So the verdict on Thursday night's Neil Young show at the Civic Auditorium is: Dude rocks. In a relatively brief but still generous-seeming 17-song solo performance, the 64-year-old hippie/sage/ecofreak/grungefather hit on a bunch of obvious career highlights ("Helpless," "Down by the River," "Ohio," "After the Gold Rush"). But nearly half the set list was unreleased, much of it apparently slated for his forthcoming album
. The unfamiliar tunes weren't for the most part up to the level of the classics--because, c'mon, not many songs by anyone are up to the level of Young's best work--but his engagement with both the old and new material was forceful and, for the most part, compelling. Switching between acoustic and electric guitars, piano, and (for "After the Gold Rush") a pump organ, Young barely spoke to the crowd but seemed fully immersed in the songs. And, especially on the electric numbers, he immersed the crowd in them, too. He finished the set with back to back renditions of "Cortez the Killer" and "Cinnamon Girl" that filled the auditorium with giant waves of gorgeous fuzz guitar. Then, after a one-song encore (the plaintive "Walk With Me"), he tipped his hat and waved goodbye.