Neil Young gave an awesome 45-minute set of classic country music for his first appearance this year after canceling all his 2017 live commitments. He has been a part of the lineup for the Farm Aid early on but no one can really tell whether he’ll make it or not until he stepped on the stage of the KeyBank Pavilion in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania.
Young never missed a single Farm Aid since 1985 and he’s always been onboard. However, this year, he cancelled a festival appearance in Australia, bailed on a tour of South America and Japan he announced in a 2016 press release, pulled out of his commitment to induct Pearl Jam into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame citing illness and put the Bridge School Benefit on hold, possibly forever. Outside of a brief, impromptu harmonica jam with Willie Nelson at Stagecoach back in April, he hadn’t stepped foot on a stage the entire year and has a completely blank public calendar for the foreseeable future.
In fact, he came like a roaring beast onto the stage that was finally let out of his cage and delivered a 45-minute set of unbelievable passion and energy. That should put an end to the rumors that he is battling whatever illness caused him to pull out of the Hall of Fame. He performed with Promise of the Real. A band he first met at Farm Aid in 2014 and has used as his primary backing band since then. They played focused on playing nothing but classics for the whole set.
“Thanks for coming to Farm Aid,” he said in the only moment of the set where he paused long enough to speak. “I hope you know that you’re doing a lot of good here with that money. We use that for good things. Farmers are the American heroes today. They are doing something with their hands that they’re sharing with their neighbors and their friends and families. We appreciate it.”
He opened the performance with “Fuckin’ Up” then “Cortez The Killer” for almost eleven minutes. Then for four and a half minutes, he did a very long intro of the latter while satisfyingly grinning and interplaying with guitarists Lukas and Micah Nelson. After a brief moment of trance, he seemed to realize that he has a time limit. He wraps up and strums out for “Cinnamon Girl,” that rambled the band to keep up with the pace of the song.
Then, Young strapped on the harmonica and acoustic guitar for his very own renditions of “Human Highway,” “Heart of Gold” and “Comes a Time,” before seeming to again call an audible, this time for “Like a Hurricane.” It got crazier when Young mouthed the words “Rockin’ In The Free World” to the band and they kicked into it Ramones-style, not pausing for even a split second after the abbreviated end to “Like a Hurricane.” They had a bit over four minutes on the clock, not giving them enough time to even get to the third verse, but Young milked what time he had for everything it was worth. Somehow or another, he managed to cram a three-hour Neil Young concert into 45 minutes that will surely go down as one of the greatest sets in Farm Aid history.
It’s unclear if Neil Young plans on returning to the road next year, but if not he’ll surely be at Farm Aid 2018. His performance was so bad-ass, it’ll be hard to top it next year but who knows?
farm aid, first appearance, neil young
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