In celebration of Neil Young’s 71st birthday, Morrison Hotel Gallery presented Long May You Run, a retrospective of photos that took on the man’s legacy from the ’60s to his recent tours with Crazy Horse in 2013 and last year’s Promise Of The Real.
Henry Diltz’s shots of Young with Buffalo Springfield, making happy on Zuma Beach and driving around in a beat-up Jeep and all grizzled catch the renegade rocker at ease. His pictures along with Young’s longtime archivist Joel Bernstein provide an insider’s look at the era’s rustic charms through the stoneyed and rose-colored tones of Laurel Canyon. Bernstein’s pic of Neil relaxing backstage, which made the gatefold of his 1970 album, After The Gold Rush, is a classic.
Photographer Julie Gardner’s take on Young’s live performances tease at Shakey’s elusive, quiet nonchalance and the loud, fuzzy and furious battles on the concert stage with his bandmates in Crazy Horse. A few of her pieces catch Young in shadowy silhouette taking on the muse.
Lost in the thunderous moments, Young’s shadowy, larger than life presence, and the quieter, mysterious ones that push and pull at the joy of life, is what his live shows are all about. When I asked Julie what is so alluring to capturing him, she added, “He has such a powerful presence, and performs with intense energy and passion. Neil draws you in from the moment he walks on stage. From his intimate songs, to the full-on band tracks with guitar solos and feedback that scream at you, Neil rocks. His performances are outstanding, memorable and exciting, no matter how many times you see him, no matter what the lineup of the band is.”
On her uses of Young’s silhouetted form from the 2013 Crazy Horse tour in Newcastle, England, Julie added, “Neil is in his own world, really into being with his guitar and making music. The stage here in this shot was actually very dark, which Neil uses, I suspect, to have these moments alone, despite being in front of a crowd of thousands of people.”
Bringing us up to the last tour with Willie Nelson’s sons, Lukas and Micah, who pushed Young’s playing to the stratos and beyond that you can hear on the recent live one Earth, Julie’s shot of Young seated at the piano at Red Rocks in Colorado captures him alone in the spotlight. When I asked Julie about this one, she shared the following story:
“I was kneeling on the side of the stage next to the bass tech rig, just behind Neil, when he came out to the piano and started playing ‘After The Gold Rush’. The lighting for the tours with Promise Of The Real had been stripped down to just spots. Neil had wanted a different look to the other tours so it was decided to take out the normal touring lights and by using only spots, give the show a ‘raw’ feel. With the intense spotlight shining on Neil, he looked so dramatic and mysterious, but it was also intimate and almost private. It felt to me that Neil, even though he was onstage in front of a few thousand people, was in his own world there and I was privy to it.”
Julie entered Young’s inner circle working on Stephen Stills’ Live At Shepherds Bush DVD in 2008 and is currently working on scarves featuring artwork from the album On The Beach that will be available in 2017.
For more information, check out morrisonhotelgallery.com.