Nobody would have been too shocked had Neil Young delivered a slightly subpar performance at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas on Sunday evening. Beyond the simple fact that the 69-year-old played a blazing three-hour show at the Santa Barbara Bowl the previous night, he's not exactly Mr. Las Vegas. He somehow managed to avoid playing the glitzy casino town a single time until 1991, bitched mightily about the rude crowd at a 1999 solo acoustic gig and has completely skipped over the market on every tour he's done during the past 12 years. Also, he was taking a show that rails against man's insatiable greed into a town completely built on man's insatiable greed and that celebrates it at every turn.
And of all the casinos on the strip, the super-sleek Cosmopolitan pretty much caters to the youngest crowd. The main floor sometimes feels like a never-ending spring break, with half-dressed college-age kids running around carrying comically oversized drinks. It's almost the last venue in the world one can imagine seeing Neil Young, but there he was, taking the stage at third-floor theater the Chelsea after a killer opening set by Jenny Lewis, who watched the entire set from the side of the stage near Daryl Hannah, who was snapping photos throughout the night.
At just about 3,000 seats, the Chelsea is the smallest venue on Young's Rebel Content tour, without a single bad seat in the house. From the opening notes of "After the Gold Rush," it was clear that Young was completely in the zone, and the magic lasted into the guitar breakdown at the conclusion of "Cinnamon Girl" almost three hours later. Beyond a few tiny digs at Vegas during the night, he acted like it was any ordinary stop on the tour. It was further evidence that, beyond his work with Crazy Horse, this is his best tour in at least 20 years. Here are five reasons why that's the case.