Thursday, July 19, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

Looking Back: In 1991, Neil Young kept on rockin' in the Sun Dome

This story appeared in the pages of the St. Petersburg Times on March 11, 1991. What follows is the text of the original story, interspersed with photos of the event taken by Times staff photographer Thomas M. Goethe.

HE'S 45 - AND HE'S STILL YOUNG

By Eric Snider, Times Staff Writer

Forget his 45 birthdays, his thinning hair, his jowls and wrinkles _ Neil Young is a punk, in the best sense of the word. Punk means playing with raw, cathartic abandon, scoffing at artifice or flash or posing, adhering to a single-minded artistic vision. Young, with superb support from his band, Crazy Horse, succeeded on all counts Sunday night at the USF Sun Dome. Punk also can connote an utter lack of talent, ineptitude disguised as iconoclasm. Young's stellar career, although sometimes marred by his penchant for changing musical styles like so many BVDs, has left any question about his talent moot.

TIMES | Thomas M. Goethe

His singing voice may be grainy and whiny, surely an acquired taste, but it's somehow right. His guitar work eschews the slick pyrotechnics of today's six-string heroes; instead, it resonates with gritty authority. One note and you know it's Young _ the jagged phrasing, the ringing, abrasive tone taps straight into the nerve ends. Although conventional wisdom would contend otherwise, he is one of rock's best lead guitarists.

Crazy Horse _ bassist, guitarist and drummer _ kept up a relentless sonic assault, bludgeoning with power chords and brutal rhythms. The basics of rock 'n' roll rarely sound so convincingly executed. It was a barely controlled din. Ragged but right.

TIMES | Thomas M. Goethe

Young and company played a brief, rousing version of the 1969 classic Cinnamon Girl, then slid into Mansion on the Hill, from the latest album, Ragged Glory. The two songs fit together like puzzle pieces. The group followed with a raging version of another new song, F------ Up. A long, hypnotic turn at Cortez the Killer was goosed by swells of energy. The music gave no quarter; its intensity knew no bounds.

After opening sets by Social Distortion and Sonic Youth, the house lights went down, dry-ice smoke blew across the stage and the apocalyptic strains of Jimi Hendrix's Star-Spangled Banner blasted from the sound system. Young emerged and strapped on his trademark black Les Paul guitar. He wore patched-up jeans, a faded flannel shirt (underneath was a Buffalo Springfield T-shirt) and black running shoes. His black hair, parted in the middle, was like Moe Howard's if it grew out a few inches. The plainly clad Crazy Horse guys wouldn't draw a second look in a bus station. This was no rock 'n' roll fashion show.

TIMES | Thomas M. Goethe

TIMES | Thomas M. Goethe

Likewise, the crowd, which numbered 6,000, favored denim and was sprinkled with leftover hippies. Beer lines were long, and the smell of marijuana, a rarity in today's concert halls, could be detected from time to time.

Young opened the two-hour set with Hey Hey My My to the raucous delight of the audience. Soon after, he played a buzzing, noisy version of Blowin' in the Wind.

Each song was performed full tilt _ Powderfinger, Love to Burn, Crime in the City, Love and Only Love, Roll Another Number _ without regard to subtlety. Rockin' in the Free World spurred a riotous sing-along.

Young, his face etched in a grimace, lumbered and stomped about the stage, hunching low. He did not engage the audience with pleasantries. His stage presence was anything but polished, but it was real.

TIMES | Thomas M. Goethe

TIMES | Thomas M. Goethe

To order reprints, license or download any image from this gallery, please visit the Times image archive.

Contact Jeremy King at [email protected]

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