By the time Neil Young played the indoor arena just outside San Francisco formerly known as the California State Livestock Pavilion -- but since 1941 simply known as The Cow Palace -- on his Live in a Rusted Garage with Crazy Horse tour of 1986, he had already released 16 solo albums, three more with Buffalo Springfield and another three with Crosby, Stills & Nash or members thereof. And while across this staggering body of work, amassed by the time this troubadour of troubadours had reached only his 40th year, there were highs and lows, the overall quality and influence of his work by this juncture in his career was almost unsurpassed in the world of contemporary music.
This spectacular show was caught in all its magnificence by KLOS FM, and broadcast across the airwaves for all to witness. The Palace held a particular resonance for Young; it was here that he recorded live a majority of tracks for 'Rust Never Sleeps' in 1978, with the accompanying film of the same name directed by Shakey himself capturing that gig perfectly. At well over two hours long, and boasting impeccable sound quality, on his return visit some 7 years later Young draws from his full catalogue of work, albeit peppered with 8 of the 9 tracks that would be included on his 1987 record 'Life', here being given an early airing to crowd and listeners alike, and proving popular if the reaction of the live audience is anything to go by. Somewhat sensibly, Neil restricts choices from his July 86 offering, 'Landing on Water', to a solitary cut, then as now an album often considered his worst.
After a lengthy introduction Young reveals his ongoing fondness for the vocoder, before he finally launches into the earliest composition performed during proceedings, the much-loved Buffalo Springfield number Mr Soul, followed by two more classics, "When You Dance I Can Really Love You" and "Down By The River". By this point the mood of the evening is set and over the next 120 or so minutes Young and The Horse do what they do best, playing what is often voted Neil Young's finest show of the 1980s.
With Young in a boisterous yet jovial mood, and displaying so much of his unique guitar work, plus forays with harmonica, vocoder and even a telephone, and Messrs Sampredo, Molina and Talbot in their finest form for years, this performance at Cow Palace on the 21st November 1986 illustrates perfectly if anyone were still in doubt -- what all the fuss is about.