Neil Young Covers Dylan, Hardin at Hollywood's Dolby Theater: Live Review

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Neil Young performs at the Dolby Theatre on March 29, 2014 in Los Angeles.

The second night of Neil Young's stand at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood closely resembled the first night's set list, adding covers of Tim Hardin and Bob Dylan songs to replace rarely played gems from his own catalog.

Both nights emphasized his work from the 1970s and the March 30 show included four from "Harvest," three songs from "After the Gold Rush" and one each from "Times Fades Away," "Comes a Time," CSNY and the Stills-Young Band's lone LP. Performed with an air of nonchalance, Young meandered about the stage between songs, testing harmonicas, rebuffing shouted requests and, on occasion, stopping to chat with his wooden Indian "Woody," who gave him council on how to deal with fans crying out for "Cinnamon Girl." Initially, he said he wouldn't play it without Crazy Horse; his later response to the shouts was a direct insult.

If there's a constant with Young's shows, it's a surprise element that in some cases frustrates fans and keeps other returning year after year. Compared to his other solo shows, the L.A. bookings were about as close to hit parade as Young might ever perform. Previous solo visits emphasized new records - "Le Noise" in 2010, "Silver and Gold" in 2000 - and in both of these concerts Young sought to see how older material fit within those albums' sonic space.

Sunday, he largely stuck to recorded versions save for "Mellow My Mind, which he performed on the banjo, and "Mr. Soul" on a pipe organ; a synthesizer replaced the London Symphony Orchestra on "A Man Needs a Maid," the evening's only clunky moment. "Southern Man" and "Ohio," both electric guitar-driven classics, fit the acoustic setting as gracefully as "Cowgirl in the Sand" did 40-plus years ago.

His between-song banter was largely directed to the fans who follow him closely. His complimentary oration about the late Phil Ochs included a request that people seek out his original recordings and not MP3s, a nod to his own work in improving audio quality. A few comments about the water he was drinking backed his no-pot, no-alcohol lifestyle of the last couple of years. When he mentioned Stephen Stills gifting him with guitars, the audience cheered the mention of his longtime musical associate.

And in covering Ochs and Hardin, Young proffered an opinion that both men were songwriters superior to him, though he did not give specifics. Both men died young and naturally lack a canon with the depth of Young's, but in his choice of "Ohio," "Philadelphia" and the late '80s obscurity "Someday," you could hear the resonance of those songwriters in his work. Young has never been one to forsake the adventurous in favor of the popular and this show is a rare moment for him of strictly looking backward. Using four covers and his own tribute to his influences, "From Hank to Hendrix," helped connect a few dots for listeners wondering where his inspiration springs from. Add to that the inclusion of the rarely played "Love in Mind" and you have to say fans got their money's worth.

Young returns to the Dolby on April 1.

First Set

From Hank to Hendrix
On the Way Home
Only Love Can Break Your Heart
Love in Mind
Philadelphia
Mellow My Mind
Reason to Believe
Someday
Changes
Harvest
Old Man

Second Set

Goin' Back
A Man Needs a Maid
Ohio
Southern Man
If You Could Read My Mind
Mr. Soul
After the Gold Rush
Heart of Gold

Encore

Blowing in the Wind
Long May You Run