Neil Young and Crazy Horse Whip Up a Rock n’ Roll Storm During Rainy NYC Show

Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s Love Earth Tour, their first trek together in a decade, rolled through New York City’s Forest Hills Stadium on Tuesday (May 14) for the first of two shows at the charming open-air venue.

Unlike nearly every rock legend from his era, Young doesn’t rely on pyrotechnics, lights or even video screens to captivate an audience. The iconoclastic rocker and his longtime collaborators Crazy Horse — which still includes co-founders Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot — take the stage with nothing but bare-knuckled rock n’ roll (not to mention some of the greatest songs ever written) to knock the crowd on its ass.

“What’s your favorite planet?” Young shouted several times during the show, prompting the fan callback, “Earth!” Perhaps as a gift to one of her most vocal rock n’ roll advocates, Mother Earth provided a bit of visual theatrics for Young and Crazy Horse’s set at the outdoor venue, conjuring up dramatic storm clouds that looked straight out of a J. M. W. Turner painting. Naturally, nothing is a better complement to the tumultuous “Like a Hurricane” than an angry sky.

Young said the band had rehearsed for 23 days leading up to the tour, and it clearly paid off. Musically, Young and Horse were as simpatico and incendiary as ever, stretching out on auditory odysseys like “Cortez the Killer” and “Powderfinger,” chugging through the blunt thump of “Cinnamon Girl” and feeding off each other during the oil industry takedown “Vampire Blues.” (Speaking of “Cortez,” Young and Crazy Horse’s new release, Dume, is a reworked version of 1975’s Zuma using shelved material from those sessions; Young paid tribute to that album’s producer, the late David Briggs, during the show, saying, “We like to think about him — it centers us a little bit.”)

It’s almost shocking to witness Young, who survived a brain aneurysm in 2005 and turns 79 this year, sounding every bit as ferocious and dexterous on the guitar as he did on recordings from the ‘70s. Close your eyes on the Love Earth Tour and you could almost believe you’re listening to 1979’s Live Rust. Hell, if you open your eyes (and ignore the numerous white-and-grey heads) you could mistake it for that era, too – after all, Young and Crazy Horse are still toting around the same gigantic amps from the Rust Never Sleeps era at each show on this tour.

The rain didn’t put a damper on the evening, but unfortunately, a few sound issues did. During Young’s solo acoustic portion toward the end of the set, the sound cut out entirely during “Human Highway”; when it came back, Young gamely restarted the song, only to have it drop out again. He made the right choice to solider on, bring out the full band and tackle “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” — but unfortunately, the audio issues persisted. As the sound faded in and out on that cataclysmic rocker, it was almost like listening to a vinyl record using a sound system on the fritz; one moment the noise level is pummeling you, the next moment all you can hear is the small sound made from the needle raking over the record’s groove.

Undeterred, Young and Crazy Horse returned for a problem-free encore that gave audiences a crackling “Sedan Delivery” and a cathartic “Rockin’ in the Free World.” It’s been a long time since Neil was young, but with Crazy Horse at his side, you can almost believe him on “Powderfinger” when he sings, “And I just turned 22.”

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