Review: Neil Young + Promise of the Real Rebel at the Santa Barbara Bowl with Show of the Summer

Oct 15th, 2015 in Music

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Neil Young + the Promise of the Real took over the Santa Barbara Bowl last Saturday and gave the show of the summer, if not the entire year.  Returning to one of his favorite historical haunts and aided by the catalytic Promise of the Real (with Willie Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micah), Young seemed to have the energy of ten (69-year old) men.  Young and crew performed for over three hours straight and did not leave the stage until well-after the Bowl’s revered 10pm curfew, playing until 10:38(ish) and finishing with the in-your-face, rollicking Ragged Glory cut F@*cking Up (the 24th song of the evening).  Rebel Content Tour indeed.  It’s hard to believe that Young will turn 70 next month given the energy expended at the Bowl (and on all the other nights of his tour).  Long live Neil Young!

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The show would feature songs spanning virtually the entirety of Young’s career (see setlist at bottom), and opened with Young on solo piano and singing After The Gold Rush, updated to lament Mother Nature still being on the run “in the 21st Century.”  Throughout the night Young’s signature harmonica-playing would particularly strum the heart-strings of the audience.  The crowd-singing was also impressive here and on the subsequent, still-stirring My My Hey Hey and Helpless.  Introducing the elegiac Mother Earth (which he played on pump organ), Young exclaimed “Welcome to California ladies and gentlemen!”

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The Promise of the Real then joined Young on stage, and they performed a full-band set of acoustic songs that included favorites Hold Back The Tears, Out on the Weekend, Unknown Legend, Only Love Can Break Your Heart, and the new Wolf Moon.

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Thereafter, it was all electric, all the time, and all electrifying.  Young and crew kicked off this segment with an emphatic, damning Words (Between the Lines of Age).  With his white Gretsch in hand, Young has never sounded better (early-on his vocals reflected his lines of age).  And the Promise of the Real sang scintillating harmonies while playing with aplomb throughout the night (along with Nelson, brother Micah Nelson on guitar/keyboards, drummer Anthony Logerfo and bass player Merlyn Kelly were on fire the entire set).  Lukas Nelson traded organic and invigorating riffs with Young throughout the night, and Young seemed to gather much from his young cohorts, frequently circling with them to compound the sound.  They followed up with a slamming Alabama before Young yielded the stage to Nelson on solo piano to beautifully sing September Song, the Kurt Weill chestnut that his father, Willie, made famous again, .

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And then Young brought out Old Black (his famous Les Paul electric) and the band tore into captivating activist songs off of the new, political album The Monsanto Years.  Give Young credit; while many have given up, he’s still fighting the fight in songs, deeds and seeds (which he handed out later, while decrying the new California “three-mile seed transport rule”).  In the process, Young called out Monsanto, Starbucks, and Clarence Thomas, among others.  Even if you don’t agree with his politics, you’ve got to respect his energy and commitment to causes.  The Promise of the Real was in full flight during this segment, cavorting and jumping around the stage, and rallying Young to new heights.  The best summation of the night might be the title of Young’s self-rallying song, I Won’t Quit.  That song sang volumes about Young this night.

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Included within this segment was as rocking a version of Down By The River as has ever been heard, followed by the roadhouse-styled rocker Time Fades Away, and a timeless and affecting Everybody Knows This is Nowhere.  Somewhere along the way, Young handed out personally-packaged (“I recognize that handwriting; what a wonderful girl”) organic seeds from his “magic basket” (see photos at bottom).

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The Bowl audience was well aware of the curfew passing at 10 pm and could only gape in awe as Young and crew raged on through an encore of F@*king Up that extended to the show-closing 10:38 pm mark.  As usual, Young ended by tearing the roof off the joint but also the strings from Big Black.  That’s when you know a Neil Young show is over.

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It was a show for the ages and will be remembered forever by all who attended.  Again, long live Neil Young!

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After the Gold Rush
My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)
Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)
Hold Back the Tears
Out on the Weekend
Human Highway
Unknown Legend
Only Love Can Break Your Heart
Wolf Moon
Words (Between the Lines of Age)
September Song (Lukas Nelson on lead vocals)
A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop
People Want to Hear About Love
Big Box
Monsanto Years
Down by the River
Time Fades Away
I Won’t Quit
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Love and Only Love

Fuckin’ Up

All photos:  Lefort

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