Neil Young res­ur­rects a clas­sic ver­sion of Crazy Horse for the first time in 45 years

Mojo (UK) - - Contents -

So Neil Young got back to­gether with his most sto­ried band for the first time in four years, and played in Fresno with­out re­hears­ing? MOJO re­ports from the front row.


ÒThe Horse is ready to leave the barn!” When Neil Young has an idea, things tend to hap­pen rather fast. So it was that, 10 days af­ter he an­nounced on his web­site that Crazy Horse had re­con­vened, the band were on-stage in Fresno, Cal­i­for­nia, for the first time in four years. This is not, though, quite the same Crazy Horse; the name, in fact, now seems to be ‘NYCH’. Gui­tarist Frank ‘Pon­cho’ Sampe­dro told MOJO in Jan­uary that he had heard “rum­blings” of a re­union, but ahead of the first Fresno date on May 1, Young an­nounced, “Pon­cho isn’t able to join us right now, but we all hope he’ll be back.” In­stead, Young, drum­mer Ralph Molina and bass player Billy Tal­bot are joined by one of Sampe­dro’s pre­de­ces­sors in Crazy Horse (and a long­time mem­ber of Bruce Spring­steen’s E Street Band), Nils Lof­gren. Lof­gren’s re­turn is well-timed: he was a crit­i­cal part of the band, briefly rechris­tened the Santa Mon­ica Fly­ers, who backed Young in 1973 for the Tonight’s The Night ses­sions, and at the sub­se­quent shows just re­leased as Roxy: Tonight’s The Night Live. True to un­pre­dictable form, Young does not opt for a straight ho­mage to Tonight’s The Night at the first two Fresno dates. In­stead, the next chap­ter of Crazy Horse his­tory rolls out with setlists that draw from clas­sic al­bums like Af­ter The Gol­drush, Zuma, On The Beach and Ragged Glory. Along­side a 14-minute Cortez The Killer, Young digs out tan­ta­lis­ing rar­i­ties: Free­dom’s frag­ile, el­e­gant Too Far Gone, ac­com­pa­nied by ex­quis­ite slide from Lof­gren; The Los­ing End, from Ev­ery­body Knows This Is Nowhere, and a cou­ple of songs from 1996’s oft-for­got­ten Bro­ken Ar­row in Big Time and Scat­tered. It turns out that setlist “clues” were re­cently been strewn across Young’s Ar­chives pages, many of the songs ap­pear­ing as ‘Song of the Day’ ahead of the Horse’s re­turn. Although Young re­peat­edly de­scribed the band as be­ing to­tally un­re­hearsed, as a unit they sounded any­thing but, at times al­most suc­cinct and crisp. Cin­na­mon Girl and Like A Hur­ri­cane show­cased a band who were well-drilled while re­tain­ing that gritty garage charm, well to the fore on Tonight’s The Night ’s World On A String. Lof­gren added un­fussy class to pro­ceed­ings, eyes al­ways locked on Young. The un­re­leased Ar­chives trea­sure be­ing read­ied for re­lease re­put­edly in­cludes five Crazy Horse records, among them the myth­i­cal 2000 stu­dio set, Toast, and 2012 tour record Alchemy. Crazy Horse’s fu­ture is un­cer­tain, with Sampe­dro absent, Tal­bot – who suf­fered a stroke in 2014 – look­ing tired by the ef­fort, and Lof­gren main­tain­ing a solo ca­reer. In June, Young re­turns to his lat­ter­day band of choice, Prom­ise Of The Real, for the first of three sum­mer fes­ti­val dates, and there will be a solo Bridge School fundraiser in the Hamp­tons, where seats cost $10,000 each. As for Crazy Horse, even three-quar­ters of the cur­rent line-up may be un­aware of what awaits them next. But across three nights in Fresno, four men put their hearts and souls into a life­time’s work. Mark Gol­ley

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