2013-06-11_009@ Newcastle Metro Radio Arena, June 11 2013

Stylistically, this piece should be written in HUGE CAPITAL LETTERS with a strange TYPEFACE and exclamation marks!!!, expletives +%%%£x%***)^   and asterisks *** liberally sprinkled across the page.

It would somehow represent the weird, wacky, wonderful world of Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

This is a man who boasts one of the greatest back catalogues in the history of rock, who chooses to play two unreleased songs and a Bob Dylan cover during a two and a half hour gig. Crazy. 


Eschewing so many favourites, he resurrected the little-known Surfer Joe and Moe The Sleaze from the long-forgotten 1987  Re-ac-tor album. It was only the 15th time he’d ever played it live. Mad.

The band trundled on stage and,  alongside their white-cloaked roadies, proceeded to stand to attention as the National Anthem was beamed out. Odd.

Between 8.45pm and 11.16pm, Young barely uttered a word to the audience and though his body language was warm, not one song was introduced. Strange.

And then there’s the feedback and noise, distortion bleeding out of the mammoth speakers, stretching songs such as Walk Like A Giant and F*#kin Up to over 15 minutes each. Unique.

Not everyone rode the Horse. For those expecting a greatest hits package or equal balance between his acoustic and rockier numbers, they may have headed home disappointed.

And at times, the band’s grunge-like indulgence left many bemused. As one wag quipped: “They could have played three more in the time it took to finish some songs.”

But those who dismounted just don’t get Neil Young and Crazy Horse. This was not billed as an evening with Young, the troubadour but a blast with his long-time band mates Billy Talbot,  Poncho Sampedro and Ralph Mulina.

The gig was about loud, crunching, grinding, relentless  rock hammering down on the blitzed onlookers, with Young, Talbot and Sampedoo  invariably turning their backs to the crowd, huddled in an inpenetrable triangle, pressing their guitars against the speakers for minutes on end.

They were a unit so tight, I swear they were saddle sore long before the last strains of Rockin’ In A Free World, which closed the set.

Of course, there were examples of Young’s extraordinary versatility as a musician. Comes A Time, with the main man on stage alone with acoustic guitar and mouth organ, was rapturously received along with Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind – one of the few singalongs of the night.

And when Young sat down at a battered old piano to play the unreleased Singer Wthout A Song, the voice sounded as beautifully strained as on Harvest four decades ago.

Like Canadian compartiots Rush, Young’s latest album Psychedelic Pill is also one of his best and the superb Ramada Inn perfectly captures his innate ability to combine melody with angst.

Of course, Cinammon Girl and Hey, Hey, My My came as a blessed relief to those only familiar with Young’s mainstream work but for we die-hards, it hardly mattered what he chose to play.

A challenging night? Perhaps. A relaxing one? Hardly.

But for those who flocked to Newcastle’s Metro Arena to live the Neil Young and Crazy Horse experience, they couldn’t have asked for more.

And we’ll probably never experience a show quite like it again.

Ian Murtagh

Exclusive image courtesy of John Burrows @ishootgigs