Rust Never Sleeps (1979)
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The film features almost the same songs as the soundtrack album "live rust" although for instance the marvelous "thrasher" is not included in the record (and "tonight's the night" ,on the other hand,was not in the film ).Half acoustic,half electric ,Young plays like a person possessed and he revisits his catalog with gusto.Particularly impressive is his reggae version of "Cortez the Killer".
The "star wars" stuff did not impress me.It's the singer and the songs which matter.The film begins with Hendrix's "star spangled banner" and the Beatles' "a day in the life" on the PA.
Another commentator bemoaned the fact that "Tonight's The Night" wasn't included in the footage. I dunno. Perhaps it was, even as late as then, a too-sensitive subject for Neil and The Horse to explore on stage. Then again, there had to be differences between "Rust Never Sleeps" and "Live Rust".
"Rust" as a 'show' was a concept: a piece of theatre that sometimes didn't work and at other times captured the sheer vitality and looseness which has been a trademark of Neil Young and Crazy Horse.
The 'road-eyes', apart from being an atrocious pun (both linguistically and visually) can be seen as a comment, by Young, about the almost non-presence of roadies in the audiences' perceptions. The visual reversal of size: roadies small/equipment big is, as another pointed-out, an almost surreal juxtaposition. Acoustic Neil, crawling out of his sleeping bag, and later indicating that when he gets big he wants a real guitar, is his trademark self-deprecating humour.
I have only one main criticism about "Rust Never Sleeps" - and that is purely that the cinematic/reproduction quality of the video was so abominably terrible. Still, that's production values for you. I'd probably have "bitched about" technicalities to do with a performance of a Shakespearean play, had I been there in Elizabethan times. Huh, yeah. I'd have been outside, sweeping-up horse-droppings to resell for fuel.
As a fan of live music, I have to say that the best concert videos are those that capture, as well as possible, the essence of the live show. If part of going to the show was the theatrics, then why not include it in the film?
Too much of today's pre-packaged pop may be choreographed, but has no sense of theater. I'm not saying that Jawa roadies are the height of performance art, but it's something.
Overall - I'll echo everyone else: great slice of Neil's career. I always pause whatever I'm doing when I hear Sugar Mountain, and I'm still not sure why.
*** (out of 4)
Neil Young and Crazy Horse take the stage at the Cow Palace for this show that took place on October 22nd, 1978. Many Young fans consider this tour to be one of his best and we get many classic tunes including: Sugar Mountain, After the Gold Rush, My My Hey Hey (both versions), The Needle and the Damage Done, Cinnamon Girl, Like a Hurricane and Welfare Mothers. It seems this tour was highly thought of but at the same time this film seems to draw some heat. This was my first time viewing it and my first time seeing any Young performance from this era and I must admit that I really liked it. I agree with some of the negative press that the filming was quite poor as much of the concert doesn't go to film very well as it's dark, grainy and at times the camera doesn't seem to know what it wants to focus on. There's a stage act going on but none of this is captured very well. Having said that, the music is certainly the most important thing here and the performances are terrific. Young does some solo numbers, which are excellent as are the stuff with Crazy Horse. Some of the highlights including a rocking version of Like a Hurricane and a very somber The Needle and the Damage Done. Even some of the lesser known tunes come off extremely well. Young's vocals are very good and the guitar playing is tops as usual. The film kicks off with some Hendrix and Beatles so that's never a bad thing.
This film also shows why it is that Crazy Horse is the band Young selects when he chooses to rock out. The band members accompany his guitar solos with triumph, giving the music a melodic and hypnotizing effect; specifically, songs like "Like a Hurricane" and "Cortez the Killer"--which are good in their own original form--get a new life in this film; the songs linger, sometimes they stray, but never in a negative way. Anyone who likes live performances, particularly live performances that take on a sort of ad-lib aspect, will not be disappointed with Rust Never Sleeps.
The acoustic selections are also very fine, highlighting Young's capacity and talent to not only entertain and soothe as an individual, but one who can do it in grand style. "Grand Style" here, of course, does not mean someone coming across as your typical rock star, (because here Young doesn't), but rather, grand style in the sense that the man is a born musician that can strike a chord in any one's soul. Highlights of the acoustic set include "Sugar Mountain" and "After the Gold Rush," as well as such Young classics as "Comes a Time" and "My My, Hey Hey." Of course, the concert would not be complete without a wicked rendition of "Hey Hey, My My" the electric counterpart to the former, and the band here accompanies Young on this track exquisitely.
I first played the RNS movie while in Japan in 1982. I was on the vinyl CED format. I bought it at a record store above the Yokohama train station. I was awed by the quality and choice of material. Neil must have tapered his interaction with audiences during the mid-late 70's. Early on he was such a blabber mouth - not a bad thing - but on RNS he was "courteous" but focuses on the presentation. Almost all the songs were superbly executed. This contains is my favourite Powderfinger arrangement. The screw-up on Thrasher demonstrates a professional just slyly grinning it off and rewinding a tad to recover nicely without skipping any of the lyrics. I have always wondered how he screwed that part up? "they were...rock formations" - he forgot "lost in". I only wish he had put this version of thrasher on the "live rust" lp/cd.
The roadeyes and woodstock bits were a drag but on the cd version can be effortlessly, immediately bypassed. I am 54 years on and I have a lot of concerts under my belt and many Firday or Saturday nights were at Winterland and the Fillmore West seeing the greats of the day. imagine Led Zeppelin at the Fillmore; bumping into Janis at the Fillmore; There was no sense of star ego then. It was a different thing. Carlos Santana talking to myself and others on the street after a concert. he was walking alone. Those days are gone forever. What the heck happened?
Rust Never Sleeps is superb. The music isn't flawlessly performed but it is real and really, really good. Perhaps some do not know that many Neil Young recordings are essentially live takes - not a bunch of crappy track takes and overdubs to create the sound some record exec wants to sell to an unsuspecting public.
The simplicity of many of the RNS songs are their beauty in disguise. From the gentle acousticals to some of the blistering industrial tunes (Sedan Delivery, Powderfinger, ...) its unlike any video/movie/musical I have ever seen/heard. Neil was at his best. The horse was up for the task.
This is a must-see for anyone who thinks live music sucks!