Classic Rock Review

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Neil Young Rust Never Sleeps The Concert Film DVD (1978)


In 1978 Neil Young firmly put his foot down on the ongoing disco inferno and declared that “Rock and roll is here to stay”. He added a trio of exclamation points in the form of three releases, the ‘Rust Never Sleeps’ LP, the ‘Rust Never Sleeps’ film, and the soundtrack LP to the film, “Live Rust”.

The ‘Rust Never Sleeps’ film was recorded at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, and stands as the high water mark in Young’s storied career. By 1978, everything was in place to define Young as a rock and roll legend. It is a remarkable fact to consider that, despite the stunning songlist offered here, Young included no material from his collaborations with Crosby, Stills and Nash, nor any music from the 1976 Stills-Young Band LP.

Only one song, ‘I Am A Child’, recorded with Buffalo Springfield, was chosen from outside Young’s ‘solo’ works. That means no ‘Helpless’, ‘Country Girl’, ‘Mr. Soul’, or ‘Long May You Run’. And Young could only skim the surface of his solo catalog in limiting himself to 18 songs, skipping such gems as ‘Southern Man’, ‘Down By the River’, and ‘Cowgirl In the Sand’, and hits such as ‘Old Man’ and ‘Heart of Gold’. How many other artists could afford to leave so much classic material out of a two-hour concert?

One should also consider the place ‘Rust Never Sleeps’ claims in the history of rock films. By 1978 there had really only been 4 great rock concert films: ‘Monterey Pop’, ‘Woodstock’, ‘The Concert for Bangladesh’ and ‘The Last Waltz’. Ironically, Young missed opportunities to appear in the first two films, as David Crosby took his vacated role with Buffalo Springfield at the Monterey Pop Festival, and succumbed to camera fright on Yasgur’s farm.

Young has tried to remedy his self-imposed airbrush in New York, singing “I’m not going back to Woodstock for awhile” in his ‘Roll Another Number’ composition. But the real remedy lies in ‘Rust Never Sleeps’. Unlike the 4 aforementioned films, ‘RNS’ never takes its eyes off Young and Crazy Horse to beef up the production with other celebrated performers. It’s all Young, and such a film was never produced and released in theatres prior to it.

The concert begins with a 6 song acoustic set, drawing a dramatic analogy between acoustic sound and childhood, and powered sound and maturity. The 6 songs chosen not only symbolize childhood, but revel in it. ‘Sugar Mountain’ and ‘I Am A Child’ are effecting exposes of what it is to be in the dawn of life, while ‘Comes a Time’, ‘After the Goldrush’, ‘Thrasher’, and ‘My My Hey Hey’ all explore life transitions. And Young’s affinity for realism conveyed through imperfection is saluted when he flubs the lyrics for ‘Thrasher’. Any other artist would have refused to sign off on the faux pas, but Young embraces it. Two other acoustic numbers, ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’, and ‘Lotta Love’ give some breathing room in an extended electric set.

The remainder of the concert is an eclectic mix of hard rock chosen from Young’s decade old catalog. The new (‘Sedan Delivery’, ‘Powderfinger’, ‘Hey Hey My My’ and ‘Welfare Mothers’) mixes seamlessly with the old (‘The Loner’ and ‘Cinnamon Girl’) and everything that came in between, such as ‘Like a Hurricane’, ‘When You Dance I Can Really Love’, ‘Cortez the Killer’ [featuring a contemporary seque into a reggae chorus], and the encore ‘Tonight’s the Night’.

It’s a treasure to behold, with bassist Billy Talbot constantly writhing to the incessant rhythm generated by himself and guitarist Frank Sampedro and drummer Ralph Molina, and Young ripping off one jagged lead solo after another. The often maligned Road Eyes add a fun diversion to the driving din, especially the joyous choreography inspired by ‘Cinnamon Girl’.

While legends such as Eric Clapton and John Lennon were droning along to ‘Wonderful Tonight’ or hanging up the guitar altogether, Young was just beginning to crank up the rock merriment. ‘RNS’ made the statement that rock music had not found it’s demise, but had only established it’s roots, and with subsequent releases such as ‘Re-Ac-Tor’ and ‘Ragged Glory’, Young would fulfill his prediction that “rock and roll can never die”.

April 27, 2013 Posted by | Neil Young Rust Never Sleeps The Concert Film | , | Leave a comment