Concert Review: Neil Young + Promise Of The Real
Venue: Chiles Center, Portland, Oregon
Neil Young for close to 50 fifty years has been an outspoken voice for a variety of causes throughout his legendary career. On this evening, in support of his newest record album The Monsanto Years he brings awareness to the issues of genetically engineered foods and crops and the impact of big business on farmers. All issues that Young has been vocal about when he co-founded Farm Aid in 1985 with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp.
On stage this night in Portland, as the lights dimmed, a lone spotlight shined down onto Neil Young as he sat alone at his piano, opening with the melody of “After The Gold Rush”, one of his classic songs from 1970. A very nice opening for what was sure to be an evening of old favorites and some new songs from the new album.
After “Gold Rush”, Neil moved over to his acoustic Martin guitar and played a couple more classics, “Heart of Gold”, “Comes A Time” and “Old Man”. Just Neil with his guitar and harmonica, it was a site to behold. Neil then moved over to his beautiful pump organ and did a moving version of “Mother Earth” from his 1990 Ragged Glory album.
Backing Neil Young on his ‘Rebel Content’ tour is Promise Of The Real featuring Lukas Nelson (Willie’s son). Neil has always been one to expand his music with new musicians and bands. As the band kicked into “Hold Back The Tears” from American Bars ‘n’ Stars, the crowd rose to their feet and swayed to the music. The dancin’ continued with performances of “Out On The Weekend” and “Human Highway”.
Then after a little discussion on the stage, Lukas Nelson sat behind the piano and dedicated the next song “For Pops” and sang a beautiful rendition of “September Song”, a song that Willie Nelson had recorded on Stardust. This was followed by the rare performance of “Western Hero” from the Sleeps With Angels album. I thought I’d never hear this song performed live, truly a special moment.
I was thrilled when the next song, “Field of Opportunity” was sung as it brought back in focus the theme for the evening, which is the ongoing challenge with big farming corporations and the local farmer. Throughout the early parts of the concert, I watched as Neil guided his band through his extensive repertoire. As they then moved into the music from the new album, you could see how they all gelled together to become more cohesive with the playing of “Wolf Moon”.
At this point of the gig, the next three songs continued in the “W” theme with “Words”, “Walk On” and “Winterlong” all to the delight of the audience. And as with any Neil concert, some jabbing songs like “Alabama” and “Southern Man” hit home the fact that there are still tensions in our country. Then came some more new songs from the new album. “A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop”, “People Want To Hear About Love”, “Big Box” and “Workin’ Man” adeptly describes the issues concerning Neil Young today.
And with going on for more than 3 hours, the closing numbers were poignant, with “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” and a spacious and atmospheric “Love And Only Love”, followed with an encore of “F*!#In’ Up” to close out the night of epic rock ‘n’ roll.