Tuesday, August 29, 2000

Ageless passion in Young's music

Pretenders also survivors

By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Monday was a night of rock 'n' roll survivors, as Neil Young and the Pretenders played Riverbend.

        Mr. Young's career goes back almost 35 years, to the band he sang about Monday in “Buffalo Springfield Again.”

        His all-star backup band went back even further, including 1960s sessions greats bassist Duck Dunn, keyboardist Spooner Oldham and drummer Jim Keltner. The rest of the group were friends and family, steel guitarist Ben Keith having played with him more than 30 years, while his backup singers were his sister, Astrid, and wife, Pegi.

        With that dependable band, the singer-songwriter was free to roam through his songbook for a couple of hours.

        There were songs from the beginning, “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” and “Cowgirl in the Sand.” The latter was his first encore, a 15-minute epic in which he ravaged his ancient black Les Paul guitar, stab bing out notes as he staggered across the stage. From his finest album After the Gold Rush came “Don't Let It Bring You Down” and “I Believe In You.” From Harvest came “Old Man” and “Words.”

        He included his powerful “Powderfinger” and a haunting “Tonight's the Night.” He didn't neglect his new stuff, but too much of it was lumped into the middle, causing the show — and the crowd — to sag.

        His high, whiny voice remains an acquired taste, but he drew the summer's most varied audience, from teen-age hippies to metal-heads to boomers older than the 54-year-old Mr. Young.

        His music still burns with ageless passion. And while it does, he'll still be relevant.

        The same is true of Chrissie Hynde and her Pretenders. Here was a genuine rock 'n' roll woman, leading a four-man band with a supple, emotional voice and no-nonsense rhythm guitar and harmonica.

        She had the music to back up her attitude, from her early “Brass In Pocket” to such fine new stuff as “Popstar.”

        Like Mr. Young, she knows what being a real survivor is about.


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