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Concert Reviews:
Neil Young Show Makes Time Fade Away
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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DETROIT -- Early in his concert Saturday night (Nov. 10) at the Fox Theatre, Neil Young reminisced that "Back in the old folky days/The air was magic when we played."

Maybe so, but the present proved a pretty magical place for Young, too.

Spreading two hours of music over two separate sets -- one solo acoustic, the other plugged-in with a full band -- Young's first concert in Detroit as a solo artist since March of 2004 was an aficionados delight, mixing a smattering of favorites with a generous chunk of less celebrated album tracks. So the 5,000 fans who packed the Fox -- including Bob Seger and his wife, Nita -- got their "Heart of Gold" and "Cinnamon Girl," but they also enjoyed a generous trip through the dustier corners of Young's 38-year solo catalog that was every bit as invigorating.

Following a rootsy half-hour opening set by his wife (and backup singer) Pegi, Young walked onto a stage set up to look like the storage room of a theater, with props, stage lights and marquee letters strewn around him. The Canadian native dedicated the show to the Detroit Red Wings and then kicked his acoustic set off with the sentimental "From Hank to Hendrix" -- telling his audience that "I never believed in much/But I believed in you" before alternating between guitar, piano ("A Man Needs a Maid," "After the Gold Rush") and banjo ("Mellow My Mind"), with his harmonica almost constantly hanging from his neck. Not only was his playing typically sharp, crisp and accurate, but his reedy, high-pitched vocals were as warm and melodic as they've ever been.

The electric set added another gimmick -- a live painter who switched canvases on a side-stage easel depicting each song and who worked on a new piece for "The Believer," one of four songs Young and company pulled from his latest album, "Chrome Dreams II," finishing it in time for the song's performance. With his band -- multi-instrumentalist Ben Keith, bassist Rick Rosas and Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina -- providing supple, dexterous backing, Young delivered an hour or so of musical highlights, including a soulful take on "The Loner," a ripping version of "Dirty Old Man," soaring renditions of "Spirit Road" and "Winterlong," and an extended "No Hidden Path" with the kind of lengthy guitar solos that further enraptured an already worshipful Fox crowd.

A loose 'n' vampy "Tonight's the Night" closed the show, its dark themes of drugs and death mitigated by the musical meanderings in the arrangement -- another welcome sign that even in the autumn of his career, Young is finding ways to surprise us.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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