Neil Young resurrects a classic version of Crazy Horse for the first time in 45 years
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.
“YOUNG SAID THEY’RE UNREHEARSED. THEY SOUND ANYTHING BUT.”
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