ACL Last Night: Neil Young & Crazy Horse at Zilker Park

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Neil Young & Crazy Horse Bud Light Stage Austin City Limits Music Festival, Zilker Park October 13, 2012


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With all the members knocking on the door of 70, it would be easy for the youngsters at ACL to call Neil Young and his band Crazy Horse decrepit and foggy. But their blistering set was a brute-force display of proto-grunge and Bernard Shakey hymns to the hard land and the harder life.

Simply put, the band was louder and tighter than most anything else one would see in Zilker Park thus far. Keep in mind that the Iggy & the Stooges' Sunday-evening set tonight could tie up that score.

Saturday night, festival-goers had two options for evening entertainment: the aggressive history lesson on the Bud Light stage with Young and company, or Jack White's formidable solo display on the AMD outpost hundreds of yards away. It wasn't possible to see both, plus I was entrenched in the front of the Crazy Horse crowd early on.

Opening with "Love And Only Love" from 1990's Ragged Glory, the band raged with Young's signature stomping and wrenching for ten minutes, before pulling things back for a towering recitation of "Powderfinger," complete with crazy interplay and feedback.

The thought of the band rehearsing these songs in some rustic barn at full bloody volume makes me giddy. The band is no frills, and compared to the rest of the dress of the festival's flashy lineup, they looked like roadies or stoner grandpas in comparison. Young threw off his Willie Nelson camp into the photo pit early on, with a fan just losing it from his hands.


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Young took on the mournful "The Needle and the Damage Done" alone with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, thrilling the old stalwart fans in the crowd. With each strum of his guitar, there was history dripping onto the stage.

"Cinnamon Girl" would have been the most immediately recognized song for the wet-behind-the-ears set at the show, Young dedicating it to his wife somewhere backstage.

Appropriately so, the band launched into "Down By The River", just paces from the Colorado which cuts through Austin. The crowd was raging for it.

Seeing Young sans Crazy Horse is only seeing a third of his spirit. The last time I saw Young was at Houston's Jones Hall on his "Le Noise" tour, a jaunt that saw him alone with just pedals, his prized guitars, and some snarl. Saturday night's headlining set was the same, just done widescreen and with a lot more smiles.

Young is an act that we have all long waited to make his ACL debut. He was the only glaring hole left in the festival's 11-year history, and thankfully he filled it and overflowed the empty space that was there.

SET LIST (Courtesy of Sugar Mountain)

Love And Only Love Powderfinger Born In Ontario Walk Like a Giant The Needle And The Damage Done Twisted Road Ramada Inn Cinnamon Girl F*!#in' Up Psychedelic Pill Down By The River


Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)

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