Maybe it was the tea. A few songs into a Friday night appearance by Neil Young and Crazy Horse at the seasonal, southern Massachusetts shed, Young took a generous sip from his cup and declared, in jest, that this evening’s performance was being sponsored by the satisfying beverage. It was as close as the iconoclastic Young would get to the specter of commerce, or to any calculated spectacle, (the road crew in white lab coats, aside), on this “Love Earth” tour stop at Mansfield’s Xfinity Center. Whatever the fuel, the result was an enthralling, thunderous two-hour ride with the inimitable Crazy Horse- diverted only slightly with a latter-half solo acoustic respite- and what was otherwise the epitome of minimalist, resolute, and immortal rock-and-roll.

The ragged and glorious quartet opened with a slow and somber reading of “Cortez the Killer,” as Young, in patchwork jeans and railroad cap, swayed to the foreboding rhythm held in check by his veteran cohorts- bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina- and the youngblood, Micah Nelson, on guitar. Almost immediately, they united in the picturesque pose they’d reprise often throughout the night; collected in a tight triangle, as if gathered Shakespearean witches, mystically locking into Molina’s looming cadence, and he to theirs, conjuring up a thickly dark brew. 

The capacity house of nearly 20,000 erupted in knowing cheers, raising cellphones to capture the moment, as the revealing strains of the “Cinnamon Girl” rippled out. The masses then settled in as the four tore through “Fuckin’ Up,” with Nelson, at one point, strumming his delightfully distorted electric with the top of his head- hair guitar, perhaps- in a moment defining the hypnotic abandon that is Crazy Horse. Young paused to dedicate “Scattered (Let’s Think About Livin’)” to his longtime producer, David Briggs, then followed that selection with two from his solo catalog- “I’m the Ocean,” and his Tonight’s the Night kiss-off to Woodstock, “Roll Another Number (For the Road).” Making its tour debut, and first appearance in a decade, Young next delved into the Zuma nugget, “Barstool Blues.”

On a stage adorned with modest and motionless props- giant, faux Fender amps and road cases camouflaging the real things- and with the jumbo video screens turned off, Young and his ensemble kept neatly to center stage, under the backlit glow of a horse in perpetual stride. Young was in fine voice throughout, offering resonating efforts on “Mansion On a Hill” and a buoyant “Powderfinger” met with another burst of applause from the full house. Yet, he was equally impressive alone, with just acoustic guitar and harmonica, for the beautifully delicate trinity of “Comes A Time,” “Heart of Gold,” and “Human Highway.”

Still, as soon as Young welcomed back the group for a set-closing, proto-grunge wallop of “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black),” in the midst of that majestic maelstrom he seemed, too, exactly where he belonged. Demonstrably Young noted his appreciation for his bandmates as they concluded the finale, then again in the encore; a two-song blitz of “Down By The River” and “Like A Hurricane,” the latter featuring Nelson on an organ lowered, and swinging, from the rafters. 

It’s not a small thing, this reunion of Young and Crazy Horse, on the road in 2024, that was anticipated and hinted at pre-pandemic, and now has fatefully arrived. There’s always been something unique and worthy of reverence about this band- on the precipice, always, yet ultimately unwavering- as it remains as convincing as its rallying cry: rock-and roll will never die. Maybe it’s the gift of time. Maybe it’s the tea.