Neil Young and Crazy Horse
Wellington, TSB Arena, March 19
Neil Young is a legendary singer and songwriter - there's no doubt about that.
But he's also a true guitar god. He can spin tales on his guitar like no one else.
Young's ever-evolving career has drawn fans from different eras, and so the packed TSB Arena in Wellington was filled last night with the grey and bald as well as a good helping of younger fans and a sprinkle of hipster kids.
As The Beatles' A Day in the Life blasts away, there he is - Neil Young, possibly the most unpretentious rock star ever.
Dressed in jeans, a T-shirt with the Aboriginal flag and a flannel shirt, he opens with God Defend New Zealand (opening with the national anthem is his thing) and he and his band Crazy Horse break into Love and Only Love from 1990 album Ragged Glory.
And this sets the scene. This is not Neil Young the troubadour, the balladeer, this is Neil Young and his band Crazy Horse.
Standing with Frank "Poncho" Sampedro and Billy Talbot around Ralph Molina's drum set they're setting off into a massive jam. The four are one unit, moving even closer the more intense a song gets, feeding off each other's energy.
Then they rip into a couple of tracks from their latest album Psychedelic Pill, like Born In Ontario and the epic Walk Like A Giant.
After an hour we're about five songs in, and Young serves solo after solo and takes every song to another, epic, level. At times the quartet seems they forget they're performing in front of a sold-out arena and just jam.
But then Young also caters to those who came to re-live their youth. Crazy Horse retires for a while and he's performing the song that made him a household name, Heart of Gold on an acoustic guitar that apparently once belonged to Hank Williams, followed by a beautiful rendition of Twisted Road.
During Heart of Gold the audience get out their mobile phones, take photos and sing along.
Then we go on a bit of a time travel.
With so many options at hand, with a back catalogue so big we could spend weeks here without Young having to repeat anything, the audience gets a bit twitchy.
But Young is just a big tease, throws out a list of songs he could play and settles on 1969 song Cinnamon Girl, which brings a bit of a movement into the crowd.
But for a lot of the evening the audience seem a bit like a flock of stunned sheep. Not even the punk-rocky Sedan Delivery draws much of a visible reaction.
They might be stunned by the excellence, by the grandeur of those mammoth jams or they might have expected something else.
As we're heading towards the three-hour mark, they wake up and demand an encore and Crazy Horse finish where they have started, with a track from 1990s album Ragged Glory, and this one is the one that draws his Wellington audience a bit out of its shell.
They're finishing with a trippy, funky version of "F**kin' Up" - and hey, don't we all like using swear-words.
Did he play all the songs, people came to hear? Certainly not. Was it good? No, it was absolutely great.
- © Fairfax NZ News