The crowd roaring like a jet plane and the smell of marijuana drifting up to the rafters of the Halifax Metro Centre, the old man stepped on stage and ripped into a wild version of When You Dance I Can Really Love.

Canadian rock legend Neil Young, in Halifax on Friday night for the second time in six months, played songs he wrote 30 years ago like they just came to him.

A piano-pounding stomp through Are You Ready For The Country kept the show flying.


Young, sporting a paint-spattered sports coat, rarely spoke to the near capacity crowd and sang with his eyes pinched shut.

In other concerts, it might come across as a detached singer bored of another night on tour, mindless of the crowd, but with Young, as always, he sang everything he needed to say.

The 63-year-old broke the spell a few times, notably after his band leapt into one song as he dove into another. He turned to the musicians and asked, “What do you want to do?” in feigned exasperation.

“This is like rehearsals for retirement, only we don’t want to get it down,” he added. “We always don’t want to be ready for that.”

The stage decked out like a museum of instruments, Young headed to the organ at the back for a slow trip through Oh Mother Earth, accompanied by retro lighters swaying in the audience.

Near the summit of the show, Young worked up a mesmerizing version of Change Your Mind. Young recorded his album, Sleeps With Angels, in the wake of the death of Kurt Cobain, who quoted “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” from Young’s Hey Hey, My My in his suicide note. Change Your Mind sounds like a too-late reply.

Deep into his life, Young is still full of passion and intensity — and still burning.

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