In Perspective: Neil Young Live!

Neil Young — Friends & Relatives

Road Rock

Red Rocks Live DVD

Reprise

Released simultaneously, this album and corresponding video of Young’s roaringly successful summer 2000 tour is about as close as you’ll get to being there. Actually, the DVD practically puts you on stage with Young and his remarkable band, which includes longtime associates Spooner Oldham on keys, Ben Keith on pedal steel and various stringed instruments, as well as his wife and sister on backing vocals, all of whom have seldom, if ever toured with him before. The show at Red Rocks, which was performed at least partially in a downpour, captures Young — a musician who rarely has off-nights anyway — in a particularly smoking performance that translates perfectly well to the video-less CD.

But one look at the DVD, and you’ll understand why it’s worth the extra five bucks to spring for it. For starters, it’s about an hour longer than the CD, and adds a whopping 11 extra tracks to the audio disc’s rather meager eight. More importantly, the DVD follows the actual flow and song order of the concert. Where the CD begins with a sizzling 18-minute “Cowgirl in the Sand,” the DVD places this in its correct order during the show — as the last tune before the encore. Certainly that makes more sense, especially as it grinds into its raging, grand finale.

Either way, this is simply an amazing band, and a stunning show. Young digs back — way back — in his catalog for “Words,” “Peace Of Mind,” and “Motorcycle Mama,” obscure but terrific tracks he hasn’t played live in decades. He wisely ignores his most recent studio disc — the quietly languorous and often beautiful Silver & Gold — for all but a few token songs, in favor of biting, exhilarating renditions of “Tonight’s The Night” and an electrifying Chrissie Hynde assisted, nine minute, speaker melting encore of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” — a track oddly omitted from the DVD. The sound is phenomenal; Young sings and plays with the insane passion and fervent commitment of a guy half his age, and the ad-hoc collection of musician family and friends locks together with an effortless precision that only professionals can achieve.

Like all great bands, these guys can make anything sound good, but when Young tears into the stomping, emotionally charged, anti-heroin rant of “Tonight’s The Night,” there is no denying the man is one of this generation’s phenomenal talents. If at all possible, buy the DVD and watch an astonishingly tight outfit at work, sharing energy and intensity on what is probably just another mind-blowing night on the tour. This is what a live show should be, with musicians feeding off each other, and the audience, to produce music that simply can’t be contained in a studio. It’s what makes this not only a classic Neil Young album, but also one of the better concerts ever recorded. It brilliantly captures a sadly short-lived aggregation of musicians for posterity, and will reaffirm for even the most skeptical, of the magnificent power of live music.

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