Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, 12-3-12
Walking onto the floor and seeing the Rust Never Sleeps set at the other end of the Barclays Center was this combination of disbelief and deja vu. I never got to see the Rust Never Sleeps tour; by the time I read about it in Rolling Stone it was long gone, and I used to sit in front of my stereo with the records and bemoan that I had missed what had to have been one of the most amazing things ever.
Monday night made up for all of that in so many ways. I applaud Neil bringing back the theatricalism of the intro, although this time they’re in lab coats and hard hats instead of dressed like jawas, scuttling about the stage. I was thrilled to discover that these were the original sets, that they escaped the warehouse fire. And being able to take the photo above, capturing that iconic album cover, was achieving some kind of previously unknown dream.
The sound was great; the show was loud and powerful and I liked the sound on the floor of the arena (my first visit). Neil is strong and in fine mettle. There were plenty of enormous grungy jams that just, only just, teetered on the edge of trying some of the audience’s patience; I appreciated the gentleman yelling “YOU SUCK” at the end of the closing jam of “Walk Like A Giant,” as the RNS Woodstock rainstorm was recreated for us, to my amusement and sheer wonder. LIke, it made sense that Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley and Lee Ranaldo were in the audience. (Also spotted: Al Gore. No kidding.)
There was restraint, though; when I heard the first notes of the opening “Love And Only Love” I settled in for what in past tours would have been a good 20-25 minutes, Neil kept things trim while still maintaining the integrity of the thudding original, which needs that room to grow and blossom. I was a little sad to get “Powderfinger” instead of “Cortez,” but later on I would get just about everything I could want, including “The Needle and the Damage Done,” just Neil acoustic. But “Cinnamon Girl,” “Fuckin’ Up,” “Mr. Soul” and then, of course, “Hey Hey My My” were what you came there for. (Although I was amused at a Barclays Center security guard walking around with headphones in some distress as Neil had the audience singing, “You’re just a fuckup!” for about 10 minutes to close the song out: “They’re just singing “Fuck” over and over,” she said over her headset.)
Patti Smith’s opening set was, uncharacteristically, the first time I have seen her perform this year. I felt she presented a strong setlist, giving people the hits with “Because the Night” and “Dancing Barefoot,” a new song from Banga, her lovely NY cover of “Only A Dream” from the Carnegie Hall tribute, and just when I was looking at my watch and thinking she had time for two more, the opening notes of “Land” guaranteed she could go full out punk priestess, incorporating a brief rant against the Barclays Center, even, as the transition into “Gloria” had the crowd roaring in approval.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the third band on the bill, Everest, who I also felt fine tuned a nicely crunching set to fit the bill they were on. [Full disclaimer, one of my oldest friends is in Everest and so I spent half of their set beaming at the sight of my BFF performing in front of the Rust Never Sleeps set.]