Neil Young Rants and Rolls at The Greek in Berkeley

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CONTENT AND PHOTOS © DANIEL GLUSKOTER

Following the long and winding road of his latest musical career path with the backing of Willie Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micah and their band Promise of the Real, Neil Young’s epic three hour show at a very sold out Greek Theater in Berkeley on Saturday night bridged the artist’s fifty year career with tracks ranging from Buffalo Springfield’s ‘Mr. Soul’ and CSNY’s ‘Helpless’ to the recently released “The Monsanto Years”.

The thing is, these epic performances seem to be a regular occurrence on Young’s “Rebel Content” tour for the soon to be 70 year old Canadian who shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The three hour shows seem to be par for the course every night with a handful of different songs alternating within the structure of a setlist featuring a half dozen songs from “Monsanto”, an album that received mixed reviews but translated splendidly in a live setting with some beautiful vocals along with numerous guitar duels over the course of the evening with his new backing band that he first played with at last years Farm Aid, the brainchild of Young and his co-organizer Willie Nelson.

Young’s solo career, now approaching forty albums, has been all over the map musically experimenting with styles ranging from acoustic, electric, grunge and electronica, to country and folk. His latest effort is a politically and environmentally charged protest record about the evils of corporations like Monsanto and Starbucks that attacks issues ranging from the use of chemical pesticides and questions about the future of our planet to including rants against the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. As the Starbucks aimed ‘A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop’ and self explanatory ‘Big Box’ note, “Too big to fail / Too rich for jail.”

Opening the show with five solo numbers before being joined by the band, Young first appeared on piano for ‘After the Gold Rush’ before grabbing an acoustic guitar for ‘My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue),’ ‘Helpless’ and ‘Old Man’, accompanying himself on harmonica all the way. He then moved to a surreal looking
1885 Estey reed pump organ that he owns and had restored to play the idealistic ‘Mother Earth (Natural Anthem).’

The two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee has delivered so many recognizable classics that he’d need to play for six hours to be able to even come close to not leaving out anyone’s favorite song. On this night gems like ‘From Hank to Hendrix’, ‘Harvest Moon’, ‘Alabama’, ‘Are You Ready for the Country’ and ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’ proved to be fan favorites, but it was a Herculean 15 minute plus crushing rendition of the Crazy Horse backed ‘Down By The River’ that thoroughly eliminated even the most remote possibility that anyone leave unhappy.

Closing the show with 1990’s ‘Love and Only Love’ from “Ragged Glory” was another upbeat selection that left the crowd yearning for more, but on this night
no one left unhappy, just wondering which wondrous stories Young will return to share in the future.

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