Neil Young in '85
Updated: Aug 23, 2020
Where were you, if you were alive that is, on Feb 26 , 1985? Well on the evening of this day I was at the Addington Showgrounds, Christchurch for the Neil Young Concert. It wasn't just Neil Young however, it was billed as "Featuring Crazy Horse" with the "International Harvesters" ? Who were the International Harvesters? I knew Crazy Horse, the loose trio that Neil had recorded and performed on and off with throughout the 1970's and the "Live Rust" album and film was always a perennial favourite (still is) . It turned out that Crazy Horse was being augmented by some country players for part of the show aka International Harvesters (featuring the great Ben Keith on steel guitar).
How was Neil viewed at the time?
Now Neil's career at this point was rocky , to be polite. Seemed to be on a sliding scale downwards post Rust , in fact the last two albums , "Trans" and "Everybody's Rockin" embraced Electronic noise and Rockabilly respectively ...and no one bought into this (in any way you looked at it).
So what were we getting on this tour and this night in particular?
Well Neil was in a great mood, suitably refreshed from staying out in Sumner and windsurfing on the Estuary ( seriously, a favourite pastime for him at the time) . This seemed to inform both the music and atmosphere.
You couldn't fault the songs, all the classics amidst a show effectively broken into three, The Harvesters were first, and although not as familiar as the later material played, I remember some Zuma tracks and Harvest songs (I read in the review of the show that "Heart of Gold" had him grinning at the line "And I'm getting old" ). Then we had Neil solo, featuring "After the Gold Rush" (changing the "Mother Nature" line from 1970's to 1980's) and "Helpless" . Finally the might of the Horse to do their own particular plod, thump to Neil's electric guitar stylings (a polite way of describing his abrasive and distinctive electric guitar sound). Yes it was that good and it was all there from the Live Rust era - "Powderfinger", "Cortez", "Hurricane" . Also recall some now songs thrown in for good measure. In fact his next album was a Country record "Old Ways" and I recall a lawsuit involving his record company later in the '80s (Geffen Records)
This is all from memory but it is vivid and had a big effect on me . I remember the incredibly still night and the rave reviews the following day. Of course Neil is still around , still being contrary , still confounding people. I zoned out of the new material some time ago (my last "purchase" was "Sleeps with Angels" back in the mid 1990's). Yet you cannot deny a catelogue of great songs and an always great backstory. Keep on "Rockin in the Free World" Neil!