Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young rocked a packed Rogers Arena last night with a little help from his new friends.
Young’s latest album The Monsanto Years is a collaboration with Promise of the Real, a California rock group fronted by Willie Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micah. The album was released this summer to rave reviews but was criticised in some quarters for its harsh stance on GMOs (its first single, “A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop”, takes aim at Starbucks’ alleged use of genetically modified food).
The environment was clearly on Young’s mind last night. The show opened with a pair of women dressed as farmers sowing the stage (and fans in the front row) with seeds. Those same women appeared five songs later dressed in hazmat gear as they sprayed the stage with pesticide while the crowd booed and jeered.
For his part, Young wore a t-shirt that read “EARTH” and announced that he was donating $100,000 of the proceeds from his Vancouver concert to David Suzuki’s Blue Dot charity initiative. Young stressed that Canadians should have “the right to drink clean water and breathe good air, and have the things associated with that as part of our constitution. It’s a great idea and I’m glad to be supporting it with your help.”
About a month before the Promise of the Real joined Young for a summer tour of U.S. amphitheatres, the singer sent the guys a tape of about 80 songs for them to learn. All of that preparation clearly paid off; unplugged numbers like “Words (Between The Lines of Age)” and “Harvest Moon” sounded even better live than in their original incarnations.
The second half of the show was comprised mainly of material from The Monsanto Years, with Young and POTR performing tracks including “Big Box” and “Workin’ Man”. But the crowd saved their best singing voices for the classics, and there were plenty to sing along to.
Young opened the show alone with a lovely version of “After The Gold Rush” on piano, followed by an awesome solo take on “Heart of Gold” his first number one single. “Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)” and “Winterlong” also made the setlist.