Neil Young's and Crazy Horse keep it old school in so many ways, and the rest of the day at Voodoo.

Photo of Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark Jr., by Myriam Santos

Festivalgoers are accustomed to a fair amount of production to keep the live experience dynamic and visual, but Neil Young and Crazy Horse made due with a silhouette of an Indian on a horse. At Voodoo, they played on a stage big enough to land a plane, but Young, bassist Billy Talbot and guitarist Poncho Sampedro huddled so close together that they'd have fit in the Circle Bar if not for the amps. They all kept their heads down except to sing, focusing on the business at hand. Young's token nod to the audience was to inform them three-quarters of the way through the set, "From now on, they all sound exactly the same. They're all one big song."

Fortunately, it was a great song, and typical of Young, a mercurial one. playing five tracks from the yet-to-be-released Psychedelic Pill. Since Young songs don't ask much of a listener beyond patience, the unreleased material didn't seem to be a problem, and he did eventually get to "Mr. Soul," "Hey Hey, My My" and and encore of "Like a Hurricane."

Most the songs stretched out past the 10-minute mark, though "Powderfinger" was a tidy seven minutes, and he dispatched "The Needle and the Damage Done" in just over a minute. The centerpiece of the show was the epic "Walk Like a Giant," with two long solos, one raging and dischordant, one more elegiac. After 18 minutes, they started the process of finishing it up by recreating the sound of giant footsteps on slow, noisy stomp at a time. By the end of the footsteps, the song had not only gone on for longer than 20 minutes; it went for more than 24. 

Young's not an old man, but as Waging Heavy Peace and Psychedelic Pill make clear, age is on his mind. Friday night, the only evident concession to his age was a teleprompter attached to his mic stand to feed him his lyrics. His voice sounded strong and his guitar work, more adventurous than ever. And as hard as Metallica will be tonight, it's hard to imagine they'll be heavier.

In Other Notes:

- Friday night's mainstage lineup represented "real music"  - real guitar players (Gary Clark Jr., Young), real singers (The Avett Brothers) and real American genres (blues, folk, bluegrass, caveman music). As good as it was, the contrast was striking when you entered The Shire-like space that this year is the home of Le Plur/The Red Bulletin Stage. The new, well-treed space for the stage is perfect, and the production on the stage is spectacular. It looks like care has been taken to make sure that it's four-on-the-floor thump doesn't bleed on to other stages; I wish the same effort had been made to make sure that the main stage sound didn't bleed over to the Le Plur stage. During Die Antwoord, Clark's strains of "Third Stone from the Sun" were unavoidable on the left side of the stage.

- A friend observed during Gary Clark Jr.: "Hendrix's songs didn't all sound the same."

- When in doubt, I returned to Le Plur, which was the most rock 'n' roll stage in terms of its audience. Everybody was there to get messed up or get laid. Best part of Die Antwoord? Listening to Yolandi Visser say "motherfucker" in her Minnie Mouse-on-helium voice.

- Supagroup is the best the band has been since it released its first album. It's a shame it's killing at a time when nobody seems to want muscle car rock. I similarly hope that there's a place for Star and Dagger's glam metal and glam sludge. It's real hard blues rock that would have been metal before Metallica.

- “For all of y’all who stayed up late drinking and made it here...well, we know there’s some of y’all out here,” Luke Winslow-King said to an early-rising crowd yesterday morning. He kicked off The Voodoo Experience with his old-school, ragtime folk music, and it worked as morning music. An upright bass, a trumpet, a washboard, and a guitar was all it took to wake up an audience. [Cherie LeJeune}

- Few other big-name festivals make as huge of a point to incorporate what New Orleans loves right now into the lineup like Voodoo does. Local acts Coyotes and Big History played back to back sets at the Le Carnival stage yesterday, and when Big History’s soulful, powerhouse vocalist Meg Roussel told the crowd that she thought she’d be playing to her parents, you had to laugh. Both acts made an interested audience even more interested. Coyotes added two more instruments to their set-up, with a pedal steel that did wonders for the usually-subtle twang in their sound. [Cherie LeJeune}

- Say Anything's relentless energy and onstage presence dominates the show more than their actual pop-punk music, which honestly, seems a bit outdated in today. Max Bemis was the toughest frontman to photograph yesterday. He doesn't stop moving, ever. [Cherie LeJeune}

- Guitar solos can either bog a set down or take on a language of their own, and for Gary Clark Jr., the latter would be the case. He treated that guitar like a favorite toy, and his improvisation makes you wonder if he’s still figuring it out as he plays. Every moment of his set, though, whether planned or unplanned, sounded like what The Black Keys used to make in the beginning - gritty, noisy rock, perfect in its imperfectness. Whatever strange noise he could get out of that guitar that worked with the blues-rock instrumentation behind him, he did it. And the crowd adored it. [Cherie LeJeune}

Related Voodoo Stories

Royal Teeth Makes a Joyous Return

Zack Smith's Quiet Place

Where We'll Be Friday

Diabate's Got the Blues

Thomas Dolby and Life After Science

Ask Neil

Say Anything's Past is Present

Metallica to Voodoo: The Inside Story