YOUNG'S ONE STOP WORLD TOUR
The Boarding House
San Francisco, May 26th &27th, 1978
By Paul Nelson
Rolling Stone 27th July 1978
When Neil Young performed with Crazy Horse at the Palladium in New York almost two years
ago,he made such an impression on me that sometime during the opening show
(for which I
had a ticket),I knew I had to see them all. For the first time in my life, I patronised
the scalpers.Though the tickets cost something like thirty bucks apiece, they were the
only way to get in, and I just couldn't let the music stop. Here was rock & roll so
primal and unexplainable that I simply wanted to let it wash over me,pulse through me.
When Young wandered out and began to play songs like "Cortez the killer" and
"Like a Hurricane" on his black electric guitar, I figured I'd at last found the
perfect target for that most overused of adjectives:mythic. For once none of the answers
mattered because the questions themselves formed such complete and satisfying entities -
entities that had long crossed the border of Freudian logic and were now headed out toward
the farthest of the far countries. Neil Jung I wrote in my notebook A not-inappropriate
At his recent five-night gig at the Boarding House(a club that seats fewer than 300),
Young played four acoustic guitars, harmonica and piano There was no backing band.
Surprisingly the lack of electricity diminished neither his rock & roll effectiveness
nor his enormous mystique, though it did make clear his folk music roots.("Sugar
Mountain" in fact, almost sounded like a summary of how, for some, folk music leads
naturally into the perhaps-more-lethal art of rock & roll.After he'd sung
in the audience said "That song's about being twenty." No I thought to
that song's about not being twenty.)At any rate, Neil Young's "1978 world
tour"-he plans to spend the rest of the year working on his second
movie, Human Highway, much of which was filmed at these concerts-proved that he doesn't need anybody
but himself up there, that he can rule a stage through the sheer force of his
will. Strength, I wrote in my notebook. Pure strength.
Before the first set, I noticed I'm not the only fanatic who's flown all the way across
America just to hear Neil Young. John Rockwell from the New York Times is
here, and he
seems as obsessed as I do. As does Cameron Crowe from Rolling Stone's Los Angeles office.
While were waiting, we trade stories, the best of which are that Young once
wrote, recorded, but didn't issue an album made up entirely of songs whose titles other people
had made famous("Born to Run," "Sail Away," "Greensleves"
etc.) and that he's got well over 175 songs in releasable form-nearly twenty LP's
There are three large wooden Indians on the dimly lit stage. We sit and stare at them for
a while. They seem to say it all.
When Young appears on stage he doesn't ever seem to walk on: all of a
justthere-he announces, "It's good to be back on the boards again, as Mick Jagger
said in 1967." He pauses for a moment, looks down, then fixes the crowd with a
benevolent behind-blue-eyes stare. His eyebrows are so black he looks like a cartoon
varmint trying to emulate the barrels of a shotgun. "Just think of me as one you'll
never figure,"he says. My God, the guy can read minds, I think. Not only that but
he's his own best critic.
True to his word, Young does a lot of things no one can figure.
literally wired for sound with a set of complicated electronics that enable him to move
about freely without any visible microphones. (Once, when something goes awry in the
control room, he emits static and sputters like the six million dollar
man-gone-bad.) Musically, he plays impeccably-and in tune. And with Comes a time, his new record, due out
soon, you'd expect him to do quite a few songs from it, right? Wrong. He does
title tune, the lovely "Already One" (about his ex-wife, Carrie
his son, Zeke)and "Human Highway." He doesn't sing that many old favourites
either, though "Birds," "After the Goldrush," "Sugar
Mountain," "Down by the River," "Cowgirl in the Sand" and a
Buffalo Springfield song called "Out of My Mind" invariably bring the house
Instead, Young stalks the stage like a slightly seedy James Stewart/ Henry Fonda type
moving in arhythmic bobs and weaves, he sometimes seems to be performing a near-tribal
dance-and guides us through a raft of new (or at least unreleased)
the Blue and into the Black," "Thrasher," "Shots,"
"Pocahontas," "Sail Away," "Ride my Lama" ("an
extraterrestrial folk song"),"The Ways of Love." Of these, I'd betat
leasttwo are masterpieces. "Out of the Blue and into the Black" is
here are some of the words:My my,hey hey, rock & roll is here to stay It's better to
burn out than to fade away...The king is gone but he's not forgotten. This is the story of
Jonny Rotten...Hey hey, my my, rock & roll can never die. There's more to the picture
than meets the eye...*And "Thrasher" a complex and incredibly touching song
about friendship, duty, work and death, I'd guess after four listenings sounded even
better, especially on the twelve string guitar.
In the manner of the best of the traditional blues singers, Neil Young seems totally alone
on stage in a way that almost no contemporary performer ever does. But he's not
foreboding, and you don't feel shut off. Head down, chin tucked into his shoulders like a
boxer, he peers out at you with those all-knowing eyes filled with humour and flashes that
beatific, silly grin. Like Muhammad Ali, he may well be the greatest. But we'll never know
until we hear those 175 or so unreleased songs, will we? How about it? I'm ready and
raring to go.