NEIL YOUNG AND CRAZY HORSE
Bimbadgen Estate: Saturday, March 9, 2013.
Neil Young has never demonstrated any desire to become a nostalgia act.
With 11 releases in the past 12 years, the 67-year-old Canadian rocker has subverted his own lyrical suggestion that “it’s better to burn out than fade away”.
Because after more than five decades of performing, Young has done neither.
On Saturday night the influential music legend rode into Bimbadgen Estate astride the electric thunder of Crazy Horse.
Like any artist with a new album of songs under their arm, the band performed a mix of modern and old material.
Young first formed Crazy Horse, his powerful three-piece backing band, for the release of his 1969 record Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.
Since then the trio have specifically been Young’s conduit to loud, psychedelic soundscapes that are both mesmerisingly beautiful and sonically overwhelming.
This is what the true Young fans had come to see and the rocker had no intention of disappointing the faithful.
The 8000-strong crowd at Bimbadgen Estate were treated to an opening set by Australia’s own purveyors of guitar savagery, The Drones.
A perfectly chosen support act, the five-piece delivered one of their trademark chaotic performances that blatantly demonstrated the influence that Crazy Horse have had on their sound.
With each of The Drones’ epic aural onslaughts, singer Gareth Liddiard slid deeper into his own demonic possession.
On songs like Jezabel and Shark Fin Blues the vocalist spat and growled his lyrics with bloodthirsty abandon, as if channelling the twisted, restless ruminations of the dead.
Liddiard and his Drones performed their spine-tingling, slow-building rendition of Kevin Carmody’s River of Tears and some impressive new material from latest record I See Seaweed.
There were frequent moments where you felt compelled to leap on stage and rescue the singer’s guitar, as Liddiard throttled its neck and clawed at the strings, before eventually lifting the instrument above his head and letting it drop to the stage behind him.
But while The Drones are undoubtedly Australia’s best live act, the night belonged to Neil.
He stepped on stage in a T-shirt with the Aboriginal flag on it, as an American Indian totem pole looked on from side of stage.
Young, bassist Billy Talbot and guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro crowded around drummer Ralph Molina’s kit, and summoned a wailing, breathtaking intro to Love and Only Love.
From the outset Young demonstrated why he’s the most soulful guitarist on the planet, constantly losing himself in prolonged, aching and soaring solos.
Crazy Horse launched into the classic Powderfinger and a selection of material from Young’s latest record Psychedelic Pill.
While the lyrics of his newest songs are reflective, Young’s sound continues to feel ahead of its time.
He performed a love song to his hometown in Born in Ontario and two of the 16-minute-plus epics from Psychedelic Pill in Ramada Inn and Walk Like A Giant.
The latter ended with slow, cannon-fire outro of explosions of noise, feedback and distortion, with Young gyrating against and manhandling one of his amplifiers.
For the fair-weather fans who bought tickets expecting Young and co. to vomit their commercial hits like a jukebox, the legend took up his acoustic guitar and harmonica for Heart of Gold and then played Twisted Road - his tribute to Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone.
Standing in front of their wall of amplifiers, and a deeper backdrop of grape vines, Crazy Horse then harked back to their Ragged Glory days with F***in Up.
Young incited the crowd to chant “Your just a f*** up!” back at him as he scowled and waved his backside with mischievous glee.
None of the musicians could wipe the smiles from their faces.
The main set finished with Cinnamon Girl, Buffalo Springfield’s Mr Soul and Hey Hey My My (Into the Black).
As Young and Crazy Horse returned for their encore, a bra was thrown on stage by adoring Newcastle fan Melanie Rule.
Young smiled and draped the garment over the end of his guitar for the finale – Roll Another Number – with the crowd singing as one: “Think I’ll roll another number for the road.”
You could not doubt that Young has many years on the road ahead.
And, as long as he has something to say about it, rock and roll will never die.