August 17, 2012
STATELINE, Nev. – It felt like a massive dinosaur shaking the earth with pulverizing steps.
The vibration on the unusually warm Tahoe night was so intense, an unworn jacket rattled off a chair and fell to the asphalt.
A trio of men in their late 60s howled and moved about in a primordial stomp, hunched over electric and bass guitars. Through the smoke, Neil Young bounced in front of a wooden statue, stopped and almost rubbed noses with the Indian in full headdress, staring into its eyes.
It was Crazy Horse, the original grunge band, and its intense bandleader in rare form: Neil was mischievous, happy and utterly unrestrained.
As the 23-minutes of “Walk Like A Giant” came to its thundering conclusion, an audience member screamed “More feedback!”
The band didn’t play “Cowgirl in the Sand,” “Tonight’s the Night,” “Down By the River” or even anything off its penultimate album, “Greendale.” In fact, almost half of the 14 songs in a 130-minute concert haven’t even been recorded on a CD.
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The raw-free-form performance had Young completely letting himself go. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a great guitar player, but his greatness was on full display for everyone to feel, hear and see. And he had fun doing it.
Members of the sold-out crowd Aug. 9 at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys were doused by Young’s water bottle after one of the classics he did play, “Cinnamon Girl.” Then he waved and smiled.
“Don’t talk, don’t think,” he later told the crowd. “Just feel it. Don’t Talk. Don’t think.”
It became a mantra.
“OK. We’re psyched,” Young declared as he began “Jesus’ Chariot (She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain),” a song from the new Crazy Horse record, “Americana.”
Young began his “Americana” project a half-century ago when he was with the band the Squires before the Ontario, Canada native dropped out of high school. He finally has gotten around to performing and recording the tunes with the Crazy Horse cohorts who he began playing with in 1968, a time that coincided with his band Buffalo Springfield. Crazy Horse’s rhythm section has always been drummer Ralph Molina and bassist Billy Talbot. When Frank “Poncho” Stampedro joined in 1975, Crazy Horse became even less refined, more loud and the kings of distorted song finishes.
During the final song before the encore – “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” – Poncho snuck up behind Neil and kicked him in the ass.
Rust never sleeps.