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Perfectly strange

Neil Young at the Orpheum Theatre, December 2, 2007
By MATT ASHARE  |  December 9, 2007
ARTIST AT WORK: Young’s attire, and the randomly littered stage, complemented an
unpredictable, inspired set.

Neil Young may no longer be the chameleon who with musical excursions like his retro rockabilly Shocking Pinks and the electronic experiment Trans drove David Geffen to his lawyers back in the ’80s. But he still likes to mix it up between tours with his trusty Crazy Horse. He didn’t throw major twists into his familiar routines last Sunday at the Orpheum so much as he tried to recapture some of the spontaneity, intimacy, and folk-rock magic of the late ’60s. The stage resembled a period piece, littered with vintage amps, a pair of what looked to be salvaged, spray-painted pianos, mismatched light fixtures, a red toy phone, a disco ball, and a backdrop of big, light-up letters that spelled nothing in particular. An artist was hard at work painting canvases for each tune.

The show was split into two parts: a solo Young with his array of acoustic guitars and harmonicas, and an eclectic electric set bolstered by lap- and pedal-steel master Ben Keith, imposing bassist Rick Rosas, Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina, and, on back-up vocals, Anthony Crawford and Young’s wife, Pegi. Dressed in a spiffy suit coat and white button-down shirt with French cuffs offset by baggy, paint-spattered trousers that reflected the night’s loose yet workmanlike feel, Young mixed old favorites (“After the Gold Rush,” “Heart of Gold”) with rare, unrecorded oldies like “Love Art Blues” and “Sad Movies” and a handful of tracks from ’92’s Harvest Moon. It wasn’t till the electric set that he pulled out tunes from the new Chrome Dreams II — the rousing “Spirit Road,” the grungy “Dirty Old Man,” the country-tinged “The Believer.” But he still favored deep cuts like “Winterlong” over more familiar material. When the time came for one of his trademark guitar workouts, it was the new “No Hidden Path” that got the treatment, as he stretched the tune (14:33 on the CD) into a half-hour of frenzied, soulful soloing — a perfectly strange, inspired way to end an evening that was all that and more.

  Topics: Live Reviews , Neil Young , Neil Young , Crazy Horse ,  More more >
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