NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE at the Air Canada Centre, Monday, November 19. Rating: NNNN
Neil Young is famous for following his gut, even when it gives him questionable advice. Thankfully, that risk taking often results in pleasant surprises. For example, deciding to rework his CSNY classic Helpless into an up-tempo garage-country stomper doesn't sound like great idea on paper, but it definitely thrilled and surprised the crowd at the Air Canada Centre when he played the radically different version as an encore.
The two-hour set was sprinkled with familiar hits, but overall the focus was on the grungy guitar jams of his newest album Psychedelic Pill. If that disappointed anyone, the crowd sure wasn't showing it, and the new songs sounded great live and loud. The extended loose arrangements provided plenty of opportunity for feedback-fueled soloing and washes of noise, but he also made time for an acoustic interlude towards the latter half to give our ears a break. There's a fine line between trying too hard to please the fans and being self indulgent, but Young straddled it perfectly.