Watching Neil Young with Crazy Horse is a lot like eating a large piece of toffee. It can be difficult and it takes a little effort to break it down and digest it, but the more you chew it the better it gets and eventually you find that sweet sugar rush you were looking for.
This was two and a half hours of unrepentant guitar abuse; a sonic mindfuck of epic proportions orchestrated by an uncompromising genius who, even at 67 years of age, was at the very peak of his considerable powers.
There was an element of theatre to the night, with roadies dressed in white laboratory coats rushing maniacally around the stage to the sound of The Beatles’ A Day In The Life prior to the opening as they yanked on a set of chains to reveal two towering amps. This should have set the tone for the evening, yet there were pockets of the audience who clearly hadn’t grasped that this was a Crazy Horse gig and not the acoustic performance they were inexplicably expecting. Within five songs folk who were dressed as though they were attending the Theatre Royal for an operetta were walking out, while some were quick in letting the rest of us know that “this is fucking shite, Neil! Fucking shite!” I was left unsure of how there could be such a complete lack of understanding that this was Crazy Horse and that the acoustic hits would not be present.
The majority of the crowd was in rapture, however, as Old Black and Crazy Horse set about their business in decibel shattering fashion. The guitar was bone crunching at times with screeching and meandering jams during songs which often topped the 15 minute mark. Ramada Inn was the benchmark in that respect, a magnificent spectacle which took the set out of an acoustic mid-point with Heart of Gold and a cover of Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind and into its raging climax.
With Cinammon Girl, Powderfinger, My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) and Fuckin’ Up also amongst the highlights, they provided the sweet sugary rush which rewarded the lengthy toffee chewing. It’s understandable why a Crazy Horse show isn’t to everybody’s taste and how it can be a difficult endurance test, but ultimately it is worth the effort.