Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Wednesday night, U. of U.'s Huntsman Center. Also performing were Sonic Youth and Social Distortion. One performance only.
I confess right up front, I have been and always will be a Neil Young fan. I even liked those albums over the years that nobody else liked.But considering it's been more than 10 years since the superstar songwriter and one-time poet of the '60s made a concert stop in Utah, an awful lot of hardcore fans, myself included, were growing a bit weary of the wait.
And, admittedly, we were curious. After so many years, many of them hard years that took undeniable physical and emotional tolls, could the old-timer really deliver anymore?
To twist a phrase from Jethro Tull, you're never too old to rock 'n' roll. At least Neil Young isn't.
Young and longtime garage band Crazy Horse tied up at the Huntsman Center Wednesday night and delivered a double-barrel dose of rock 'n' roll, the likes of which haven't been seen in these parts in quite some time.
It was the foot-stompin', head-bobbing, peace-sign-in-the-air, scream-you-lungs-out kind of rock 'n' roll. It was emotionally charged, socially fulfilling and physically draining. It was Neil Young at his very finest.
When all was said and done, Neil Young should have sold bumper stickers: Rock 'n' roll is a state of mind, not a condition of age.
With Neil Young, you never quite know what kind of concert you're going to get, especially considering his catalog of tunes covering the gauntlet from country to folk to blues to rock.
But over the years, the bottom line is that Neil Young has always done his best work with Crazy Horse. And when Crazy Horse unbridles the passion, Neil Young is a rock 'n' roll genius.
Roy Rogers had Trigger. The Lone Ranger had Silver. Neil Young has Crazy Horse. And this particular horse knows just how to make its rider shine.
Wednesday's show was a rock 'n' roll show, pure and simple. No time outs for acoustic numbers, no bantering with the audience, no journey through the radio-worn past. One song after another after another.
After an electrically distorted "Star Spangled Banner" to open the show, Young launched into a stirring rendition of "Hey Hey, My My (Out of the Blue)," a raggedly glorious song that set the frantic pace for a dozen more originals to follow.
Most of the show was devoted to selections from "Ragged Glory," the latest and perhaps most brutally honest album he's ever produced. And concertgoers seemed to respond to new songs like "Love to Burn," "Love and Only Love" and "Mansion on the Hill" with the same unbridled enthusiasm they did to his more familiar numbers, like "Cinnamon Girl" and "Powderfinger."
There were other high spots. There was a scorching version of "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World" that would have drowned a Boeing jet on takeoff. There was the tortured blues of "Tonight's the Night." And there was the chilling "Cortez the Killer."
But perhaps the finest moment of the entire evening was a chills-down-the-spine rendition of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" - a version complete with a haunting electric guitar reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix. It had everyone standing. Those that weren't singing along were awestruck at the sheer power of the music.
All in all, it was the kind of music that transcends musical tastes or individual age. A good percentage of the audience weren't even born when classic Neil Young albums like "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" and "After the Gold Rush." Yet everyone knew the words. And the message.
It was artistry, and few have ever delivered it with the passion Neil Young did this particular night.
Opening the show were Social Distortion and Sonic Youth, two speed-metal-cum-punk bands who draw their fans more from the 1980s than from the '60s and '70s. And Neil Young fans were not particularly amused.
There were probably more people wandering the halls of the Huntsman Center during the opening acts than there were listening to the music. Just a suggestion: If the two bands got together, Neil Young fans would only have to sit through one 30-minute set before Neil Young. And the band could call itself Sonic Distortion, a name much more fitting to the sound.