At Rogers Arena, Vancouver, Canada: Amid a deluge of pot smoke and smartphones, Neil Young took to the stage with Crazy Horse for a devastating two hours in Vancouver at Rogers Arena on November 11, 2012. It was Remembrance Day for us Canucks and Veteran’s Day for the Yanks, but by the time the morning ceremonies faded and the night fell on the city, it was time to blast back to the past.
After the Sadies got the incoming mass going with a brief set and Los Lobos pushed forward through an energetic series of songs, the lab technicians took to the stage to prepare for the Horse. Screens flipped on and joints fired up as the giant amps were unveiled and the big microphone was put in place. With the crew satisfied, Young, Poncho Sampredo, Ralph Molina, and Billy Talbot hit the stage.
Of course, few noticed that they were there until a giant Canadian flag unfurled. Young with Crazy Horse and the lab techs led the already-baked multitude in a rendition of “Oh Canada” before getting down to business.
The lion’s share of the songs came from Psychedelic Pill, Young’s latest salvo of weighty rock and roll slabs. The long jams were in play in Vancouver, too, and the crowd seemed to lap it up for the most part — even though the material didn’t seem too familiar to many.
“Love and Only Love,” from Young’s 1990 release Ragged Glory, led the charge with a wall of guitars and plenty of shredding from the now-67-year-old. Old Black squealed and crowed with searing distortion, with Young bouncing and stalking the stage like a giant. The track slashed on for nearly 20 minutes, setting the tone for a jam-heavy evening.
Psychedelic Pill hit hard with songs like “Born in Ontario,” which got a rise from the crowd, and the thunderous “Walk Like a Giant.” The latter came to a close with an earth-shattering array of feedback and repetition, with the crowd pointlessly trying to clap along with every stomping blast of sound.
After a brief moment of calm, Young took the stage with his acoustic guitar to sing “The Needle and the Damage Done” to an appreciative crowd. The fact that it was perhaps the first “known” song to many in the arena meant that it became a sing-along. Young followed with “Twisted Road” and hit the keys for “Singer Without a Song.”
Those moments of calm subsided and the gang took to throwing heat again, with Pill’s “Ramada Inn” leading into a blow-away final few songs that included “Cinnamon Girl” and “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).” The throng, after the “Roll Another Number” encore, offered Young a moving round of “Happy Birthday” before the Horse rode on out of town.
All in all, it was a satisfying show. Young’s energy never faded and the band “let the good times roll” all night long. Those looking for more familiar favorites may have been dissatisfied, but those ready for a rock show that delivered a transformative trip were not.
He may have been “Born in Ontario,” but on this night Neil Young’s heart belonged in Vancouver’s smoke.
Set List for Neil Young, Vancouver, November 11, 2012:
Love and Only Love
Born in Ontario
Walk Like a Giant
The Needle and the Damage Done
Singer Without a Song
Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)
Roll Another Number