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Neil Young Wayhome Festival – Picking Organic Cherries with Neil

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Neil Young Wayhome Festival – Picking Organic Cherries with Neil

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Neil Young at Wayhome, July 24 2015 

Attendance: 4,000 (start) – 22,000 (end)
Set length: 3hrs

Visual/Sound Presentation: 8 (Great balanced sound from Solo Tech, but nothing spectacular visually)
Stage Presence: 10 (This old guy rocks harder now than he did at 24)
Musical Ability: 10 – (It’ raw, grainy, gritty Neil young, played by Neil Young)
Originality: 10 – (It’s Neil Fucking Young)
Crowd: Reception: 8 – (A few who were ignorant but otherwise – very cool)
Wow Factor: 10 (Highly recommended)

With his t-shirt that simply read “Earth” Neil Young and Promise Of the Real brought his message about Monsanto, GMO and globalization to the fields of Burls Creek for three solid hours last night.

I headed towards the main stage thirty minutes prior to Neil Young’s set fully expecting to encounter a thick crowd of diehards.    What I encountered however, was a sparsely set audience which was easy to navigate through.    With little effort my partner and I managed find a comfortable view close to the stage, while the millennials at Wayhome were fully enjoying themselves at Alt-J who was finishing up Waybright stage on the adjacent part of the field.

With a couple of people dressed as planters tossing seeds around the stage adorned with plants, Young entered humbled and solo.  He then sat-down at a piano stage right and opened with After The Goldrush substituting the famous line “in the nineteen seventies” with “in the 21st century.”

Next up, Young played 1972’s Heart Of Gold, the legend’s only no.1 single to date, followed by Deja Vu’s Helpless.

With ‘all the hits’ being cranked out right at the start, one would assume that everyone in the crowd would have instantly recognized, who and what they were listening to and witnessing.   This sadly was not the case, as some ignorant ducklings who were most likely jumping nut to nut when Ragged Glory came out, were yelling:

“That’s Neil Diamond right there!  Wait until he plays sweet Caroline.”

It was hard to tell whether or not these halfwits were joking around or simply ill-informed,  in either case, it was an insult to the man who played Woodstock and was an integral part of defining a generation, but hey, they seemed to be having a great time.  This in general is a fine example of the generations that Wayhome Fest has fused together as twenty-somethings stood shoulder to shoulder with people three times their age in a night of bonding, for better or worse, under the unification of great music.

The legend then approached centre stage to set the tone for the evening.   Sitting at a second piano/organ which looked like it came from a 100 year old antique road show, Neil played Mother Earth.

What followed was two hours of Neil Young and Promise Of The Real playing a mix of Young classics and selections off The Monsanto Years, Young’s latest and 36th studio album.

After Words (between the lines of age) off Harvest, Young stopped to hand some gifts to the band and some lucky audience members in the front row.    What he tossed down to the crowd and around the stage, could have been mistaken for trail mix,  or grapes, but it later turned out to be organic cherries.

“Here’s a song about the fruits in the Prairies” said Young as he continued with Winterlong.

As soon as Alt-J ended the crowd swelled to 20,000+. Stand out tracks of the evening included Cowgirl In The Sand and Down By The River.   Both featured an extensive jam session with impressive guitar solos being traded off between Young and Lukas Nelson with Down By The River also featuring a short E-Bow solo from brother Micah Nelson.

Sons of the one and only Willie Nelson, the brothers have been touring with Young all over the midwest and Northeast this month after contributing to The Monsanto Years recording process last year.

Organic cherries were handed out three times throughout the set with Neil exclaiming at one point 

“Organic cherries, absolutely perfect”. 

The Scene predicts that sales of fair trade, hand picked, organic cherries will go up by 300% once the jury is out on last night’s performance.

Though the 69 year old humanitarian might be more straight edge in 2015 than the man we hear on classic hits radio, he did stop at one moment to point out some pleasant smells coming from the crowd.   “That smells good!”  said Young as he nodded his head in approval supporting a concert goer who was presumably enjoying something else organic.

He finished off with the iconic Rocking In The Free World followed by Monsanto.

There was an outro on final cut Love and Only Love which sounded like the intro to Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond which shocked me for a moment.

“Promise Of The Real.  Thank You Ontario!”

As if 2hrs 45mins wasn’t enough Young and band returned to the stage to play Don’t Be Denied and the often mistaken as a Buffalo Springfield cover, Mr. Soul.

“It’s still too early. That last one didn’t ring a bell, it didn’t ring a bell for me.  Maybe this next one will. I think it’s gonna ring a bell for some of you guys out there. I’m just saying, maybe some of the women out there as well.”

He proceeded to close the show with an energetic version of “Fuckin’ Up.

Neil Young’s journey from 1967 to 2015 displayed in moments over an intense 3hr set delivered in spades.  This was more than enough to close main stage day one for first year Wayhome and place the festival on the Canadian circuit as a considerable force to be reckoned with.

Darrell Shelley

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