the lineup were guitar-driven bands that have obviously listened closely to Mr. Young through the years: Foo Fighters, the Black Keys and Band of Horses. It was a narrow, old-school, all-male slice of rock, with a hint of internationalism for starters: the rapper and singer K’Naan, who was born in Somalia and now lives in Canada (and whose band included a female keyboardist). An unannounced guest, John Legend, sang John Lennon’s vision of global citizenship, “Imagine.”

Mr. Young’s set was molten and unkempt, yet it had his own kind of finesse. He and Crazy Horse, on their first tour since 2004, often huddled near the center of the stage, bobbing back and forth until their heads nearly touched, and their songs sometimes welled up out of a caldron of drone and distortion.

But Mr. Young’s voice was pure and precise, and his lead guitar could peal with straightforward melodies, or scrabble with frenetic intensity, or plunge to grapple with subterranean forces. The set included three songs from Mr. Young’s next album, “Psychedelic Pill,” due Oct. 30, and they were openly autobiographical.

“Walk Like a Giant” was also a pithy eulogy for 1960s idealism: “We were ready to save the world,” Mr. Young sang. “Then the weather changed and the white got stained and it fell apart/And it breaks my heart to think about how close we came.” It ended with blast after slow blast of the closing chord, dozens of times, turning into slabs of abstract noise.

Global Citizen, the Web site and festival, grew out of the Global Poverty Project, which strives to end extreme poverty: the situation of more than 1.4 billion people trying to subsist on less than $1.25 a day. The Global Poverty Project works with nongovernmental organizations worldwide, spanning education, women’s rights, public health, including providing mosquito nets and malaria treatment as well as training midwives to help eradicate polio in the three countries where it remains endemic. It was noted that Mr. Young is a polio survivor.

Concertgoers received free tickets by enrolling an e-mail address with Global Citizen and then performing certain actions through the Web site, including watching videos, spreading information via social media and doing something for a partner organization.

During equipment changes there were video clips, activists and celebrities — among them Katie Couric, Selena Gomez, Olivia Wilde and Katharine McPhee, as well as the economist Jeffrey D. Sachs— detailing poverty-related death tolls and efforts to change them. The concert’s hosts called for actions like sending a poverty-related tweet to the presidential candidates.

Leaders of organizations from India, Haiti and Somalia got rock-star-size ovations. But the audience was there for the music; Foo Fighters fans started shouting for the band before the Unicef pitch ended.

Foo Fighters were playing their last scheduled show for some time, and they romped through it. “I wish we could play all night,” said Dave Grohl, the band’s songwriter and guitarist. “But I’d rather see Neil Young.”

Mr. Grohl was Nirvana’s drummer; with Foo Fighters he combines the brawny riffs and the explosive dynamics of grunge with arena-friendly melodies. The music cycled from Mr. Grohl playing guitar alone to full-band bashes and back; the lyrics seesawed between frustrated fury and a yearning for hope, climbing toward optimism at every opportunity.

The Black Keysare terse, savvy revivalists, basing their music on early-1970s blues-rock but also allowing themselves infusions of Hendrix, Stax-Volt soul, glam-rock, garage-rock and a touch of psychedelia. This two-man band — Patrick Carney on drums and Dan Auerbach on guitar and vocals — now has additional musicians onstage, but that doesn’t make it any less rigorous.

Mr. Auerbach moans, nearly all the time, about woman trouble, reaching back to blues vamps and shuffles; Mr. Carney propels him with elemental no-frills beats. The set dispensed their songs like a jukebox, keeping them short and stopping them as soon as they’d had their say. It also included two versions of “Little Black Submarines” — as a solo, fingerpicking quasi-blues, and then with the band, as a direct homage to Crazy Horse, socking away at the beat.

Band of Horses, with a front line of three guitars (or two guitars and a keyboard), has yet to escape the shadow of its obvious model, My Morning Jacket, from its high-tenor lead vocals to its triumphal, multiple-guitar choruses. But its songs — about salvaging love or hope from disaster — were well chosen for this concert.

K’Naan’s songs, which often included highly melodic rapping, revolve around his two worlds: the strife he left behind in Somalia and his ambition and success in the Americas, including his international hit, “Wavin’ Flag,” which sounds like both a children’s song and an anthem. His version on Saturday added New York City details — “We moved to Harlem/Until the I.N.S. gave us a problem” — before turning to the inspirational.

For the concert’s finale Mr. Auerbach and Mr. Grohl brought their guitars to join Mr. Young and Crazy Horse in “Rockin’ in the Free World”; Band of Horses and K’Naan became a backup vocal choir. The song isn’t a simple celebration. It’s a juxtaposition of dire conditions in the verses and ironic joy in the choruses. It’s Mr. Young’s take on the complacent “free world” versus real life, and perhaps a song for those who want tweets to suffice as international actions. It was a clamorous multiguitar blowout and, for those who know the song, a hint of the real work ahead before the world can be saved.

…has also some Photos »

Pete C’s New York State of Mind

Human Highway review of Global Citizen Festival  held on the Great Lawn in NYC’s Central Park on 9/29/12 from Pete C.

The festival was free for those who went to the Global Citizen web site and read some articles and watched some videos about global poverty and human  rights. Themes covered gender issues, education, food and water and other health issues. Overall I thought it was a small price to pay to get the chance to win these tickets.

…

Random Quote

“Folks, whether you agree with Honour the Treaties or not, please try to back up what you say with facts as we have that will help your points. Diatribes against old rockers are water off a duck’s back for me and don’t help your cause or educate ours. If you are able to, try to add something meaningful when you contribute. everyone would benefit.
by -- ny #honourthetreaties

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