Neil Young And Crazy Horse Live Review: Rock’s greatest brotherhood make a blistering return to NYC

Neil and The Horse return to New York for the first time in over a decade for an incendiary performance.

Neil Young And Crazy Horse, New Orleans, May 2024

by David Fricke |
Updated on

Neil Young And Crazy Horse

Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, New York City, May 14, 2024

Neil Young has been a stranger in these parts – a remarkable thing to say about a singer and songwriter who, at 78, otherwise seems to be everywhere at once. His last time around in New York City was a full decade ago – four solo acoustic nights at Carnegie Hall in 2014, favouring the warm early-Seventies glow of After The Goldrush and Harvest. Since then, Young has released over 30 studio, live and archive albums, more than most artists rustle up in a lifetime, and been on a stage somewhere in the world in every non-pandemic year this century.

READ MORE: Neil Young F##n’ Up Review: The Horse breathe new life into past glories

His last, local performance with garage-rock loyalists Crazy Horse was so far back that guitarist Frank ‘Poncho’ Sampedro, now retired, was still in the band: a manic hour in Central Park on a benefit-festival bill in September, 2012. In 2018, Young reconvened the Horse with guitarist Nils Lofgren, a periodic veteran, for a brief California run that turned into a new wind: three studio albums in brisk succession and a new, jubilantly gritty live LP, Fu##in' Up, taped last November at a private party in Toronto with Micah Nelson, formerly in Young's other road troupe Promise Of The Real, on guitar and piano. A fifth member that night, Nelson is now Lofgren's replacement as the latter spends this year in stadiums with Bruce Springsteen.

In every other way that matters, nothing has changed: the giant mock-Fender amps and steroid-scale road cases dwarfing the band; the super-charged distortion all but drowning the fundamental melodies in the guitar hooks; the sustained rain of fuzz-bomb power chords and thunderclap drum rolls at the end of songs, as if Young can't bear to cut the high. It's a raw, manic ritualism that, at its best, blows up in the long-minted way you hope and expect, yet can turn down another unpaved road when fortune goes haywire. Which is what happened late in these two ragged-glory hours, outdoors in a cold, steady mist that may have had something to do with the tech drama that drove Nelson, at one point, to throw his guitar 20 feet into the air in frustration. (He caught it on the way down.)

Cortez The Killer, the nightly opener so far on this tour, was heavy business as usual: a slow march through mountains of amp fire, Young's spidery slaloms on lead guitar spiked with harmonics and rapid, wrenching spasms of his whammy bar. Nelson was – in the established tradition of Sampedro and before that the late Danny Whitten – a strident patience on rhythm guitar as the Horse's human metronomes, bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina, kept stoic, unhurried time, as sturdy and steady as if they had come to Young straight from the 1860's, driving spikes on the transcontinental railroad.

Most of what followed was greatest hits with occasional deep-track whiplash (Vampire Blues from 1974's On the Beach). It was as if the three recent albums with Lofgren –  ColoradoBarn and World Record – had never happened even though the tour is named after a song on that last 2022 LP (Love Earth). The most recent artifact tonight was nearly 30 years old – Scattered (Let's Think About Livin') from 1996's Broken Arrow, introduced in memory of Young's late producer and studio guardian David Briggs. While the late ‘60s and ‘70s (Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Zuma and Rust Never Sleeps) accounted for more than half of the set.

But this is an enterprise where "workmanlike" is the highest compliment, each show another night at the hammer and anvil, forging reliably transportive noise. Young's soloing in Like a Hurricane and Love and Only Love – a combined half-hour right there – was exultant primitivism, pressed to rude extremes in tone and atomic-pedal effects by Nelson's youthful energy, chopping at the chord changes in agitated rhythmic counterpart to the leader. And things really heated up when the wheels fell off.

Young was into the final verse of Human Highway, the third song of an acoustic interlude, when the PA cut out. He mimed the rest of the tune with good-natured exaggeration, then brought Crazy Horse back, storming into Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) – with no sound system, which went out again halfway through the first verse. But Young and the Horse did not break stride, playing for themselves through the stage monitors until full, avenging volume was restored, eventually finishing the song to thunderous effect and walking off with comic bows.

Given the gear issue, you’d think it would be even money that no encore was coming. And if it did, you’d be ready to put your long green on F##kin' Up, dedicated to the PA. Instead, Young and Crazy Horse came back with the seesaw fury of Sedan Delivery from Rust Never Sleeps and, for only the second time on this tour, Rockin' In The Free World," driven so hard that Young snapped two strings on his guitar and Nelson joined in, pulling and breaking half of his strings in giddy solidarity. We had to wait for it, but rock's greatest, enduring garage brotherhood came back to New York City renewed and unhinged, behaving and sounding like they were 18 again.

Set List:

Cortez The Killer

Cinnamon Girl

Scattered (Let's Think About Livin')

Like a Hurricane

Don't Cry No Tears

Vampire Blues

The Losing End (When You're On)

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere


Love and Only Love

Comes a Time/Heart of Gold

Human Highway/Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)


Sedan Delivery

Rockin' in the Free World

Picture: Neil Young And Crazy Horse at New Orleans Jazz And Heritage Festival, May 4, 2024. Credit: Getty/Astrida Valigorsky.

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