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Review: Neil Young brings music, message to arena show

Review: Neil Young brings music, message to arena show

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About 90 minutes into his concert at Pinnacle Bank Arena Saturday night, Neil Young strapped on "Old Black" and started to whistle, kicking off the jaunty "A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop."

With Promise of the Real chugging slim behind him like Crazy Horse, Young blasted Monsanto and Starbucks -- and got a cheer from the crowd of more than 6,000 when he sang of the "fields of Nebraska," while stating farmers won't be able to grow what they want to grow.

"We don't want to offend anybody," Young said in the only statement he made beyond "thank you" during the show. "But we won't be happy till they're not happy."

Then came "People Want to Hear About Love" and "A New Day for Love," two more politically charged rockers from "The Monsanto Years," Young's new protest album he recorded with Promise of the Real, the band led by Willie Nelson's boys, Lukas and Micah Nelson.

The songs from "The Monsanto Years" are the driving force behind the 12-date "Rebel Content" tour.

Unlike nearly all his contemporaries who are content to vacuum up the cash with greatest-hits shows, the 69-year-old Young continues to plow forward, playing new songs and deep catalog material.

That had him on point -- in fine, strong voice throughout, fully committed and locked in with the band in a sharply constructed set.

Promise of the Real is perfectly matched with Young, capable of handling the folk rock that made up the first third of the show and cutting loose on the rockers, new and, with a blazing, long "Down By the River," old.

As promised, Young opened the show with a five-song acoustic set, starting on piano with "After the Gold Rush," then moving to guitar for "Heart of Gold," "Old Man" and "Long May You Run."

Closing the acoustic set on pipe organ, "Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)" ended the "greatest hits" portion of the program and set the theme for the show.

After guys in hazmat suits sprayed the stage -- there's always some kind of theatrics in a Young show -- Promise of the Real joined him for a gently rocking "Hold Back The Tears," beginning the folk-rock portion of the program.

That eight-song stretch, highlighted by "From Hank to Hendrix" and the country hop of "Field of Opportunity," closed with a pair of moon songs -- "Wolf Moon" and "Harvest Moon" -- one of the rare hits in the second half of the show.

Then out came the electric guitar, a stretched out "Words (Between the Lines of Age,)" a few more older electric numbers, and hitting high gear with the bracing new songs.

The electric portion of the show lasted nearly two hours with Young hammering away on his guitar, trading riffs with the Nelsons as songs stretched and roared for five, maybe even 10 minutes. 

From the time a pair of women in floppy hats and cutoff overalls came out tossing grain on stage and watering flowers to open the show, through the final stomp and ring of "Cinnamon Girl," the concert ran three hours 20 minutes -- the longest show yet for Pinnacle Bank Arena.

It was also one of the arena's very best shows, right up with Paul McCartney's 2014 concert. That show was sold out. This one should have been. 

Band of Horses opened with a solid 45-minute set of rock that fit well with Young's approach. It was well received by the audience, most of whom had likely not heard of the South Carolina-based band.

Singer Ben Bridwell, who can sound like a young Young, noted they were playing their first show since the Confederate battle flag was taken down at their state Capitol.


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