“I’ve never seen so many people so in love with one person.”
These words were uttered to me as Neil Young took to the stage last Friday in the musical wonderland that is Telluride Town Park. Screaming fans of all ages huddled as close as they could to the stage for what was a stellar weekend of performances by a living legend and his talented band.
This was Neil Young’s first time performing in Telluride, making it an even more exciting experience for all. He was joined by Promise of the Real, who he has been touring with since 2014. Watching Neil Young and Promise of the Real perform is like watching a master puppeteer and his marionettes. It was clear just how in-sync every band member was, hypnotically following Neil’s cues.
Friday and Saturday night’s sets were similar, but tweaked enough to add some diversity to folks who were camping all weekend. Neil opened up both evenings with acclaimed hits such as “After the Gold Rush,” “Heart of Gold,” and “Mother Earth (Natural Anthem),” and closed with “Rockin’ In The Free World.” He debuted some brand spankin’ new songs, with only working titles: “Hang Gliders,” “Texas Rangers,” “Peace Trail,” and “Show Me”, which might indicate a new album in our future? We can only hope.
Between the two nights, Neil and Promise of the Real played crowd favorites like “Powderfinger,” “Out on the Weekend,” “Old Man,” “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” “Vampire Blues,” “Harvest Moon,” “Cortez the Killer,” “Walk On,” “Cinnamon Girl,” and of course, a damn near fifteen minute performance of “Down by the River”.
Neil is most definitely a sorcerer. His music, paired with the golden hues hovering over the mountains, was an irreplaceable sight. I was so blown away by the overwhelming beauty that I burst into tears almost right as the music began. I was also impressed by Promise of the Real’s ability to add such a vibrant twist to Neil’s already delicious music. With their haunting harmonies, psychedelic riffs, and an overall Rocky Mountain chic aesthetic, this performance was truly a once in a lifetime experience.
One limitation any young festival lover can relate to is money. But never fear, it can be done! I volunteered for these shows through the festival’s website, and in exchange for working one six-hour shift, I received a two-day concert pass. This saved me over $200, and only left me to cover the cost of camping, travel, food & beverages, and (optional) merchandise.
Hands down, this was my favorite music experience I’ve ever had. Camping amongst the golden aspens less than a five minute walk from the stage where Neil Young played was something I never thought I would have the chance to do. I listened to his mic check while hanging in my hammock! Neil’s music made me cry, laugh, sing, and holler at the top of my lungs. The sheer beauty of Telluride is inspiration enough to make the trek, but if you have the chance to get out there for a festival, collect your money and just DO it!
All photos per the author. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.