Look out mama, there’s some greybeards comin’ up the river.
They may look like your old hippie parents or grandparents, but they are really one of rock music’s most enduring and consistent bands, Crazy Horse.
Playing as if the clock never moved over the last 40-plus some years, it was a treat to see Neil Young and Crazy Horse slip into their unique brand of rock and roll and get lost for a few hours.
With more than a nod to the Rust Never Sleeps era, the 21st century version of the “roadeyes” came out prior to the start of the set and began to put the finishing touches on the sparse but oversized set which included 20 foot tall Fender cabinets and an inflatable microphone placed center stage. While they dressed in lab coats and construction worker garb rather than brown robes, the crew worked diligently to get it all just right, backed by approving cheers from the anxious crowd at the Wolstein Center.
Following a pre-recorded rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” Crazy Horse was now ready to rock.
“Love and Only Love” set the tone with its trademark Neil and Billy Talbot harmonies over layers of Neil and Frank Sampedro guitar wash. Veering a little further into the past, Young broke out the first of only a few classics with “Powderfinger.” Losing none of its original contempt, Young delivered the closing line “I saw black and my face splashed in the sky” with the same defiant surrender as he did nearly 35 years ago.
Moving ahead now to the yet-to-be released Psychedelic Pill, Young’s homage to his hometown, “Born in Ontario,” preceded the song of the night, a 20 minute throwdown called “Walk Like a Giant.” A nod to the failures and unfulfilled romantic ideals of the1960’s, the riff was huge as was the ending; over five minutes of droning power and feedback, seemingly simulating the sound of giants stalking the stage. A noisy testament to knowing from where you came and not conceding to the limits imposed by your age, your history or your catalog.
Going acoustic for a few, “The Needle and the Damage Done” inspired a mini sing-along and “Twisted Road” brought approval with its mentions of the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan. “Ramada Inn” was yet another reflective tune, looking back at life as a young traveler with nothing but ambition and contrasting that with the “what do we do now?” emptiness that pervades middle-age and beyond.
A fairly straight read of “Cinnamon Girl” preceded a wickedly welcome “F*! #in’ Up,” offering further proof that the band has lost nothing since that song’s debut over 20 years earlier on Ragged Glory.
Following “Psychedelic Pill,” Young commented that he forgot to introduce it as a new song while acknowledging that it didn’t matter because all of his stuff sounds the same anyway. He was certainly correct and that wasn’t a bad thing. The new songs would sound like vintage Crazy Horse to one who didn’t know better.
“Hey Hey My My (Into the Black)” reinforced Young’s notion that rock and roll will never die while also clearly illustrating that it’s just not being taken care of too well at the moment by those who don’t fit into a certain advanced age bracket.
“Mr. Soul” rocked hard and loud in the hands of the Horse. Interestingly, the fattening up of its original guitar melody brought light to the debt the song owes to Keith Richards’ great “Satisfaction” riff.
Finishing with the nostalgia and realism of “Roll Another Number,” the band stood on stage for an extended period soaking in the cheers and communal atmosphere. They had given it up in the name of rock and roll and Cleveland couldn’t have been more appreciative.
Love and Only Love
Born in Ontario
Walk Like a Giant
The Needle and the Damage Done
F*! #in’ Up
Hey Hey My My (Into the Black)
Roll Another Number
Playing the role of supporting act, Los Lobos caught fire early and could have played all night. Their seven-song set provided a brief overview of their career, hitting five of their 19 original albums: 1984’s How Will the Wolf Survive?, 1992’s Kiko, 1996’s Colossal Head, 2006’s The Town and the City, and 2010’s Tin Can Trust.
The opening strains of “Will the Wolf Survive” were familiar to many in the crowd, which grew larger over the course of their set thanks to the show’s early start time. Moving through a spicy version of “Chuco’s Cambia” into the hypnotic “Tin Can Trust,” guitarist Cesar Rosas then broke things open with a stompin’ take on the blues shuffle “That Train Don’t Stop Here Anymore.” A surprise followed in the form of the Blasters classic “Marie Marie,” recorded by the band on their 2004 EP of cover songs, Ride This.
Heading back to Kiko for a second dose with Rojas’ ominous “Wicked Rain,” they closed things up with the rocker “Don’t Worry Baby” and an all-out freak out on “Mas Y Mas.”
A brief but infinitely potent set from one of America’s finest. Catch them next time as a headliner for thorough exposure.
Will the Wolf Survive?
Tin Can Trust
That Train Don’t Stop Here Anymore
Don’t Worry Baby
Mas Y Mas