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‘Concert Reviews’ Articles

Inside Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s New Album and Tour

Inside Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s New Album and Tour
‘I voted never to play ‘Cinnamon Girl’ again,’ says guitarist Frank ‘Poncho’ Sampedro
By Andy Greene
August 14, 2012 2:35 PM ET

For Crazy Horse guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro, playing with Neil Young earlier this month after an eight year break was pretty much the best feeling in the world. “Imagine the first time you had sex,” he says. “It can’t always be like the first time, but I thought it was pretty spectacular. Just wild. Everything’s been beautiful.”

The band’s setlist is a careful mix of classics like “Powderfinger” and “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” with brand new tracks such as “Twisted Road” and the 20-minute long, feedback-drenched epic “Walk Like a Giant.” “Putting together the setlist was painstaking,” says Poncho. “We just kept going through the songs we had, trying to include Americana songs and our favorites. Neil literally changed the setlist three times a day and everyone was getting pissed off. It was really frustrating because we were trying to zoom in on songs.”

The band ultimately sat down and voted. “We’d go, ‘Who thinks this can go?'” says Poncho. “‘Who thinks that can go? How bad do you want this? How bad do you want that?” The vote resulted in a new batch of songs they began zeroing in on. “Luckily after that I was in Hawaii the same time as Neil,” says Poncho. “We sat down every day playing acoustic guitars with the new setlist. We got it down to where it was in the end.”

Despite the fact that the band is touring behind the folk covers disc Americana, they decided to drop all of that album’s tunes except for “Jesus’ Chariot.” “They just didn’t fit in,” says Poncho. “Somehow they really sound good when we play them together, but when we play them in a set they just didn’t fit in. I told Neil that I thought it was a lot of fun playing them and they’re great songs, but our soul and our hearts aren’t in them.”

The setlist was tinkered with right up until opening night in Albuquerque on August 3rd. “That night Neil called out, ‘Do you guys like Buffalo Springfield?’ and he started ‘Mr. Soul,’ says Poncho. “Nobody knew that was going to happen. We didn’t have a clue. It had gotten dumped off the setlist. We were supposed to play ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,’ which sounded really great in rehearsal. But I thought we wound up playing ‘Mr. Soul’ better than ever.”

During the first five shows the band stuck to a pretty rigid setlist o
f around 15 songs, but when they return to the road for a much longer run in early October it may broaden out. “The first time I went home the setlist was 29 songs,” says Poncho. “When I was rehearsing it took me three hours and 20 minutes. I’m glad we cut it down. We have a good list of options now that includes ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ and ‘Like a Hurricane.'”

Many fans noticed a piano onstage every night that was never played. Poncho has an explanation. “We played ‘A Lotta Love’ at the beginning,” he says. “But that could come back any night.”

Creating the setlist ultimately involved a certain degree of compromise. “I voted never play ‘Cinnamon Girl’ again,” says Poncho with a laugh. “But I’m not the least bit bummed in the least about how it all worked out. I’m really happy we’ve got new songs to play, too. It makes the show so much more fun and exciting.

Even though Neil Young and Crazy Horse released Americana in June, a new album of original songs might appear in stores around the time the tour resumes in October.

According to Poncho, the title will be called Psychedelic Pill, which is the name of one of the many new songs featured on this tour. “That song began in the studio when Neil sat down at the piano and began playing chords,” says Poncho. “Ralph [Molina] was on drums and he started this beat on the snare and wouldn’t stop for nearly an hour. We stood up and played it and realized it was a great song. We just haven’t performed it that great yet, but we’re getting more comfortable every night.”

The band is particularly excited with how “Walk Like a Giant” has come together. “Neil came into the studio and he had that song,” says Poncho. “We played it one time and the next thing we know we’re doing overdubs. Then he played it for us. The playback just blew our minds. We had no idea we’d done something that big. I imagine it’s about Earth being destroyed by this giant, and we’re screening the planet for survivors and shit. I have all these images going through my head. It’s really crazy.”

Read more:

Q&A: Crazy Horse’s Frank ‘Poncho’ Sampedro on 37 Years With Neil Young

Outside Lands Show Review

Neil Young and Crazy Horse Mix the Old and New at S.F.’s Outside Lands Festival
By Ian S. Port, Sat., Aug. 11 2012 at 12:25 AM

Neil Young and Crazy Horse
Friday, Aug. 10, 2012
Outside Lands Festival, San Francisco

Better than:
Any Pearl Jam concert.

While he’s putting everything into a solo, Neil Young’s face looks like his electric guitar sounds: flush with feeling, vaguely threatening, and thoroughly aged. Not old as in frail, but venerable; geologic. On the chilly, windy opening night of San Francisco’s Outside Lands festival, Young the legend and his old group of noisemakers treated the sold-out crowd to a demonstration of rock as dinosaur music: gray hair and ancient, howling amplifiers, unapologetic nostalgia, 15-minute jams, the singer’s O.G. nasal twang spooning out at times a bit too much lyrical honesty to keep the buzz going. (Even if they then built it back up.) It was the exact opposite of today’s byte-sized, hyper-compressed, we’ll-do-anything-to-hold-your-attention music culture. And it was great — occasionally.

Most bands giving a headlining performance at a major festival would keep their set list to the greatest hits side of things. Or perhaps play a bunch of songs off the record they just released. Not Neil Young and Crazy Horse. They spent nearly half of their two hours last night trying out new tunes from their upcoming album — songs no one except Young obsessives have heard yet. “Ontario” and “Walk Like a Giant” both sounded like classic, dirty Crazy Horse dirges, but our favorite was the new acoustic song about hearing Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” for the first time. There wasn’t a single selection from the album of Americana covers Young and Crazy Horse put out this year.

Young never apologized for the set list, but he did obliquely quip about its newness: After a long, bleak new tune about alcoholism, he said, “I wrote this one this morning” — just before launching into “Cinnamon Girl.” You could feel a collective sigh of relief from the shivering masses. “Fuckin’ Up” brought a familiar, reckless joy, and Young trading middle fingers and sumo-dancing in sync with Frank “Poncho” Sampedro, his longtime guitarist. All four musicians spent the show close to one another, often maintaining eye contact, which contributed to the feeling that the performance was more for benefit of the guys onstage than the tens of thousands watching.

Until the end, that is. Young and his mates aired a towering version of “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” that nearly keeled us over with its power. The song — which has Young laying down a guttural riff and insisting, “Rock and Roll will never die” — confirmed the larger theme of the set. When he sang, it’s “Better to burn out/ than to f-f-f-f-fade away,” dragging it out and leaning over to taunt the crowd, it felt like all of Golden Gate Park was on the receiving end of some very rare and hard-earned wisdom. Here, with his snarling visage and snarling guitars, Young’s age was a trump card, an exalted status only he and his bandmates possessed. They may not have done what most fans would’ve wanted. But they’d certainly earned the right not to.

The author is obviously unaware of Sugar Mtn or BNB. Check out his setlist: blog.

Albuquerque review by Rolling Stone

Neil Young and Crazy Horse Launch Tour With New Tunes in Albuquerque
Ferocious two-hour set features classics and previously unheard tracks from Young’s next LP
By Andy Greene, August 4, 2012 10:35 AM ET

The official T-shirt of Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s 2012 American tour has a very simple message on it: “Equal parts past, present and future.” It’s not just an empty slogan. Throughout the course of a blazing two-hour-plus show at Albuquerque’s Hard Rock Pavilion, Neil and the Horse dipped deep into their catalog of classics, but gave almost equal time to material from Young’s next album with Crazy Horse, supposedly due on shelves later this year. The only real misnomer is the word “present.” Only a single song was played from their new folk covers disc, Americana.

more on Rolling Stone.

Red Rocks, 5 & 6 August 2012

Neil Young and Crazy Horse playing new songs and obviously are in a great mood.

Visit the Human Highway for show reports and photos from the Human-Highway gathering with our Gonzo journalists bh, Laslo from Canada, and Shar at the HH-US-bureau.

Neil Young Journeys (Part 1 of Sharry’s report)

Sharry writes:

I found myself in the middle of Neil childhood heaven while attending the premiere screening of “Neil Young Journeys.” That was definitely the theme of the evening. I felt very attached to everything that was going on. It was all so intimately familiar to me.

The concert footage which was excellent and compelling in its own right, was interspersed with footage from a road trip Neil took with his brother Bob and director Jonathan Demme. While visiting various sites in Omemee and Brock Road (Pickering), Neil reminisces about his childhood. His brother drove the lead car (an old Cadillac) and Neil and Demme followed. I’ve made numerous trips to Omemee over the past 5 years and was given a guided tour of Brock Road this past January. I’m familiar with all of the places and people that Neil mentioned. (Although I didn’t know about Bob guarding Neil’s chicken coop with a rifle after the famous chicken massacre of 1956. I took some notes.)

It was very cool to see Neil driving along Highway 401 West in his classic old car heading into Toronto with Massey Hall as the destination. He meant to take the Yonge Street exit but he got mixed up and took Bayview Avenue instead. Another driver honks at Neil as he maneuvers to quickly join the exit lane. (He also drove alongside a huge transport truck and it was really noisy.) I know that stretch of the highway where he took the wrong exit and it is really confusing at times.

As they approach Massey Hall Neil remarks, “It certainly doesn’t look like it did before. But I can smell it.” (In reference to Massey Hall). The camera then pans over the entire building from top to bottom where the triple red entry doors stand proudly.

When Neil was on-stage he made numerous comments about his childhood. He said that he was “reading a lot about his childhood lately.” He also mentioned that he attended many different schools and that during one particular year he had attended three different ones. (Neil was well acquainted with being the new kid in the class.)

Continuing with the “I Am A Child” theme, one of Neil’s ex-classmates from Grade 4 at an elementary school in Toronto was selected to speak during the Q&A session. Mary Ellen B. introduced herself and Neil’s face immediately lit up. He recognized her name right away. He said that Mary Ellen was his “first girlfriend.” I had interviewed Mary Ellen for “A Shakey Education” and she had called me earlier in the day to let me know that she planned to attend. (We were able to meet face to face — for the first time! — after the screening.)

Neil relayed an amusing story about winning a prize at a game at a community fair. He thought he had won a beautiful piece of jewellery. He had a bit of a crush on Mary Ellen so he decided to present her with a token of his affection. He went to her house but she wasn’t there. He gave the gift to Mary Ellen’s mother with instructions to give it to Mary Ellen. It turned out that the “golden necklace” was really a fancy dog collar choker chain. It was crafted in a chain-link fashion with little golden medallians hanging from it. Mary Ellen didn’t have the heart to tell Neil that his lovely gift ended up on the neck of their pet boxer.

Another classic Neil childhood heaven moment was when a large manila envelope was relayed to Neil from the audience. Neil’s old childhood pal from Omemee, Garfield “Goof” Whitney, wasn’t able to attend the screening but he sent along a memento to give to Neil. When Neil received it he jokingly remarked , “Oh, what does Goof want me to do now.”

During the road trip to Omemee Neil points out where his old friend Goof lives. (I had the opportunity to interview Goof this past April.) He reminisces about how his older friend would delight in taking advantage of his youthful naivete and general gullible nature. Goof told Neil that it was a good idea to eat tar from the road because after you chewed it for a while it would begin to taste like chocolate. Neil believed Goof and tested this out. Neil jokingly remarked that this was the beginning of his close relationship with cars.

Another member of the audience who spoke with Neil during the Q&A session had a photo with him that was taken at Kelvin High School’s 75th Anniversary Reunion in June 1987. Neil attended the event and was in the photo with some others. The reunion was held in conjunction with the Shakin’ All Over 1960s Winnipeg Bands Reunion. The audience member asked Neil if he was aware that Kelvin was celebrating its 100th anniversary next May and if so, did he plan to attend. Neil responded affirmatively.

Sharry (Up in T.O. keepin’ jive alive)

p.s. I’ll add some other highlights from the screening in the next day or two. There’s so much to report. I can’t do it all in one shot.

Random Quote

Although no one hears a sound There\'s another poor man falling down. Falling down, falling down.
by -- Neil Young

Neil Young on Tour

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Sugar Mountain setlists

Tom Hambleton provides BNB with setlists, thankfully. His website is the most comprehensive searchable archives on the Internets about anything Neil Young related setlists. Goto Sugar Mountain.

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