Toronto Molson Amphitheatre

It seems [a]Neil Young[/a] is never going to go away - and thank the stars for that...

God, it seems [a]Neil Young[/a] is never going to go away – and thank the stars for that. To the younger crowd here, he’s the godfather of grunge (it’s ironic that Young‘s hipness has even outlived that passi term). To the older set, he’s one of the last, genuine icons from a bygone era. Nonetheless, both fan demographics are here tonight to see the hometown boy who made good – and both demographics are absolutely ecstatic.

Of course, Young doesn’t really fit the rock-god mould like a Plant or a Daltrey – he’s more like the cool, old uncle everyone wishes they had. And though he sometimes borders on the dorky and even corny, Young‘s aged in a way that is infinitely less embarrassing than all those wrinkled, curly-locks rockers.

Regardless, nobody can dispute Neil‘s chops – which he effortlessly demonstrates with his current country-rock unit (featuring long-term cohorts Ben Keith and Donald “Duck” Dunn , as well as Young’s wife Peggy and sister Astrid on backing vocals). ‘Motorcycle Mama’, ‘Powderfinger’ and ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’ kick off the set in classic fashion, with Young looking trim and sounding in peak form. He says little, other than the odd half-completed anecdote (or a “thank you all for coming”). No need to put on airs – we’re all family here.

After this crowd-pleasing intro, Young decides to throw in some curveballs and long-unperformed songs. Not that anyone expects any different – Neil plays what Neil wants, and we all listen intently. The recent CSNY tour gave his better-known material ample workout, and this versatile band is capable of much more than just Crazy Horse‘s glorious bashing. Thus, Young dons the wide-brimmed hat from the cover of ‘Comes A Time’, and shifts into acoustic gear. Keith‘s sublime pedal steel is the highlight of newer tracks like ‘Razor Love’, ‘Buffalo Springfield Again’, as well as like-minded songs such as ‘Harvest Moon’ and ‘I Believe In You’. Rarities, such as ‘Walk On’ and ‘Winterlong’ are also dug out of the vaults, to all the hardcore fans’ delight.

Young also stretches out for a while. Once more clutching his ancient Les Paul, he cranks out a blistering, extended version of ‘Words (Between The Lines Of Age)’, before jumping behind the piano for the dramatic, smacked-out blues of ‘Tonight’s The Night’.

Yet, it is during the first encore, ‘Cowgirl In The Sand’, that Young pulls out his full guitar jam onslaught, unleashing a frenzy of beautiful, yet near-chaotic licks that mesmerise [I]en masse[/I]. [I]Nobody[/I] else can walk this aesthetic tightrope with such class and precision.

Come back home soon, Uncle Neil – we’re tired of the imitators.