Neil Young + Promise of the Real | 07.08.15

neil redrocksYoung is a national treasure—even if we have to borrow him from Canada.




Neil Young has been part of the musical landscape for well over 50 years. Later this year he will hit 70, and that’s what makes his more than two-and-a-half hour set at Red Rocks all the more impressive. The two-night stand offered a vast exploration of his career and passions.

The skies were emptying on Red Rocks as the night began for the first of two shows that Young’s Rebel Content Tour performed at the amphitheater. Members of the Apache-Stronghold came out and greeted the audience, sang a traditional song, and promoted the cause of saving Arizona tribal lands from foreign mining. Band of Horses performed a solid, if soaked set that seemed to challenge and vanquish the rain. Mostly, they just seemed to be genuinely pleased to be opening for Young, and their impassioned set rallied many in the crowd of ponchos to cheer and dance. Apparently it worked, as the rain subsided and ponchos were tossed.

As the amphitheater darkened, young women in farmer outfits spread seeds on the stage that would become Young’s home for the next few hours. Seeds, of course, are one of Young’s main concerns, as his latest release The Monsanto Years clearly alludes to. When “the planting” was completed, Young appeared behind a piano at stage right playing “After the Gold Rush.” From his earliest recordings, Young’s voice has always been that of an old soul. If anything, he has aged into it. His first six songs featured him and a single instrument, and they were pure perfection. Not to take anything away from the rest of the show, but this was Young at his best: a singer-songwriter.

With the entry of several figures in white hazard suits spraying what one could only hope were fake chemicals on the stage, the latest in a long line of amazing backup bands took position. Promise of the Real, who worked with Young on the new album is fronted by Lukas Nelson and also features his brother Micah. Pedigreed performers both, simply by being the sons of Willie Nelson, they are also great guitarists and singers in their own right. Not in any way to be overlooked were Corey McCormick (bass), Tate Melger (percussion), and Anthony LoGerio (drums).

Like plants rising, the show grew throughout the night in volume. The band crisscrossed Young’s voluminous catalog and did not miss many opportunities to expand songs in to extended jams. The crowd did not mind. Standouts included the classics “Out on the Weekend” and a stunning rendition of “Words (Between the Lines of Age)” which rang out in the now-beautiful night assisted, at times, by the near sellout crowd.

Young and Promise of the Real did have an album to feature, and the introduction of “Wolf Moon” brought some of the few comments in the night from Young to skewer a critic who called it “another song about the moon.” The song fits in well with some of the artist’s best material, but just in case, he did follow it up with the beautiful “Harvest Moon.” Most of the songs on The Monsanto Years were performed near the end of the set. Perhaps the only sour note in the show was the collision of a late night (it was 11:45 before the show ended) and the preponderance of the word “Monsanto” in several of the later songs—plus, the angry Young often sounds a bit discordant, making it a bit jarring as he went back to a classic song (“Cowgirl in the Sand”) that better utilizes his unique voice. That said, Young in full protest mode is always watchable. Amongst the new songs, “Workin’ Man” is easily the best.

Young is a national treasure—even if we have to borrow him from Canada—and it is great to see him at the top of his game. Long may he run. | Jim Dunn

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Rebel Content
Setlist (July 8, 2015)

Solo Acoustic:
After the Gold Rush
Heart of Gold
Long May You Run (The Stills–Young Band song)
Old Man
Mother Earth (Natural Anthem) (Neil Young & Crazy Horse cover)

Full Band:
Hold Back the Tears
Out on the Weekend
Unknown Legend
Peace of Mind
Field of Opportunity
Wolf Moon
Harvest Moon
Words (Between the Lines of Age)
Flying on the Ground Is Wrong (Buffalo Springfield song)
Walk On
Bad Fog of Loneliness
People Want to Hear About Love
A New Day For Love
Cowgirl in the Sand (Neil Young & Crazy Horse cover)
Big Box
A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop
White Line (Neil Young & Crazy Horse cover)
Workin’ Man
Monsanto Years
Love and Only Love (Neil Young & Crazy Horse cover)

Don’t Be Denied
Double E (Neil Young & Crazy Horse cover)

About Jim Dunn 126 Articles
Jim Dunn grew up in NY in the 70s and 80s. Even though that time in music really shapes his appreciation it does not define it. Music, like his beloved history is a long intermingled path that grows, builds and steals from its past. He lives in Colorado with his lovely wife and a wild bunch of animals.

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