Neil Young concert in benefit of Alberta First Nations fighting oil sands

Sunday, January 12, 2014 - 8:00pm

Toronto’s Massey Hall

Neil Young, the often antagonizing singer-songwriter who wrote the surreal ballad Pocahontas and who named one of his bands after an iconic Native American warrior, has announced he will perform four concerts in benefit of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN).

The performances, which include appearances by the jazz chanteuse Diana Krall, are to be known as the “Honor the Treaties” shows. Concerts will happen at Toronto’s Massey Hall (Jan. 12), Winnipeg’s Centennial Concert Hall (Jan. 16), Regina’s Conexus Arts Centre (Jan. 17) and Calgary’s Jack Singer Concert Hall (Jan. 19).

Tickets for the four concerts go on sale Friday, Dec. 13, through Ticketmaster. Seats range in price between $248 and $1250. (as of 12:30 pm Dec 13)

Money raised will go to a legal defense fund set up to support the ACFN’s legal challenges against oil companies and government bodies, and to uphold rights related to Treaty 8, an agreement signed in 1899 between Queen Victoria and various First Nations bands of Alberta. Shell Canada was recently given the green light from Ottawa to expand its 7,500 hectare Jackpine oil sands mine to 13,000 hectares. Indigenous and environmental groups foresee damage to the area’s water, land and animals.

In September, Young waded into the heated debate over the oil sands and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, warning of the health effects on First Nations peoples and the “wasteland” that is Fort McMurray, Alta. The California-based Canadian rocker was at a National Farmers Union event on Capitol Hill meant to support alternative fuels, such as ethanol, which he did at length, slamming Big Oil and talked about his own LincVolt, an old Continental that runs on ethanol and electricity.

About the oil sands, Young controversially said this:

The fact is, Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima. Fort McMurray is a wasteland. The Indians up there and the native peoples are dying. The fuels all over – the fumes everywhere – you can smell it when you get to town. The closest place to Fort McMurray that is doing the tar sands work is 25 or 30 miles out of town and you can taste it when you get to Fort McMurray. People are sick. People are dying of cancer because of this. All the First Nations people up there are threatened by this.”

More recently, Young, who penned protest songs Ohio and Rockin’ in the Free World and whose 2012 autobiography is titled Waging Heavy Peace, took to to deliver politically charged eco-missives directed at the Canadian government – “Harper’s Conservatives now compete with Australia’s pro-coal government for the worst climate record in the industrialized world” – and China. “Whenever you do something good in the war against CO2, people around the world benefit,” Young wrote, in response to record levels of air pollution that recently shrouded China’s smoggy commercial hub of Shanghai.

In related news, Young and his grunge-rock compadres Crazy Horse were revealed as headliners for a concert to be held in London’s Hyde Park on July 12, 2014. The festival will include appearances from the National and Caitlin Rose. And, as previously announced, a four-show run by Young (sans Crazy Horse) is set for New York’s Carnegie Hall next month (Jan. 6, 7, 9 and 10).