Love and Only Love Will Endure: Neil Young + Promise of the Real in Memphis

Photo by Jason Gonulsen

Here’s why it’s a bad idea to talk about what Neil Young might do before his show begins.

Actually, I told three young women from Houston what he will do. This was during Grace Potter’s set, and Sarah, McKenzie, and Colleen were contemplating whether to see Neil or Weezer. They asked, so I answered.

“Here’s how it’s going to go down,” I said. “He’s going to start out acoustic, playing some of his hits, and then he’s going to go electric, singing about Monsanto and seeds and GMOs.”

This, of course, is not what happened. Twenty-nine times I have seen Neil Young, and I should have known better. The best response would have been, “hell if I know — it’s Neil Young.” Clearly, I’m still learning.

Neil Young did not open with “After the Gold Rush” like he did at every other show he’s done with his new band, Promise of the Real. Instead, he strapped on Old Black and gave us three minutes of dirty feedback, which led into a crazy, twisted 30-minute version of “Down By The River.” I thought it was 20 minutes, but I’ve read 30 on Twitter feeds that were paying attention to time and that kind of stuff. When I’m at a Neil Young concert, I don’t pay attention to time.

Young is 70 and clearly still in the mood to challenge his audience. His next seven songs were deeper cuts, including Ragged Glory’s “Country Home” and Sleeps With Angels’ “Western Hero;” only Harvest’s “Out on the Weekend” was familiar to many in the audience.

Mixed in were two anti-GMO songs, one being the title track from The Monsanto Years, the other called “Seed Justice” from the forthcoming Earth. And the message was clear: Young is absolutely pissed at Monsanto’s “seed patents,” and the future of family farms.

I’m not educated on these things to provide much commentary other than common sense. However, on my drive back to St. Louis, a crop duster spraying pesticides flew across the interstate and covered our windshield with a liquid that I’m pretty sure was not meant to be ingested or inhaled. Something to think about.

But Young doesn’t think about these things and just sit on his ass. He broadcasts his beliefs internationally. For every person that tells me artists should “stick to music,” I feel that is the biggest line of bullshit. Of course some artists are going to sing about what matters to them. That’s why they are artists!

You can choose not to listen. You can choose to eat whatever you want. Vote for whoever you want. Live however you want. Just because your favorite band refrains from singing about political subjects doesn’t mean Neil Young is going to do the same. Land of the free, home of the brave. Deal with it.

“That’s one more kid that will never go to school, never get to fall in love, never get to be cool,” Young sang during “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

He followed with another message during “Love and Only Love.”

Love and only love will endure
Hate is everything you think it is

As the skies opened and the rain fell upon us, it was a reminder that uncomfortable moments are only temporary.

But love is endurance. And so is Neil Young.

Set list

Down By The River
Country Home
Seed Justice
Monsanto Years
Western Hero
Out On The Weekend
Are There Any More Real Cowboys?
F*!#in’ Up
Cinnamon Girl
Rockin’ In The Free World
Love And Only Love

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