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Concert Reviews:
Neil Young busts curfew, conventions at DTE
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP - Neil Young's new album makes it clear he has no plan to spend money on products from Monsanto, Starbucks or Safeway.

But he didn't mind adding a few thousand dollars to the coffers of Independence Township on Tuesday night, July 14.

Young and Promise of the Real -- the band featuring Willie Nelson's two sons that backed Young on his latest release, "The Monsanto Years" -- stretched their 23-song show past the DTE Energy Music Theatre's 11 p.m. curfew, which was only appropriate for something called the Rebel Content Tour. But save perhaps for a few neighbors there were no complaints; it was a clear case of a band that still wanted to play, and still had something to play, and at least a good chunk of the crowd that wanted to hear it.

It was, of course, a characteristically idiosyncratic presentation for Young -- perhaps not as audacious as playing his entire 2003 album "Greendale" in its entirety a few weeks prior to its release, but still a concert that challenged standard practices. While most artists arrange their shows to build to a rousing conclusion of favorites, Young turned the model upside down, front-loading with hits and stockpiling the back two-thirds of the show with "Monsanto's" strident protest material, deploying the songs in blocks that did have the effect of thinning out the DTE crowd (which Young, of course, addressed as Pine Knob).

But that was their loss, as those who remained witnessed a galvanizing, take-no-prisoners performance that rivaled Young's heady rock fests with Crazy Horse. Clearly revitalized by his young compatriots, Young played with ferocity and abandon, leaning the drum kit and the other musicians like a hip uncle having the time of his life -- and not at all like someone in the fifth decade of an unapologetically eclectic and fan-challenging career.

Tuesday's show presented the full Young experience, too. After two female "farmers" spread seeds and watered plants on the stage, he started solo, on the piano for the environmental anthem "After The Goldrush" and then on guitar and harmonica during "Heart of Gold," the Stills-Young Band's "Long May You Run" and "Old Man" before switching to "Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)." After some Hazmat-suited techs sprayed fog around the stage, the five-piece Promise of the Real joined him for easygoing, rootsy renditions of "Out On the Weekend," "Unknown Legend," "From Hank to Hendrix," "Harvest Moon, "Wolf Moon," "Words (Between the Lines of Age") and "Bad Fog of Loneliness."

Young torqued thins up after that, however, and the good news is that the new songs sounded better and more muscular than they do on album, particularly charged renditions of "People Want to Hear About Love," "A New Day For Love," "Workin' Man" and "Big Box." Young eschewed any spoken commentary, however, letting the material speak for itself and rock hard enough for those who might not have embraced their sentiments.

And he was careful to "reward" the crowd's indulgence with favorites like the country-flavored "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere" and epic romps through "Cowgirl in the Sand" and "Love and Only Love," all of which could be considered genuine gifts in an adventurous show that could not be bound by convention -- or curfew.





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