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Neil Young + Promise Of The Real : Rebel Content Tour
Riverbend Music Center : Cincinnati, Ohio : July 13, 2015
|Out Of The Blue
Publications Association, LLC
Review By BRIAN WAGNER | Photos By MIKE HOWARD | July 13, 2015
When Neil Young brought his Rebel Content Tour to Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati Monday night, there was
a sense of excitement in the air. See it was Neil's first trip to Cincinnati since 2011, and I being a lifelong fan was
especially excited because I had never seen one of my musical heroes. He came to town with Promise of the Real
as his backing band. Promise of the Real is a band featuring Willie Nelson's two sons, Lukas and Micah. They were
touring in support of Neil's new album with a Promise of the Real titled The Monsanto Years.
Band of Horses opened the show and right away it was easy to see why. Drawing from influences including
Mr. Young, they played a rootsy brand of rock music. They feature beautiful harmonies which really shone through
on "Laredo" and their set closer "The Funeral."
Neil Young's set opened with two ladies throwing seeds on the stage and pretending to water them. Seems odd unless
you know the premise of Neil's new album The Monsanto Years. The album is a direct and not so subtle protest of
Monsanto, an agrochemical company that specializes in pesticides and genetic seeds. After watching this for a few
minutes, the stage cut to a single spotlight and Neil Young on the piano playing a beautiful "After the Gold Rush."
This started a four song solo set that had Neil playing some of his most beloved songs: "Heart of Gold"
and "Old Man."
He was of strong voice and played a moving "Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)" on the pipe organ to close the solo
portion of his set. At this time A Promise of the Real joined him for what can only be described as a rousing set. It was
notable for many reasons, but it was evident this night was special when Neil and Lukas Nelson (guitarist) started
trading solos on an amazing rendition of "Words (Between the Lines of Age)." It was obvious that Neil and Lukas were
feeling the emotion of playing together and played off of one another.
At that point Neil dedicated an incendiary version of "Ohio" to the four students killed 45 years ago at Kent State
University. As a longtime Neil Young fan, this version sent chills up my spine. The feeling and emotion in the version
seemed just as poignant today as when it was recorded.
Neil and the band waited until late in the show to perform six of the seven songs from the new album. Although a bit of
the air came out of the crowd for these songs, I thought they stood up well next to some of the older material and will
definitely have me giving the new album a few more listens. But this was not what the audience had come to hear.
Neil turned up the volume and the audience responded to two extended jams: "Down By the River" and "Love and
Only Love" had both Neil and the band in feedback glory. Young delivered long jagged guitar runs that were matched
expertly by Lukas Nelson; the joy in their faces reminded me of why I love music as they challenged each other over
and over. At one point it seemed they were lost and searching, but many times these are the best parts and proved to
When the band circled around and found the groove again the audience was waiting and roared their approval. To see
Neil stomp and feel the music was a dream come true. "Down by the River" stretched out to nearly 20 minutes and I
enjoyed every second of it. After the extended feed back of "Love and Only Love" ending, Neil and the band thanked
the crowd and left the stage. They of course returned and closed out the night with a spot on "Cinnamon Girl"
which had the crown longing for more.
As the walk began to the parking lot, it was obvious that the two time rock and roll inductee had lost nothing, and in
fact was still having a ball doing this thing he loved most. To see the smile on his face with his arms raised at the end
of the show is something I will remember. It was a pleasure to see him play with A Promise of the Real, a band that
not only seems to inspire him, but also challenge him to new heights within the songs. Guitarist Lukas Nelson was a
revelation; he seemed to push Young to bring his best, which he did. Their interplay and joy in playing with each other
was amazing and noticeable. As the night ended I also had a smile on my face. I finally got to see one of my heroes
and he did not disappoint.
More Photos of Neil Young