Neil unleashes some vintage classics from his back catalogue...

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This time last year, I was in the middle of writing our cover story on Neil Young’s busy 2014. As I remember, my main problem was trying to work out how to fit everything in: two albums, solo and Crazy Horse tours, Pono, a new band, a new memoir…

Compared to such a dizzying amount of activity, until recently 2015 didn’t seem to be shaping up to be quite such an eventful year for Neil. Typically, however, the last month or so reminded us that Neil is capable of swift and dramatic twists, with his Rebel Content tour providing a series of wild and upredictable moments.

It seems barely a show has gone by where Young hasn’t pulled some stunning rarity from the archives – “Time Fades Away” for the first time in 12 years, “Here We Are In The Years” for the first time since 1976, “Alabama” for the second time since 1973, “Western Hero” for only the third time ever, “Vampire Blues” for the first time since March 1974…

In my experience, once Neil assembles a set list for a particular tour, he pretty much sticks to it. Yet on the Rebel Content tour the setlists have felt more digressive, as he drops in an “L.A.” or “Hippie Dream” seemingly out of the blue. I suspect the key to that might be Promise Of The Real themselves; or at least, Lukas and Micah Nelson.

When I spoke to Lukas Nelson for my cover story last year, he outlined the nature of his and his brother’s relationship with Neil: “I guess I’ve known him for most of my life. Let’s see, Farm Aid started in 1985, and Dad did the first Farm Aid and Neil was a part of it, and so I think I met Neil… I was born in ’88, and I’ve been to most Farm Aids since then, I’ve only missed a couple. So I’ve known Neil for a long time. My whole life, really.”

Presumably, the closeness of that relationship – “He’s always just been Uncle Neil,” Nelson told me – allows for a different vibe between Neil and his young cohorts. That Promise Of The Real have none of the extensive studio history as, say, Crazy Horse presumably encourages license to wander through the catalogue without restrictions. Neil rarely takes a backing band in a new stylistic direction, preferring instead to change bands in order to change styles. Yet during their 29 shows with Neil, Promise Of The Real have played Crazy Horse songs, Stray Gators songs, Buffalo Springfield songs…

As ever, we can speculate wildly about what all this means or where it’s going. To add to the fun, of course, came last week’s news that Neil’s next archive album would be the Bluenote Cafe tour from 1988… Where does that fit into all this, you might wonder…

Anyway, just below you’ll find 10 great clips of Neil and Promise Of The Real playing some of these rarities from the Rebel Content tour. At this point, I should thank Mark Golley, our friendly Neil fan, for his help pulling these together.

Meanwhile, if you’ve not already got a copy of the current issue of Uncut – Rod Stewart, Joanna Newsom, Julian Cope, Otis Redding, John Grant, The Doors, Harmonia, Linda Ronstadt and more – it’s still in the shops or available to buy digitally by clicking here. We’ll be back this time next week to unveil our December 2015 issue…

Follow me on Twitter @MichaelBonner

Hippie Dream
(Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, Nebraska; July 11)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0gRyNivRMw

Bad Fog of Loneliness
(Susquehanna Bank Center, Camden, New Jersey; July 16)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmEvV9DtcB8

Looking For A Love
(Champlain Valley Exposition, Essex Junction, Vermont; July 19)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSwUeLeA0Tk

Alabama
(FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, Chicago, Illinois; September 19)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfCvLMX-SAc

Western Hero
(FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, Chicago, Illinois; September 19)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3F-4bMBUyYU

Here We Are In The Years
(WaMu Theater, Seattle, Washington; October 4)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOi9j5F_NYM

Time Fades Away
(Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara, California; October 10)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeKiP0qoJBg

L.A.
(The Forum, Inglewood, California; October 14)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fVCqs8JEUg

Burned
(The Forum, Inglewood, California; October 14)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIVJe1stjEE

Vampire Blues
(The Forum, Inglewood, California; October 14)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2yXYQkupmY

The History Of Rock – a brand new monthly magazine from the makers of Uncut – a brand new monthly magazine from the makers of Uncut – is now on sale in the UK. Click here for more details.

Meanwhile, the November 2015 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring Rod Stewart, Joanna Newsom, Julian Cope, Otis Redding, John Grant, The Doors, Harmonia, Linda Ronstadt, Dave Gahan, John Cooper Clarke and more.

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.