Live Review:
Neil Young and Crazy Horse
Patti Smith

by Mitch Goldman

Gorge Ampitheatre, George, WA 9/14/96

Here's one of those double bills you dream about: Patti Smith, fresh from recording her first album in eight years (the incredible Gone Again) opening for Neil Young and Crazy Horse, promoting their new record Broken Arrow and touring together for the first time in over five years.

The only problem with Patti's set was it's length: at forty-some-odd minutes, it was way too short. Patti was just working up some serious on-stage catharsis when she had to make room for Neil. Her band consisted of original Patti Smith Group members L enny Kaye on guitar and Jay Daugherty on drums, augmented by a new bass player and rhythm guitarist and, most notably, Television's Tom Verlaine, seated on a stool at stage right. Keeping his head down during the set, Verlaine let rip with his trademark v olume pedal-laden solos and leads, lending a soaring melodicism to Patti's visceral reading of new songs (and a spoken-word, art/noise version of "People Have the Power"). During her tribute to Kurt Cobain ("About a Boy") she reached n ew heights of emotional intensity, banging on a metal bowl with a spoon while rendering the song into a bleak, gut-wrenching portrait of death and darkness. During the set-closing cover of "Not Fade Away," R.E.M.'s Peter Buck joined the band ons tage, lending a celebratory feel to the bleakness that had preceded it. Going from a whisper to a scream and all sonic places in between, Patti and band proved that they're a more vital force in American music now than they were in punk's heyday twenty ye ars ago.

Patti made way for Neil, Crazy Horse, and lots of rain at the Gorge. Despite the stage cover, Neil and the Horse got positively soaked during their impressive two and half hour set. As usual, the linchpin of Crazy Horse is Frank "Pancho" Samp edro, who adds the thick rhythm guitar that glues Neil's piercing leads to the somewhat lumbering bottom provided by Ralph Molina (drums) and Billy Talbot (bass). Also as usual, the Horse proved to be a most sympathetic musical foil for Neil, anchoring th e proceedings while Neil headed for the stratosphere with the most intense guitar soloing I've ever seen him perform. New tunes like "Slip Away" turned positively monstrous as Young pushed the sonic envelope ever upward, leading band an d audience on an orgasmic search for the perfectly pitched note. Neil is one of the few guitarists around who can squeeze every drop of feeling out of a single note, and then go back for more; just when you think he's played the note past all utility, he gets a few more moments of revelation out of it. It's almost as if his soul depends on pushing you emotionally through the other side of every solo.

New tunes and old benefited from Young's impressive guitar approach: the normally acoustic "Pocahontas" was transformed into an anthemic statement, "Into The Black" was once again the perfect opener, and "Like a Hurricane" clocked in at nearly seventeen minutes long: starting with a noise intro that sounded like thunder and ending with an extended feedback outro, "Hurricane" was the perfect counterpoint to the rain that soaked crowd and band alike.

Despite a handful of moving solo acoustic numbers, it's the big rock tunes that lie at the heart of a Neil/Crazy Horse show. The transcendence that fuels mythic epics like "Cortez the Killer" also runs through humorous numbers like "Fuck in' Up" and "Welfare Mothers." The Horse, in combination with Neil, are an awesome live unit, able to convey power and vulnerability simultaneously. The extended encore segment included the full gamut of Neil's emotional palate - from the d arkness of drug overdose chronicled in "Tonight's the Night" to the quirky character sketch of "Sedan Delivery" to the closing "Rockin' in the Free World," Neil gave his all, pushing Crazy Horse and the assembled fans as far into his sonic darkness as he was able. Soaking wet and totally drained of energy, band and audience shared the moments and the emotions as one. Neil is that rare artist who can drag us all to the edge of his vision, force us to look down at the darkness in his soul, and still transcend it all through effortless playing. While his next tour will inevitably be a shift to a less intense version of Neil's aesthetic, the intensity of this show will be with us for a while.


Patti Smith (7:54-8:37)

Beneath The Southern Cross
????? (spoken word)->
People Have The Power (spoken)
Gone Again
The Wicked Messenger
About A Boy
Not Fade Away*

*w/Peter Buck

Neil Young and Crazy Horse (9:18-11:35)

My My, Hey Hey (Into the Black)->
Big Time->
Slip Away
The Needle and the Damage Done*
Long May You Run*
Heart of Gold*
Sugar Mountain*
Cinnamon Girl
Fuckin' Up->
Cortez the Killer
Music Arcade*
Like A Hurricane


Sedan Delivery
Tonight's the Night->
Welfare Mothers->
Roll Another Number->
Rockin' in the Free World


Copyright © 1996

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