REVIEW

 

NEIL YOUNG & TRANS
The Catalyst [2CD]
Live at the Catalyst, Aug 14 1982 in Santa Cruz.

Young's Trans album was such a shock to the system that, even today, fans are fiercely split over its merits. Which is why it's such a shame that his live show of the time didn't reflect that divisive glory. Where it could have burned, it cruised, and where it should have shaken everyone up, it brought them in, patted them on the head, and handed out complimentary cups of cocoa. Figuratively speaking, of course. "On The Way Home" must be one of the most unassuming show openers he has ever opted for (and the succeeding "Don't Cry No Tears" isn't much better).

Not until a fuzz-mangled "Cortez The Killer" does the show truly pick up, and still things are patchy, a succession of highs and lows that might reach their peculiar peak with the inclusion of "Birds," bridging the gap between "The Needle And The Damage Done" and Nils Lofgren's showcase "Beggars Day." But "Hey Hey My My" is as brain-damaging as it ought to be, with extra-added percussion crunching in from who knows where, but it sounds like somebody's knocking down the roof. "Like A Hurricane" is as reliably jaw-dropping as usual, while Trans lovers finally see the ticket price vindicated by a driving, demented "Sample And Hold," all treated vocals, metronome guitar and a drum beat to knock down discos with. "Mr Soul" is next, again in its Trans costuming, and at last Young's delivering what we came here for. At which point the show is over.  Yeah, always leave 'em wanting more! - Dave Thompson

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May 30, 2008