Neil Young and his spiritual friend at Northrop

Star Tribune photo by Rich Tsong-Taatarii

He sported a two-day beard and a fedora that practically covered his eyes. He said precious little save for introducing two of his 18 songs. Neil Young seemed to be moody and melancholy during his 1-3/4 hour performance at Northrop on Thursday. Moody and melancholy in his songs about love, the environment and war. He reflected on lost loved ones (citing his longtime guitarist Ben Keith by name and alluding to longtime film/video director L.A. Johnson in song), longtime love relationships and the joy of a young granddaughter. He honored the past (with 11 reshaped old favorites) but he insisted on journeying into the future by playing seven tunes from his forthcoming "Twisted Road" CD. He's restless and reflective. And, as I explained in my review, it was all solo – just his voice and a guitar, keyboard or harmonica. He was in good voice, preferring a sweet, gentle grace over his snarling, ragged glory witnessed in arenas. The stage set featured some of the props from recent tours, including what appeared to be a cigar-store Indian statue that Young would often face between songs as if he were honoring, consulting or praying to a spiritual icon. Opening was Scottish folk legend Bert Jansch of Pentagle fame, a gifted guitarist and singer who thanked the sell-out crowd for being so quiet and listening to him. Here is Young's set list: My My, Hey Hey (1979, acoustic)/ Tell Me Why (1970, acoustic)/ Helpless (CSNY 1970, acoustic)/ You Never Call (2010, acoustic with electric pickup)/ Peaceful Valley (2010, acoustic with electric pickup)/ Love and War (2010, acoustic with electric pickup)/ Down by the River (1969, electric Old Black Les Paul)/ Hitchhiker (unrecorded autobiographical tune with lots of drug references that he's done live since the early '90s, electric Old Black)/ Ohio (CSNY 1970, electric Gretsch White Falcon)/ Sign of Love (2010)/ Leia (2010, upright piano)/ After the Gold Rush (1970, pump organ; as he has done in recent years, he changed the lyric about look at Mother Nature on the run in"the 21st century")/ I Believe in You (1970, baby grand piano)/ Rumblin' (2010, electric Gretsch)/ Cortez the Killer (1975, electric Old Black)/ Cinnamon Girl (1969, electric) ENCORE Old Man (1972, acoustic)/ Walk with Me (2010, electric)