Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Kitchener Memorial Auditorium
November 20, 2012
When Canadian Icon Neil Young climbs on the stage with his cohorts in Crazy Horse there’s a cognitive release that happens only a few times in one’s lifetime. It’s something about the sound that unlocks the sludge from the brain and lets it flow out like a pint of Heineken Lager. Events like that usually happen in the bigger centers like Toronto, New York or Los Angeles, but never in Kitchener. Pretty cool when you think that he performed in Toronto the day before and exactly one week later hit the stage at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
For the thousands that attended this small Ontario stop on the 2012 Alchemy tour in late November, the sludge was flowing for a couple hours while Young and his bandmates provided a soundtrack of emotion, distortion and feedback. It was like being at a retro 1960s concert, complete with groovy tunes and a sense of higher being.
Never one for shying away from “presentation”, Young had his road crew dressed as construction workers and mad scientists as the stage was being set for the iconic performance. A giant microphone was dropped at stage while Young and the band entered to the sounds of O Canada. Young was dressed in his usual plaid lumberjack shirt and jeans as he prepared for an evening of experimental feedback.
The set list was packed with several tunes from his latest opus Psychedelic Pill, including the evening’s most responsive song, Born In Ontario. The song is a nostalgic journey through Young's life with the repeated refrain, "I was born in Ontario."
Another highlight from the massive two hour set was a small acoustic session where Young performed a solo classic The Needle and the Damage Done with a lone acoustic guitar. The acoustic set also included Twisted Road and the piano led Singer Without A Song where a pretty young woman pranced across the stage holding a guitar case in search of her song.
The hits were sparse in this show , but included the obvious Cinnamon Girl and regular set closer Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black). The latter full of more musical noise and distortion than most of us will ever hear in one place at one time. Speaking of musical distortion, fans were treated to two 20 minute extended song performances, including Walk Like A Giant, which included a 10 minute explosion of feedback that eventually transcended into a flickering of rainfall light effects and pre-recorded clips from Young’s Woodstock safety warnings.
The show closed with a jam session version of Farmer John, joined by the guitar lineup from show openers Los Lobos.
Los Lobos performed a great set of bluesy rock earlier in the evening and keeping true to the style of this tour decided to exclude the hits La Bamba and their thrilling Spanish version of You’ve Got A Friend In Me from Toy Story 3. Toronto band The Sadies opened the show.
Photo by Dan Savoie