Recorded at the Civic Auditorium, Pittsburgh on February 17, 1991
The first time I saw Neil Young & Crazy Horse was on the Smell The Horse Tour. It was at the Cow Palace in San Francisco on Saturday April 6, 1991. Jay drove Manny, Byron & I in his van, listening to the initial dubs of the Miss Alans Discordia shows the previous weekend on the way up.
At that time, I wasn’t in a great headspace: the second version of Sedan Delivery had just fallen apart, I was going back to CSUF to finally finish my degree, and I was also dealing with a lingering breakup, as well. And in fact, I was originally going to go the next night in Sacramento w/ John, Sherilyn & Doc — a show with way better tickets — but ditched them because I didn’t want any kind of responsibility at all, not even driving, which I was going to do, cos I had the best car. It was also a Sunday night show, and I had to be in class at 9:00AM on Monday.
A total dick move, I know, but I think I let them use my car as compensation. In any event, it worked: Neil Young & Crazy Horse (along with their openers, Sonic Youth and Social Distortion) were exactly what I needed. Playing a set that comprised much of what ended up on Weld, — absent only “Welfare Mothers,” “Tonight’s The Night” & “Farmer John” — they totally blew me away in every possible way, to the point where I wrote in my journal that I was feeling “Post Neil euphoria apocalypse” and called the whole experience a “spiritually cleansing super rock weekend.”
Which was exactly what I needed in the middle of a spring where my life blew up seemingly a half-dozen times: a reminder of a world bigger than my shit, and that the current moment was only temporary.
Long ago in the book of old
Before the chapter where dreams unfold
A battle raged on the open page
Love was a winner there overcoming hate
Like a little girl who couldn’t wait
One of the highlights of that concert — a highlight of Ragged Glory and Weld, as well — was the epic, roiling “Love and Only Love,” one of two songs from Ragged Glory that topped 10-minutes, but on which Neil completely killed it with his solos.
One of the more uptempo of Neil’s long jam songs, “Love and Only Love” features a big bouncy almost soulful bassline from Billy Talbot as well as an energetic tempo from Ralph Molina, and some great harmonies from the pair of them on the chorus.
Love and only love will endure
Hate is everything you think it is
Love and only love will break it down
Love and only love, will break it down
Break it down, break it down
Sure, it seems like an overly-optimistic sentiment — like Bono snuck in and wrote the lyrics for it — but what the hell, even Neil was allowed to be optimistic sometimes, and once again, when he launches into the guitar solo after the second chorus, all that matters is the unearthly noises coming out of his guitar and the utter joy he’s having coaxing those noises from his guitar as he’s bending into his band, then running in front of one of the giant speaker cabinets, then back to his band.
One of the things we really haven’t talked about was the somewhat unorthodox setup Neil has with Crazy Horse: instead of setting up in the middle, like you’d expect, he sets up on stage left, with Billy in the middle in front of Ralph and Poncho on stage right. This is all relative, of course: they mostly bunch up in the middle of the stage in front of the drum kits, but what it does mean is when they get what I call their “jamming circle,” Neil is bending in from stage left instead of being right in the middle. I don’t know why he does this, but it does allow him to be able to watch all three guys at the same time.
This set-up evolved over time: it wasn’t that way on the 1970, 1973 or 1976 tours. Not until Rust Never Sleeps, as a matter of fact, but it’s been that way ever since. But just for Crazy Horse. Not with the International Harvesters, Booker T & The MGs, the Stray Gators, or Promise of the Real. Just Crazy Horse.
“Love and Only Love (live)”
“Love and Only Live” live on Austin City Limits, 2012