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Live Review: Neil Young @ Jiffy Lube Live — 5/11/24

Over the course his celebrated, sixty-or-so year career, Neil Young has taken his share of left turns that have frustrated fans and business associates alike. In the ’80s, his label, Geffen Records, sued for him making records, like the electronic music exploration Trans, that were not “characteristic.”

But at Jiffy Lube Live on a recent show for the Love Earth tour, Young gave the audience exactly what they wanted, playing nearly all of his most popular songs, digging in not only to his material with Crazy Horse, but also to his solo albums and his work as a member of Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. 

If you only had the chance to see the iconic Rock & Roll Hall of Famer once in your life, this was the show you’d want to see.

In the biography Shakey, author Jimmy McDonough quotes Neil expressing his displeasure with reviews and their need to go into detail about the history of his career. Neil isn’t entirely wrong about this; if you’re reading this blog, it’s almost unthinkable that you wouldn’t be familiar with his work and his legacy. Owing to the diversity of his catalog, both grunge and its descendants, as well as alt-country, have deep roots in his work. Aside from Bob Dylan and the Beatles, Young is probably the most influential figure in contemporary popular music. Any list of the figures influenced by him would be terribly partial and incomplete, and it would only give a slight glance into the shadow he casts.

At 78 years old, the Canadian rocker still stands tall — he’s about 6’2″ — and plays a mean guitar, be it electrical or acoustic. At Jiffy Lube Live on May 11, he looked strong and engaged for nearly two hours on stage, projecting energy and charisma throughout his set. A storm had battered Northern Virginia earlier in the evening, but it cleared up before the show, and a gorgeous double rainbow was a sign of good things to come. For most of the evening, he played with Crazy Horse, the garage rock outfit he’s made music with since his second solo album, the 1969 breakthrough Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. He was joined by bassist Billy Talbot, drummer Ralph Molina, and Micah Nelson, also known as the Particle Kid and the son of country legend (and longtime friend of Neil) Willie Nelson, on guitar and keys.

Though it’s not often talked about this way, Crazy Horse probably qualifies as a jam band. On some of his work with them, Young has expanded songs to 20-plus minutes. On May 11, he opted for moderation, kicking things off with a 10-minute version of “Cortez the Killer” that gave him and the band a chance to stretch things out without taxing the audience’s stamina.

Watch Neil Young perform “Cortez the Killer” live at Farm Aid in 2017 with The Promise of the Real via YouTube:

From the moment Neil hit the stage at 8:30pm, the audience were on their feet, and they cheered the opening chords of “Cinnamon Girl,” which was followed by “Fuckin’ Up,”  from 1989’s Ragged Glory. Young dedicated “Scattered (Let’s Think About Livin’”) to his late producer David Briggs, who he worked with off and on until his death in 1996. Released on 1996’s Broken Arrow, it was the most recent number he did with the Horse.

The Crazy Horse portion of the evening also included a couple songs that originally appeared on Neil’s solo albums and were reworked for the format: “Like A Hurricane” and “I’m The Ocean,” which made its tour debut at Jiffy Lube Live. Between those two, he played “Don’t Cry No Tears,” and he followed them up with “Powderfinger” and “Love and Only Love.”

After “Love and Only Love,” Crazy Horse left the stage as the crew — who were dressed in white lab coats — brought Young his acoustic guitar and harmonica. Neil described this section of the show as a “hootenanny,” and the audience happily obliged, singing along to “Comes A Time,” “Heart of Gold,” and “Human Highway.” For the first time on this tour, he pulled out “I Am A Child” from his days in Buffalo Springfield and the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young classic “Helpless.” He finished the solo acoustic portion of the evening with a new song, “Love Earth.”

The Horse returned to the stage for the final stretch of the evening, joining Neil for “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” and finishing things of with “Sedan Delivery.” He didn’t do an encore, but he didn’t need one — there wasn’t much left he could’ve done anyway. As the crowd made their way out, people were raving about just how good this show was. In the parking lot before the show, one fan mentioned he and his wife had driven up six hours from Boone, North Carolina. That’s a long way to go for a rock show, but if ever there was one that was worth it, it was this one, a truly remarkable night from one of the best and most important figures in rock music.

Here are some photos of Neil Young performing at Jiffy Lube Live on May 11, 2024. All pictures by James Todd Miller.

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