Neil Young played his most extensive live set in four years last night (April 22) during longtime bandmate Stephen Stills’ Light up the Blues event at Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre. The annual charity show is hosted by Stills and his wife Kristen, with proceeds benefitting Autism Speaks.
Young’s only other recent concert appearance was a brief performance at a Canadian forest protection rally in February, and last night also marked his first show with Stills since 2018. Young had previously cited hesitancy with large gatherings amid the pandemic as his reason for taking a pause from the stage.
For this set, Young and Stills were supported by Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real, and together they performed Young’s classic tracks like “Heart of Gold” and “Comes a Time” before delving into Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Helpless,” with Stills on piano. The ensemble also unearthed some Buffalo Springfield tracks including “On the Way Home,” “For What It’s Worth,” and “Bluebird,” as well as “Mr. Soul” with guest Joe Walsh on guitar. The 11-song set ended with Stills-Young Band track “Long May You Run.”
In a somewhat surprising turn of events considering Young’s animosity towards David Crosby in the years before the latter’s recent death, the evening featured a prerecorded message from Graham Nash during which he saluted Crosby and introduced a recording of a performance of “Guinnevere” from 2013.
“David was my best friend for almost 50 years. I’m going to miss him terribly in my life. I think about him every day,” Nash said in the message, per Rolling Stone. “I’d like to revisit a beautiful piece of music, David and I doing ‘Guinnevere’ at Jazz at Lincoln Center with the famous trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Enjoy the music, and please rejoice. I’m going to miss him every day of my life.”
In addition to Walsh and Lukas Nelson, other Light up the Blues performers included Willie Nelson, Sharon Van Etten, and Stills’ son Chris.
For Young, last night’s appearance was a tune-up of sorts for Willie Nelson‘s 90th birthday celebration next weekend at the Hollywood Bowl, which features an array of stars including Snoop Dogg, Kacey Musgraves, the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, Tom Jones, and Beck.