NEIL: AND THE KIDS UNDERSTAND...

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Neil Young

at the Fox Theatre

Saturday, Nov. 11

How sweet to see a bunch of pubescent kids at a Neil Young show; lots of high school fringe, unruly manes and tender-aged sideburns among the squat greybeards. And there was no shortage of dad-son combos. (Blanket statement of the week: Rock ’n’ roll was played and written with more aplomb and with more soul before many of us were born. So it stands to reason the smart kids should go back and do some listening before junking up their iPods with Panic at the Disco and Plain White T’s.)

The old-timers appeared, too. Spotted one glabrous septuagenarian dozing during the set’s 15-minute closer (“No Hidden Path”). Even old Bob Seger emerged in the fifth row, thickset in brown suede, with an elegantly trashy blonde (daughter? wife?) in tow. He didn’t seem to nod off, stood up in ovation, even.

Young — resplendent and down-dressed in tattered painter wear that matched the set’s garage/art-house loft themes — opened with a solo set (acoustic guitar and keys) of hits — his voice lifted, floated and fell in the lovely, sold-out Fox Theatre like a bell, remarkable in its ability to raise the goosebumps and make ’em salute — his vocals sounded stronger and with more harmonic presence than they did on record 30-plus years ago. Count ‘em: Nearly four decades and ageless. Any signs of song updates included few subtle lyrical tweaks (the singsong “After the Gold Rush” refrain became “Look at mother nature on the run in the 21st century” — applause ensued mid-song.).

After intermission, the rock ’n’ roll band, which included Young mainstays, pedal-steel guitarist Ben Keith and Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina, plus bassist Rick Rosas, pianist Anthony Crawford and Young’s wife Pegi (whose opening set we missed) took root. Snow-haired Keith looked like death walking; hook-nosed, hunchbacked and creaky-fingered, we thought him Icabod Crane as The 100-Year-Old-Man. The juxtaposition of his graceful guitar command and faded presence was awe-inspiring. Not a bad way to go. No?

We heard “The Loner,” “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere,” “Dirty Old Man” before realizing that the power and glory of a rock ’n’ roll show can’t be underestimated when offered up from the proper hands; that some things become transcendent and sacred (yes, sacred). The doughy, baseball-capped douchebag in front of us, who did the Neil Young stammer with attendant air-guitar power chords, notwithstanding.

Neil only dozes off during solos occasionally these days.

Wow! Lotta guitars, dude...

MT photos by Doug Coombe

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