Words and Images by: Andrew Bruss
Neil Young & Crazy Horse :: 12.4.12 :: Webster Bank Arena :: Bridgeport, CT
Full review below photo gallery!
The Godfather of Grunge unleashed a sonic onslaught that created a storm-like atmosphere over the crowd at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Neil Young & Crazy Horse came to the city for the second-to-last date of the Alchemy tour, a cross-country marathon of arena and festival headlining gigs in support of the two albums they release in 2012, Americana, and Psychedelic Pill.
|Neil Young by Andrew Bruss|
Every single date of the tour kicked off with “Love and Only Love,” a song based around a only handful of chords, but Neil & Crazy Horse wove into a gritty, feedback-laden jam that lasted for a good fifteen minutes.
Young has performed with so many groups and in so many different incarnations over the years, that it’s clear he’s a guy who likes to change things up on the road to keep his work interesting. Every fan of Young knows that when he’s involving Crazy Horse in a project, it means fans are going to get Young at his absolute loudest. His work with Crazy Horse is what earned him the Godfather of Grunge title, and when the quartet played “Walk Like a Giant,” Young lived right up to it. The sixteen minute-plus tune is the last track on the second disc of Psychedelic Pill, and the band were more than happy to go deep with the song in the live setting and drag things out a bit.
Towards the end of the tune, bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina drove things into a less structured, more abstract improvisational segment that featured the bassist and two guitar players smacking and scratching their strings for feedback, and knocking on the wood to abuse a vibrato-heavy reverb out of the instrument.
It would have been futile to out-rock the ending of “Walk Like A Giant,” so on the tour, Young has followed it up with a solo-acoustic pair of songs; the classic heroin-saga, “The Needle and the Damage Done,” followed by “Twisted Road,” a tune Young recorded electric on Psychedelic Pill.
|Neil Young & Crazy Horse by Andrew Bruss|
The last third of the set just didn’t let up in the intensity department. The band ripped through “Cinnamon Girl,” a pseudo-hit off the first record the group put out together, 1969’s Everybody Knows This is Nowhere. “Fuckin’ Up,” a favorite cover of Pearl Jam’s, might have shown the audience Young at his most edgy. With unparalleled ferocity, Young soloed on his back, boots stomping on the floor of the stage, as he momentarily fused with Old Black, the Gold Top 50’s-era Gibson Les Paul that’s been spray-painted black, loaded with extra chrome hardware, rocks a Firebird mini-humbucker pickup in the bridge position, and features a small switch between the tone and volume knobs that allows the signal of the instrument to surpass the potentiometers and capacitors wired within. The instrument is up there with Jerry Garcia’s “Tiger,” Eddie Van Halen's “Frankenstrat,” Jack White’s Gretsch Triple Jet and Trey Anastasio’s Languedoc as far as iconic, customized guitars are concerned. On the heavy hitting solos, Young emphasizes a signature part of his unmistakable guitar tone by pressing down on the vibrato system rigged to the bridge on every strum and strike of each string.
With feedback ringing out of amplifiers and the tubes crackling from overheating, the set came to a close with an overdriven version of “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black),” a tune famously written about The Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten, but whose lyrics wound up within the suicide note of Kurt Cobain (“Better to burn out than to fade away”). By the time the band came back to the stage to encore with “Rock Another Number” a good third of the audience had already gotten on their way.
|Neil Young & Crazy Horse by Andrew Bruss|
Neil Young & Crazy Horse barely changed things up night after night on the Alchemy Tour. They performed “Rockin’ in the Free World,” with Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys during a benefit concert in Central Park, and at Austin City Limits, the group dusted off “Down By The River” for the first time in almost a decade. Anyone who’d done their research went into the show in Bridgeport knowing what to expect, but the show still featured plenty of surprises. Unlike Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young looks his age, and he’s old. But seeing the pure, unadulterated essence of rock and roll radiate from one of the genres genuine treasures was practically a spiritual experience that will surely be cherished.
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