By the time 2012 rolled around, it seemed like Neil Young might never perform with Crazy Horse again. It had been eight years since they last played together, far and away their longest break since they came together in 1968. Plans were in place for a Buffalo Springfield tour in 2012, but at some point in late 2011, Young abandoned that idea and invited the three members of Crazy Horse to his California ranch to jam.
The sessions became public in late January of 2012 when Neil casually mentioned at the Slamdance Film Festival that he was back in the studio with Crazy Horse, and days later, he posted a 37-minute jam on on his website called “Horse Back” that contained bits of “Fuckin’ Up” and a killer rendition of “Cortez the Killer.” This was bad news for Stephen Stills and Richie Furay, but to many Neil Young hardcores, it felt like a pretty fair tradeoff for the lack of a Buffalo Springfield tour.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse made their live return on February 10th, 2012, when they performed “I Saw Her Standing There” at a MusiCares tribute concert to Paul McCartney during Grammy week. They shared the bill with Katy Perry, Foo Fighters, Alicia Keys, Coldplay, James Taylor and McCartney himself, but they completely stole the show and even altered the lyrics a bit. “She was just 17,” Young sang. “And she wasn’t a beauty queen/But the way she looked was way beyond compare.”
Over the next two years, Neil Young and Crazy Horse would release the American-standards disc Americana as well as Psychedelic Pill, an LP of originals. They also toured the world a couple times over, though bassist Billy Talbot suffered a stroke shortly before the 2014 European run and was replaced by Rick Rosas, Young’s longtime bassist, who passed away just a few months after the tour wrapped up.
Young’s full attention right now is on Promise of the Real, though he did catch up with Talbot when they played Red Rocks this summer. “We got to hang out briefly, and it was cool to see him smiling and loving the music,” said guitarist Micah Nelson. “I didn’t ask him about his health, but he was walking without a cane or anything and just seemed great. He looked to be in good health.” Let’s hope that means the Horse still has a little more life left in it.