Concert review: Neil Young delivers epic show in Quebec City

Neil Young with Promise of the Real
Festival d’été de Quebec, Quebec City
Reviewed Friday

Once an artist will get to a sure age, you wouldn’t anticipate a lot to thrill them. At 72, Neil Young has executed every thing and seen all of it.

But in Quebec City on Friday, acting on an unlimited stage overlooking an enormous viewers that stretched so far as the attention might see alongside the historic Plains of Abraham battlefield, the Canadian rock legend appeared each bit as stoked because the younger whippersnappers in his backing band, Promise of the Real. That’s the band shaped by Willie Nelson’s singer-songwriter son, Lukas Nelson; on Friday, one other son, Micah Nelson, joined the lineup.

The collaboration together with his previous pal’s offspring isn’t a brand new factor — Young recruited them about three years in the past to function his backing band they usually’ve already recorded a handful of albums collectively. They had been well-versed in their boss’s idiosyncrasies, clearly following a game-day mantra that required them to play arduous and keep watch over the ball.

For Neil, the full-band show was a departure from this summer time’s solo tour. As ordinary, he dug in early and targeted on the music, not exhibiting a lot emotion apart from the furrowed forehead underneath his hat framing a glance of intense and purposeful focus. In a plaid shirt and denims, he glared on the microphone, attacked his guitar and stomped on pedals as if squashing bugs. Towards the top, nonetheless, as soon as he knew they’d made their mark, Young started to show some indicators of lightening up.

“It’s my first time here. I can’t believe it,” he mentioned, shortly including a self-deprecating disclaimer. “Either that, or I can’t remember (because) I’m too old.”

No, Neil, you’re proper. In all of the 51 years that Festival d’été de Québec has taken over the provincial capital for a 10-day stretch, Young has by no means graced its phases. Among those that have are The Rolling Stones, Metallica and Elton John, to call a number of of the worldwide superstars which have helped the competition develop to the purpose that it now attracts multiple million guests yearly. 

(When crowds of 50,000 are thought of “small,” you realize it’s a juggernaut of a competition that makes Ottawa’s Bluesfest look puny. Friday’s attendance, for instance, was estimated at greater than 80,000, doubtless greater than the primary 4 days of Bluesfest mixed.)

Anyway, it was excessive time for Young to take a activate North America’s largest self-supported stage, and he made probably the most of it, weaving a message for all of humanity into the material of the setlist. He and the boys jumped into the event with a ferocious model of Like an Inca, from his oft-overlooked 1982 Trans album. With its insistent chorus, it learn like a cautionary story, newly related in the age of Trump: “Why should we care about a little button/ Being pushed by someone we don’t even know?”

Next got here F—kin’ Up, which carried such a visceral snarl that it would as properly have been devoted to the U.S. president, though it wasn’t. Same went for the newly pressing Cortez the Killer and its candy, unhappy reflection on one man’s destruction of a folks and their land.

The anthemic Rockin’ In The Free World was unfurled, appropriately sufficient, in entrance of a thousand factors of sunshine emanating from the official FEQ pins worn by virtually everybody in the group. The hillside twinkled with dots of purple mild because the band shaped a huddle and jammed their hearts out, and Young made some extent of emphasizing one phrase in the third verse: “Keep hope alive.”

Switching to acoustic guitar, Young made his most blatant political assertion of the night time, not fuming with anger for a change however with the sweetly melodic I Am A Child, devoted to the households separated underneath Trump’s immigration coverage. “Here’s a song for all the children,” Young mentioned, “all the children in cages everywhere.”

That tune segued into Lotta Love (“it’s gonna take a lotta love to change the way things are”) earlier than Willie’s boys every had an opportunity in the highlight.

Lukas sang his tune, Turn Off The News, which suggests constructing a backyard as a substitute of watching the information, whereas Micah indulged in his trippy The Ocean.

The show’s remaining stretch — which took us near 11:30 p.m., properly previous curfew for Ottawa — featured a prickly Down By The River, then a bizarre keyboard descended from the rafters, to be performed by Micah on a completely livid, string-busting Like A Hurricane. A thumping Angry World and the traditional Hey Hey My My rounded out the principle set. By then, it was clear the torch had been handed from Crazy Horse, Young’s longtime backing band, to the subsequent technology. With Promise of the Real on the scene, rock ‘n’ roll is certainly unlikely to die. 

(POTR additionally proved their mettle in an early-evening opening set that confirmed the band’s vary, knocking out straight-up, rock guitar-driven authentic tunes, together with a canopy of Paul Simon’s Diamonds On The Soles of Her Shoes that discovered Lukas plucking these cascading Afro-pop guitar traces with a certain hand).

Back to the principle occasion, the place the encore consisted of the acoustic Harvest Moon, Young’s ragged harmonica chopping by the autumn-like chill in the air, adopted by the pothead singalong, Roll Another Number (For The Road).

On the large screens flanking the stage, you possibly can plainly see Young’s grin on the large crowd’s highly effective response. “Holy f–kin’ shit,” he declared, no less than twice, earlier than linking arms together with his bandmates, and truly bouncing up and down with all of them in delight. 

Obviously, the joys of delivering an epic show — on one’s personal phrases — by no means wears off.

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