Live Review: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Camden, NJ, May 12, 2024

For Neil Young’s first full national jaunt in 10 years, his Love Earth Tour opted for familiars: amphitheaters such as Camden’s Freedom Mortgage Pavilion, his tight-knit, longtime, off/on band Crazy Horse, a noisy set list tied to his classics.

The spanner in the works, then—for Neil Young is always good for trouble—came with bringing sinewy guitarist Micah Nelson (subbing for Nils Lofgren, currently off touring stadiums with Springsteen) into the tangle of Crazy Horse’s grungy web forever forged by guitarist Young, bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina. It would be mostly incorrect to say that Nelson’s crusty, angular, rhythm-guitar shards brought youthful vigor to Young & Crazy Horse’s grouchy, imperfect rock-outs and stirring, stringy jams. This ensemble—from its opening, tilted take on dirge “Cortez The Killer” through to slow-motion, buoyant encore “Down By The River”—bashes, clangs and batters its instruments like children. Nelson (son of Willie), however, is the littler, equally precocious tot who pushes the older brats to greater, wilder feats of fun, feedback and noise-making.

Kids do the darndest things.

Never one(s) to dress for dinner, the capped-and-denim-clad Young and Crazy Horse hovered over and huddled around each other in a tight clusterfuck, dwarfed by towering Fender speaker cabinets and road cases the likes of which accompanied them during 1978’s Rust Never Sleeps Tour. From its elongated, nervy opener onward, this crew stridently pile-drived through “Cinnamon Girl” and the primal, bass-pulsating “Fuckin’ Up” in equally electrifying fashion until Young and Co. got to “Scattered (Let’s Think About Livin’)” and its dedication to one-time producer David Briggs. Suddenly Young’s squeaky voice grew a little less pinched, and the band’s pace grew a little more pensive in its execution of “the little bit high”s and the “little bit low”s.

A keyboard with an angel drawn onto its front dropped slowly from the sky for Nelson to hammer on, and suddenly an epic “Like A Hurricane” unfolded gracefully without losing one ounce of frank, fuzztone energy.

While the shockingly poppy “Don’t Cry No Tears” and halting, jangling honky-tonk “Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere” offered gorgeous melodicism and elegant economy, “I’m The Ocean” and “The Losing End (When You’re On)” were oddly listless. While “Powderfinger” offered chugging, strutting sensuality with brevity as its guide, “Love To Burn” and “Love And Only Love” were overlong and messy.

Fortunately, a solo Young found tender, folksy simplicity in breezy, acoustic-guitar-and-harmonica versions of “Heart Of Gold,” “Human Highway” and an elevated “Comes A Time.” Then, the band tackled the thunder-dome crunch of “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)” and the rambling, hillbilly-ish “Roll Another Number (For The Road)” before saying good night.

Despite a few fleeting dull moments, Young and this Crazy Horse were thrillingly inventive, grouchily alive and rapturously grungy.

—A.D. Amorosi; photos by Wes Orshoski (taken two days later in Queens, N.Y.)