NEW YORK, NY—It was a night of cathartic solo rock by gonzo folk grungester Neil Young at Avery Fisher Hall as the Springfield, CSN&Y and Crazy Horse alumnus pushed the pedal to the metal with a hypnotic performance at the venue where the New York Philharmonic makes its home. Young played the cavernous rectangular shaped Hall into a boombox of sonic dirges and twisted, metallic distortion.
Standing solo, centerstage and wearing a white jacket and hat, Young shuffled between numbers like a cosmic avatar to Woodstock, country and grunge nations as well as his recent incarnation as a man taking on his own immortality. An Indian totem pole that presided over the night’s festivities like an omen to the spirits from a simpler time when man, beast and mother nature lived as one, to the various pianos, guitars and stools that lie scattered along the peripheral edges of a stage adorned by old lamps and signs.
Young mixed the old and the new, keeping the crowd on the edge of their seats as he meandered onstage between instruments allowing his muse to take him to the songs. The night however belonged to those off his latest one, Le Noise. Sprinkling in some oldies like fairy dust to the wind he went from the light and whimsical work of the old days to the dark and demonic new one that resembled parts of his 1974 album, On the Beach.
The combo kept the crowd in check and raptured to the Canadian troubadour’s steel-eyed reflections on the planet, love and war. Opening with “My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue),” from Rust Never Sleeps on his Martin D-45 acoustic guitar that bellowed a meaty, full-blown jangle of tones. “Rock And Roll Will Never Die” went down like a meeting at rock church amidst the hoots and hollers from the crowd that followed with the folkies “Tell Me Why” and “Helpless.”
“Peaceful Valley Boulevard” was epochal, conjuring up images from the Wild West to the present. From wagon trains to electric cars, billboards and inept politicians in its meandering wake that ended with the rhetorical question, “Who will be the beacon in the night/who will be the one to protect God’s creations.” “Love And War” took on themes that have been central to Young’s canon since his days with the Buffalo Springfield from the Vietnam War to the current mess in the Middle East.
“Hitchhiker” was a loud and thumpy growl delivered from Young’s Old Blackie Les Paul guitar. An autobiographical ode to the darker recesses of the Young persona he let it rip on fame, fortune, family, paranoia, country life and the party lifestyle throwing in lines from “Like An Inca” from 1983’s Trans album, as his guitar grumbled to the coda that was the highlight of the night.
“After the Goldrush,” played on a pump organ, had a childlike, carnival swirl to it. “I Believe In You,” played on an upright piano, took us back to the stoneyed barnyards of the ‘70s. On “Cortez The Killer” Young faced off to the totem pole onstage then turned to the crowd and laced into it with the sound’s stew of thunder. During “Cinnamon Girl” he shuffled to the edge of the stage ending the regular set with a triad of crackling power chords and rapid-fire solos that rocked, rolled and rusted the confines of the Hall’s stuffy interior once and for all.
Setlist: “My My, Hey Hey,” “Tell Me Why,” “Helpless,” “You Never Call,” “Peaceful Valley,” “Love And War,” “Down By The River,” “Hitchhiker,” “Ohio,” “Sign Of Love,” “Leia,” “After The Gold Rush,” “I Believe In You,” “Rumblin’,” “Cortez The Killer,” “Cinnamon Girl.” Encore: “Walk With Me.”