Neil Young’s albums with Crazy Horse come in two varieties. Sometimes he simply uses the group as a backup band for whatever tangent he happens to be pursuing. At such times they acquit themselves adequately but unremarkably–when was the last time you listened to Life or Sleeps With Angels? But when Young brings the band songs that are suited to their peculiar strengths, together they become a lumbering juggernaut, one of the best rock bands in the world. On their latest record, Broken Arrow, they strive for the latter and nearly succeed. The album kicks off with three elementally simple seven-to-ten-minute epics; on each, the group sustains an implacable forward momentum that seems to inspire Young’s most impassioned singing and hypnotic guitar playing in years. But Broken Arrow’s melodies are solid, not immortal, and the album lacks a classic song like “Powderfinger” or “Cortez the Killer.” Fortunately, you can count on hearing those songs in concert: Young’s never been shy about playing his hits, and on this tour he’s been including a solo acoustic set of songs too delicate to withstand the Horse’s heavy hoofbeats. The quartet’s last Chicago concert, five years ago, was the best arena-rock show I have ever seen; tonight’s should not be missed. Friday, September 6, 6 PM, New World Music Theatre, I-80 and Harlem, Tinley Park; 708-614-1616 or 559-1212.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Neil Young photo by Mike Hashimoto.