Neil Young. A bit too much to talk about there, but I will say this: a restless, contrarian, outspoken, chipped-shoulder edge is a rare thing among 50+-year veterans of the rock industries. There’s Neil Young and…Neil Young and…all right then. His new album is called The Monsanto Years.
Young’s early songs with (the) Buffalo Springfield were fussy and precocious, and I love them. They are my favorite Neil Young songs: “Broken Arrow,” “Expecting to Fly,” “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing.” Of that batch, the incendiary fame-messes-with-the-head rocker “Mr. Soul” probably best anticipates where he was headed, and he kept it alive in his shows for years.
But we should have realized all along that it is Young who messes with fame’s head. Young’s basic pattern has been a kind of hot-and-cold, sweet-and-sour alternation. For my money, the crisp and sad folk/rock of Harvest is where it’s at; but hipsters typically prefer to effervesce about the raw nerve of Tonight’s the Night or the crushing sledge and sludge of Crazy Horse and Neil’s tortured lead-guitar-playing. One thing is for sure: In the best spirit of the Beatniks and their “sanctity of the first draft” dictum, this guy writes it and lets it fly without reconsideration. More often than not, it sticks.
Neil Young doesn’t do farewell tours. I guess he’ll just not be there one day. Even at the shed at Bethel, where the big names come to play, this is an outsized name: a legend as revered by punks as by hippies and folkies, a resonant, universalist songwriter who seems to appeal to maybe ten or 15 fewer people than everybody.
Young, with his new outfit the Promise of the Real, brings the “Rebel Content” tour to the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on Friday, July 17 at 7:30 p.m. A name this huge usually commands a pretty big name for an opener. How’s Norah Jones? Ticket prices range from $52 for Lawn seating to $204.50 in the Pavilion. Tickets are available at www.bethelwoodscenter.org. The Bethel Center for the Arts is located at 200 Hurd Road in Bethel.
Neil Young with Norah Jones, Friday, July 17, 7:30 p.m., $52-$204.50, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, 200 Hurd Road, Bethel; www.bethelwoodscenter.org.