Neil Young looks up to the heavens, scanning the sky as if searching for a sign. Cloud cover has finally settled over the RDS on an evening that has blown hard in the face of Canada’s greatest singer-songwriter and his wild-natured backing band. Hanging speaker stacks flanking the stage wobble in the stiff breeze and even Old Shaky himself has to hang on to his hat at one point. It’s nothing however compared to the storminess of the close-standing quartet who just a few minutes into tonight’s show stick a middle finger up to anyone who was hoping to hear ‘The Needle & The Damage Done’ softly picked from a highstool.
Instead, all 20,000 of us are swamped in uncompromising, Americana noise that is jammed out to the horizon and back, as if we’ve all been allowed sit in on four stoned teenagers making a din in their garage one Sunday afternoon. The 67-year-old, dressed like some manner of Mexican undertaker, leads the band of brothers through the scales. ‘Walk Like A Giant’ (from last year’s Psychedelic Pill) is a vast scuffed-up groove with dirt under its fingernails as the mercurial head honcho does exactly what he sings, wrestling his guitar into thunderous shapes. When it takes ten minutes of quaking feedback and false finales to end the song, the crowd is split between the “get-on-with-its” and the “fucking-awesomes”. (Perhaps the former had failed to notice the words ‘Crazy’ and ‘Horse’ on the posters – the clue’s in the name, folks.)
Everyone however is probably grateful when an acoustic interlude allows guitarist Frank Sampredo, bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina to catch their breath. A honey-sweet ‘Comes A Time’ gives space for softer reflection tonight, before Young drops a cover of ‘Blowing In The Wind’ (which may or may not be a tongue-in-cheek reference to this evening’s gustiness).
The brothers return, the pedals are triggered once more and the crowd are now coming to life. Just to be sure, ‘Cinnamon Girl’ slaps the last few cobwebs away. It’s a good prep for ‘Fuckin’ Up’ (“This is for all you people that are too fuckin’ cool,” Young sneers), which outdoes Super Furry Animals for F-word quotient. Encore time rolls into view and the mood is softened by both drizzle and the mellow, far-out crunch of ‘Cortez The Killer’. A bow, a wave and a “g’night” before Young and the Crazy Horses leave behind a crowd that is right now either ecstatic or irked, depending on how closely they read that concert poster.
Photos: Paulo Goncalves