By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
Almost assuredly, Neil Young has never read The Dead Father, Donald Barthelme's 1973 ode to the cruelty of parental aging in which a massive I'm-not-dead-yet father figure is dragged across the landscape en route to his (spoiler alert) burial. But with "Walk Like a Giant"—the closing song on Young's pretty all right double LP Psychedelic Pill—the Canadian legend pens an unintentional answer song to it, just as sure as you can sync up Dark Side and The Wizard of Oz. This is an anthem for AARP rockers everywhere, Young and Crazy Horse convincingly topping Young's earth-perambulating declarations with a vivid noise jam, the kind of all-entrenched screech befitting the enormous prop amp facades Crazy Horse has been sporting onstage lately, dusted off from Rust Never Sleeps.
"In the left leg, in sudden tucks or niches, we find things we need," Barthelme writes of the 3,200-cubit-long Father in his novel. "Facilities for confession, small booths with sliding doors, people are noticeably freer in confessing to the Dead Father than to any priest." These have been the conditions of rock stardom at least since the Beatles grew, Hulk-style, bigger than Jesus.
Another reason to let giants be giants, though, is because inevitably, the musicians we love today will be in the same position. Their magic will diminish, young space-alien auras hardening into something held in place by decent haberdashery and loud-enough drums. Maybe they already are and we haven't noticed, since we're getting older at the same rate. The imminent arrival of actual climate change has blessedly shut people up a bit about 2012 and the Mayans and such, but the improbable stream of new global stars from Gangnam style–dancing South Koreans to British wuss-folkers Mumford & Sons signals the arrival of the pop singularity. In a music world where anything seems possible, why shouldn't some 70-year-old geezer romp and stomp and debauch and end up back in your heart in some mysterious way?
Or it's possible you'll think the show totally sucks, all your suspicions confirmed about the finely honed state of your critical sensors, and you can proceed back to the early 21st century, ready to steel yourself with New Year's resolutions about finding paths through the new micro-cultures, or just give up entirely. But no matter what choice you make, they'll be out there, those characters that sweetly roamed the imaginary song worlds of your mind, now ensconced within virtual arm's reach, making enthusiastic oversharing posts on Facebook and—without a recent hit to project some magic—in some ways performing with far higher stakes than they ever did in their primes.
If you like the performance, think of all the places you'll go, the open expanses of scorched microtonal gravel you'll fly over, the transfiguration. The memories will be worth every penny of the drastically overpriced ticket, all your sins forgiven by the musicians, all the musicians' sins forgiven by you. Except the Stones. Fuck those guys.