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Neil Young to perform for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic

A man onstage, with one hand raised, pointing up, while the other is clutching a guitar. He's wearing a beanie and flannel.
Neil Young, seen performing in Napa Valley in 2019, will perform at a charity event in April.
(Amy Harris / Invision / AP)
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Neil Young, who has kept his distance from the stage since the COVID-19 pandemic began, is expected to perform in April — his first live show since 2019.

The folk-rock singer will headline the Light Up the Blues charity concert at the Greek Theatre on April 22, which will benefit Autism Speaks, a nonprofit that provides resources and furthers research for people on the autism spectrum, according to Rolling Stone.

Young told the outlet that he will be “doing our first show in four years with old friends for our autistic people around the world.” He mentioned his former bandmate Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Stephen’s wife, Kristen Stills, an autism-awareness activist, who organizes the annual event.

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“We are so thrilled to be able to come back and support Autism Speaks,” Kristen Stills told Rolling Stone. “The one thing that did not change during the pandemic was the rising rates of autism prevalence in the U.S. They require more funding than ever for the research they do. Stephen and I join them in their mission to create a more inclusive world for people with autism.”

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The Stills family has hosted Light Up the Blues five other times. Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, they have been forced to postpone the annual event. Both Young and Stills have performed at the event in the past, along with other high-profile acts such as David Crosby, John Mayer, Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow, Patti Smith and Beck.

And this year, performers on the autism spectrum — opera singer Amanda Anderson, rapper Soul Shocka and Will Breman, a former contestant on the 17th season of “The Voice” — will also perform.

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The program will feature a tribute performance to Crosby by his son James Raymond. Crosby died at 81 in January.

“His singing voice sounds so much like David that it’s scary,” Stephen Stills told Rolling Stone. “There’s going to be some neat surprises. I’ve always had so much fun playing those songs, David’s songs. We’ve got James, and now we can get the chords, which was always a carefully kept mystery.”

The last time Young performed was in September 2019 at a Farm Aid benefit show. The nonprofit, which Young boards and co-founded with Willie Nelson in 1985, gives financial support to family farms.

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After going virtual in 2020, Farm Aid made its comeback in 2021. However Young opted not to perform, citing concerns “about audiences coming together” during a surge of the coronavirus that summer.

While he has been shy to perform shows during the pandemic, Young has remained in the public eye as a fierce advocate against vaccine and coronavirus misinformation.

In early 2022, Young, who has also tussled with the likes of MTV, famously pulled his entire discography from Spotify after popular podcaster Joe Rogan featured guests on his show who shared misinformation about the disease and treatments.

“They can have Rogan or Young,” the musician said in 2022. “Not both.”

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