Neil Young Plays Quiet and Loud Classics at Tour Kickoff in St. Paul

October 15, 2008 1:02 PM ET

When Neil Young launched his last American solo arena tour five years ago, the main set consisted entirely of Greendale, a dense concept record that wouldn't hit stores for another two months. The fans who yelled "Old Man" and "Cortez The Killer" with a mixture of shock and horror received little solace from the measly three song encore of hits. Last night, at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center, he kicked off a new American tour with a set packed with more hits than a double bill of the Beach Boys and Creedence Clearwater Revisited.

From the opening notes of 1990's "Love and Only Love" it was clear that Young, clad in a paint splattered sport coat and jeans, was in flawless vocal shape and full of incredible energy, especially considering that he'll be 63 years old in less than a month. The classics started flying, including "Hey Hey, My My," "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" and "Powderfinger." The acoustic segment of "Heart Of Gold," "Old Man," "Helpless" and "The Needle And The Damage Done" could have been taken from a Neil Young block on a soft rock radio station, but he played them with enough passion to make them feel alive again. The hits were balanced out at the end of the night with a three consecutive brand new songs, all of which seemed to be about Young's efforts to build a car that gets 100 miles to the gallon. The night ended with a feedback-heavy cover of "A Day In The Life" that concluded with Young ripping all the strings of his famous black Gibson Les Paul.

The band was the nearly the same one he used on the electric portion of last year's brief theater tour, with studio ace Chad Cromwell swapping in for Crazy Horse's Ralph Molina on drums. Longtime Young sidemen Ben Keith (pedal steel/rhythm guitar), Rick Rosas (bass), Anthony Crawford (piano, guitar) and Neil's wife Peggi (piano, background vocals) have an incredible ability to recreate the sound of any record, whether the songs were originally cut with Crazy Horse or the Harvesters.

The sheer amount of Crazy Horse staples ("Cinnamon Girl," "Cowgirl In The Sand," "Rockin' In The Free World") did make me miss the original players. Rosas is a near flawless bassist, but often the joy of a great Neil Young performance is hearing the group screw something up. "No matter how fuckin' much we practice the song, [bassist] Billy [Talbot] can get so into the groove he'll forget to do the change," Young says of Crazy Horse in his biography Shakey. "Ralph [Molina] can pick it up on the wrong beat and play it backwards — that happens all the time. Never happens with real professional musicians." If the only nitpick was Young's band played too perfectly, however, then it was clearly an amazing show. It was definitely one of the best arena shows I've seen in a long time. Hopefully he'll bring the Horse next time and bring it to an even higher level.

"Love And Only Love"
"Hey Hey, My My"
"Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere"
"Spirit Road"
"Cortez The Killer"
"Cinnamon Girl"
"Unknown Legend"
"Mother Earth"
"The Needle and the Damage Done"
"Old Man"
"Heart Of Gold"
"Get Back To The Country"
"Just Singing a Song"
"Sea Change"
"When Worlds Collide"
"Cowgirl In The Sand"
"Rockin' In The Free World"

"A Day In The Life"

Related Stories:
Neil Young Pushes Back Album Release Date
Wilco, Smashing Pumpkins Headline Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit
Neil Young's Rough Ride

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Whoomp! (There It Is)”

Tag Team | 1993

Cecil Glenn — a.k.a., "D.C." — was a cook at Magic City, a nude dance club in Atlanta, when he first heard women shout "Whoomp — there it is!" Inspired by the party chant, he and partner Steve "Roll'n" Gibson wrote a song around it. Undaunted by label rejections, they borrowed $2,500 from Glenn's parents and pressed 800 singles, which quickly sold out in the Atlanta area. A record deal came soon after. Glenn said the song was meant for positive partying. "If you're going to say 'Whoomp there it is,' and you're doing something negative, we'd rather it not have come out of your mouth."

More Song Stories entries »