Beck and Young Shine at Alpine

Alpine Valley Music Theater
East Troy
August 2, 1997

Neil Young
Neil Young and Crazy Horse

Story by Tony Bonyata
Photos by Phil Bonyata

With a much stronger lineup than this years Lollapalooza, the alternative rock festival that set the standard for summer concerts, the current incarnation of the H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons Of Rock Developing Everywhere) festival had a little something for everyone musically. Last Saturday night at Alpine Valley Music Theater the crowd was not only treated to a picture perfect day (courtesy of the 85 degree weather and lush, green, postcard view of Southeastern Wisconsin that ensconced the stage) but were also served up a variety of frenetic punk, psychedelic pop, jacked-up bluegrass, eccentric alternative and timeless classic rock that covered two stages and lasted over eight hours.
Beck Kicking things off on the main stage was the British pop act, Kula Shaker, who managed to temper their psychedelic ramblings to a minimal and delivered a solid performance of catchy pop hooks, rich, swirling keyboards and piercing guitar work. Running through songs such as "Tattva", "Govinda" and "Smart Dogs" from their latest album K , as well as a flawless rendition of Deep Purple's "Hush", blonde-haired, lead singer and guitarist Crispian Mills along with his bandmates proved that they are even more engaging on stage than on record.
Toad The Wet Sprocket, a quartet from Santa Barbara, showcased songs from their latest release Coil, as well as 3 of their other 5 albums. Singer/guitarist Glen Phillips led his band through the land of safety with their middle-of the-road, folkie, pop rock. It wasn't until the San Francisco trio Primus hit the stage that the evening began to kick into high gear. With their staccato drumbeats, deep jerky bass-lines and weird tongue-in-cheek lyrics the band had the crowd throbbing.
Toad the Wet Sprocket Clad in a black t-shirt, Farm & Fleet blue jeans, black shades and an 'el Diablo' goatee, lead singer and bass player Les Claypool stomped and spun around the stage as they broke into songs from The Brown Album, their latest release. On their hits "My Name Is Mud", "Sailing The Sea Of Cheese" and "Jerry Was A Racecar Driver" Claypool's hillbilly-trash vocals and his thumb-slapping speed bass blended perfectly with Larry LaLonde's over-distorted kinetic guitar and Brian Mantia's relentless drumming.
Sporting a light powder blue suit, alternative rocker Beck exploded onto the stage along with a six-piece band on the opening song "Devil's Haircut". This skinny, shaggy kid is the most unlikely candidate for a rock star, but Beck's performance was as captivating and entertaining as you'll find anywhere. He jitters and struts like Jagger, breakdances like Star War's C3PO, poses like Travolta, and has a vocal range that goes from coal-miner lows to gospel highs.
On "New Pollution", "Hot Wax" and his breakthrough hit "Loser" Beck blended folk, rap, hip-hop and punk perfectly to inject a fresh new sound into this festival. He dedicated his latest hit "Jack Ass" to his friend Willie Nelson, who also appears in his new video, and on the song "One Foot In The Grave", which he said was inspired by blues-harp legend Sonny Terry, Beck stood alone on stage and blew incredibly on his harmonica which he spiked with high-pitched vocal squeals. On his hit "Where It's At", he brought the house to their feet with his preacher-like delivery and, of course, two turntables and a microphone. The main stage was not the only place for music lovers at the H.O.R.D.E. festival. The second stage had it's share of unique acts as well.
Leftover Salmon performed what they refer to as polyethnic cajun slamgrass, even though it seemed considerably more bluegrass than cajun. Cake Like, a 3-piece female outfit, had an aggressive, yet cute and quirky sound as they churned out Breeders-like garage rock. Ben Folds Five , a piano driven trio from North Carolina, performed a rollicking, rocking set without the aid of guitars. And the, also guitarless trio, Morphine showcased songs from their new album "Like Swimming" and their last effort "Yes". With a stripped down band consisting of just saxophone, drums and bass Morphine produced a heavy, ominous sound which was both seducing and narcotic.
Kula Shaker It was apparent as the evening was coming to a close why everyone was there. As soon as Neil Young and Crazy Horse ripped into "Rust Never Sleeps" the people who had been casually milling through the concourse eating 'pad tha' and shopping for hemp clothing flooded the stage and lawn.
Young, at 51, while arguably not as fresh as Beck, was at least every bit as captivating. Performing brilliant renditions of "Crime In The City", "Rockin' In The Free World", "Big Time" and an epic 12 minute kick-out-the-jams version of "Tonight's The Night" Young abused his guitar with an unbridled passion and moved along with fellow Crazy Horse members as if in some sort of tribal Indian dance.
Standing alone on stage, about mid-set, with just his acoustic guitar and harp, Young showed the MTV reared audience what 'unplugged' really means by performing such songs as his classic "The Needle And The Damage Done".
If the H.O.R.D.E. festival continues to get exciting and varied artists like these in the future, it could give Lollapalooza a run for their money... and a value for ours.

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