WANTAGH, NY—Neil Young and Promise Of The Real sandblasted Jones Beach amphitheatre with a powerful set of eco-rock that thundered across the South Bay against a threat of rain for a mind-blowing three hours. Nelson brothers Lukas and Micah tweaked, grinded and churned at Young’s stew of countrified rock that went from the serenity of a ripple to the rattling roar of a big swell over the course of the 26-song evening.
Young planted the seeds early on in his set that the band took on and germinated into a homegrown and melodic Molotov of psychedelic rock. The songs all had environmental overtones as they took on the innocence of an era from the beginning of Young’s solo career to his current catharsis as an earthy grandpa upholding the rights of the planet.
Taking on the plight of the family farm and the degradation of how music’s being listened to these days with the PONO music system, Young puts his money where his mouth is. Taking on Monsanto corporation and their wicked ways of genetically altering the food we eat as well as suing farmers for selling the genetically-altered seeds that naturally end up in their stash has turned him into one pissed off hippie.
A pair of farmgirls tended to the plants then seeded the stage as Young lumbered over to the pump organ for “After The Gold Rush,” laying down gospel to “look at mother nature on the run in the 21st century.” A set of classics followed including “Heart Of Gold,” “Long May You Run” and “Old Man” with Young on solo acoustic guitar. On “Mother Earth,” he gently pleaded we “respect mother earth and her healing hand,” after which a few men in hazmat outfits gassed the stage and the rest of the band joined in on “Hold Back The Tears,” “Hank To Hendrix” and “Harvest Moon” that kept us all dewy eyed.
By the time “Words” from the Harvest album went down, the band transformed itself into a rock and roll posse straight off the soundstage of a spaghetti western, taking on the tunes, tempo changes and “looking for something to plant on the lawn.” Neil howled as Willie Nelson’s sons growled and wailed back in a guitar interplay that was reminiscent of the ferocious Stills and Young blowouts of the ’70s.
Young added on stage, “I think I’m almost ready for a cup of coffee,” before “A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop.” That was the first of many from the new one, Monsanto Years, that he played on his trusty Gibson, old Blackie. Combining some old-time whistling and a stomping shoutout to the corporate ghouls that have taken over this nation with, “I’d like to start the day off and not help a GMO!” Monsanto became the focus for the rest of the night as he took them on in an eight-tune knockout of loud guitars.
In between he threw the crowd a bone with chestnuts like “Down By The River” that the band turned into a 20-minute-plus marathon of chugging guitars as the Nelson brothers twisted minimalism freed up Young’s blistering distortio. Encircling drummer Anthony LoGerfo they huddled, bobbed and weaved on stage as their guitars bounced and careened off each other into a glorious mashup. Lukas Nelson’s high-pitched warble matched Young’s magnificently providing octave-induced harmonies like the old days of CSN&Y.
“Love And Only Love” closed the regular set in loving homage to Crazy Horse. “Cortez The Killer” started off slowly then built into a beastly, climatic ending as Young paced over to the Indian statue stageside, nodded, then pulled off the coda ending it all Like a Hurricane! My ears are still ringing. Thanks, Neil. Long may you run.