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Live Rust
(The FUNHOUSE! Review)

1979 - Reprise 2296

Sugar Mountain / I Am a Child / Comes a Time / After the Goldrush / My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) / When You Dance I Can Really Love / The Loner / The Needle and the Damage Done / Lotta Love / Sedan Delivery / Powderfinger / Cortez the Killer / Cinnamon Girl / Like A Hurricane / Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) / Tonight's The Night

by Joost Groen

Live Rust was released by Reprise in 1979, only a few months after Rust Never Sleeps saw daylight. It is a record of Neil's 1978 North American Rust Never Sleeps tour, with Crazy Horse in its strongest line-up (Poncho, Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina,) and was primarily released as a soundtrack to the tour's filmed documentary. The set list of Live Rust comprises a good overview of Neil's work thus far. The show can be more or less subdivided into two parts (as is usual in a lot of Neil's concerts), an acoustic and electric.

Live Rust immediately starts off with one of the highlights, a very clear guitar and Neil's singing what's famously known as the song he wrote on his 19th birthday, "Sugar Mountain." The ending, with Neil singing the last stanza in a kind of desperate way with the help of his harmonica, really strikes at the heart. After this emotional song, the somewhat hurriedly played "I Am A Child" comes as a kind of an anticlimax - I think this song deserves more. But then, "Comes a Time" is great. I'm prejudiced toward this song, since my friend Marc and I used it as the theme of the party for our graduation from University. These first three songs have the same theme - a loss of childhood and innocence.

"After the Gold Rush" is alright, but "My My, Hey Hey" is kind of impoverished. Although the audience appreciates Neil's dedication to Johnny Rotten (shouted out), within this line-up the usual emotionality of this song, telling of the first indications of maturing after an innocent childhood, does not come out clear enough.

With "When You Dance I Can Really Love" bursting from your stereo set, things are alright again. Now this is emotion, this is how being in love feels! The power emerging from this song is incredible. "The Loner" is, again, somewhat hastily played, and therefore loses some of its power. The thunderstorm and rain at the end of "The Loner" ("my guitar! - no rain!") is a nice relaxation point in an altogether exciting show, and Neil's emerging from the rain acoustically with "The Needle and the Damage Done" gives the song a good setting - the junkie in the gutter and in the rain. "Lotta Love" is played better than the original, in my opinion, especially the background vocals, which contribute to a sweet but intense song. It maybe should've been performed earlier in the set, however.

With "Sedan Delivery," Neil and the Horse switch to electric - definitively. I don't like this version of "Sedan Delivery," as it's too noisy and you can hardly hear Neil's singing. That's a pity, but then the sequence "Powderfinger" - "Cortez The Killer" - "Cinnamon Girl" - "Like A Hurricane" produces one hell of a lot of energy. A very powerful "Powderfinger" again describes the difficulties one encounters in maturing:

"I just turned 22 / I was wondering what to do"

"Cortez the Killer" is played slowly, in the way that it should be. The reggae-ish ending of the song is famous and makes you smile. "Cinnamon Girl" is still one of my early Neil favorites, but the version on Live Rust has a strange spectral distribution (lots of treble, too low on bass). I've heard Neil do better versions of "Like A Hurricane," as well. Well, the song was still pretty young then, and it has certainly since developed. The encores of "Hey Hey, My My" and "Tonight's the Night" are both played in a very distorted, heavy, black style. I love them that way, but they make for a strange appearance on an otherwise quite clear album. However, their symbolic value - of decline setting in - serves the "story" of this concert well; in this way, the concert ends in some kind of black hole through which we all eventually have to crawl.

The line-up of the songs on Live Rust suggests a story of growing maturity. From childhood in the first couple of songs, to death (in this case of someone in your vicinity) at the end. Some critics claim that Live Rust doesn't really add anything to Neil's oeuvre, especially since it came out only two years after Decade, and nine of the songs on Live Rust are on Decade as well. I think the power of Live Rust is the fact that it is live. It takes you on a 74'01" minute journey through the past.

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