Neil Young Spans Folk to Heavy in 2016 Desert Trip Set

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Neil Young performs onstage during Desert Trip at The Empire Polo Club on October 8, 2016 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Desert Trip. Used with permission)

Neil Young performs onstage during Desert Trip at The Empire Polo Club on October 8, 2016 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Desert Trip. Used with permission)

Somehow, day two of Desert Trip Indio started off even hotter than its maiden voyage. Eager fans packed the Empire Polo Fields on October 8, 2016, to get a glimpse of the action off-stage, which included many fine dining experiences, a terrific photography display, along with huge cutouts of the iconic albums of the event’s participants.

As dusk hit, it was time to get rockin’.

Neil Young opened his set in the same fashion he’s done recently with his fabulous current backing band, Promise of the Real. The first five or so songs featured Young on pump organ and harmonica, while performing numbers like “After the Goldrush,” “Heart of Gold” and “Comes a Time” to the delight of the older set.

Once he introduced Lukas Nelson and company, the tenor of the set, per the norm, changed from folkie to heavy.

It took a while to get in the flow, but once things took and started cooking, Young and Promise of Real bulldozed through songs with an ease that would make Crazy Horse blush. Though they’ve only been together for a few years, there’s a quiet understanding between each member that was noticeable far away in the GA area. There’s an easiness to that seamless transition of folk and heavy that allows each musician’s versatility to elevate the others.

Related: Review of Bob Dylan on day one

The only negative aspect of their colossal set, however, was the time restriction. As the night’s opening act, Young and company were limited to roughly 100 minutes onstage. Their headlining shows have been full of heavy-hitting jams and full on reengagement of songs, which has seen them customarily play tunes like “Down By the River,” “Cortez the Killer” and a lengthy version of “Words (Between the Lines of Age)” that spanned well over 15 minutes. Well, we got two out of those three — not played was “Cortez” — and while “Down By the River” showcased the outfit’s tightness, the set felt abridged and that wasn’t their own doing.

Watch Neil Young and Promise of the Real perform “Harvest Moon”

Related: Review of the Rolling Stones’ on day one

Young and Promise of Real threw in some curveballs to an audience that probably expected the hits. New tunes like “Texas Rangers,” “Neighborhood,” “Show Me” and “Peace Trails” showed that whatever comes next on The Monsanto Years’ followup, great things can still come from this unlikely collaboration.

A thunderous version of “Rockin’ in the Free World” may have closed out the set, but it wasn’t Young’s only political quip of the night. Throwing in lines like “building a wall to make Mexico great again” only cemented his overt anger toward Donald Trump. In the past, Young has been unafraid to throw his two cents into the political arena, and with Election Day nearing, it wasn’t surprising to hear him comment.

Watch their performance of “Rockin’ in the Free World,” during Weekend Two

Neil Young Setlist
After the Gold Rush
Heart of Gold
Comes a Time
Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)
Out on the Weekend
Human Highway
Show Me
Harvest Moon
Words (Between the Lines)
Walk On
Texas Rangers
Down by the River
Seed Justice
Peace Trail
Welfare Mothers

Rockin’ in the Free World

Following a lengthy set change, Paul McCartney hopped onstage. Young joined Sir Paul for “A Day in the Life,” “Give Peace a Chance” and “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road,” the first of the much ballyhooed Desert Trip collaborations.

Watch their performance

Read our review of McCartney’s set here.

Desert Trip’s first two days managed to top many of the “Oldchella” crowd’s hopes for a weekend to remember. The Who and Roger Waters closed the festival on October 9.

Daniel Kohn

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