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Neil Young, wife actress Daryl Hannah surprise crowd at Victoria old-growth rally (with video)

Neil Young addressed the crowd between songs, saying old trees are sacred and precious.

Canadian music legend Neil Young made a surprise appearance Saturday at an old-growth logging protest rally at the British Columbia legislature.

Young played acoustic guitar and harmonica, and sang two songs: "Comes A Time," which has a chorus about tall trees, and his hit "Heart of Gold."

Young, billed as a "special guest," was not listed as appearing at the event, where astonished protesters, many dressed as trees and wild animals, cheered wildly and sang along to "Heart of Gold."

"Thank you Canada," said Young. "You know I'm only here for those trees up there and it's a beautiful, and it's a precious, sacred thing, these old trees because they show us the power of nature when we are being threatened. They show us the past and they show us our future."

"That's something I hope our Canadian government and business section will recognize that this has to do with Canada," he said. "It has to do with the ages, if we are lucky enough to have ages. These trees have lasted so long they deserve Canada's respect."

Earlier this month, the B.C. government introduced new approaches to manage timber resources to protect more old-growth trees from logging.

Premier David Eby said more areas are now being deferred from logging than ever on record.

The old-growth deferral is a government program in B.C. where old-growth areas slated for logging are now deferred until a later date or not logged at all.

The logging deferral of old-growth forests is now at 2.1 million hectares, up from last spring's report of 1.7 million hectares, Eby said.

Young was introduced by his wife, actress Daryl Hannah, who said the cold weather was giving her a bit of brain freeze.

"Despite the complexities, the necessary and simple answer is do no harm," she said. "No further destruction. Love, support and respect your elders."

"Please lend your support to another type of elder, your fellow Canadian from a small town in Ontario."

The hundreds of people attending the rally cheered wildly as Young, who appeared unannounced, took to the stage and started to play his harmonica.

Many of the people in the crowd dressed up as parts of the forest, including trees, bears, owls and frogs.

Torrance Coste of the Wilderness Committee said: “Sometimes you organize a rally and rock legend Neil Young comes and sings at it as a surprise.”

Young, 77, wearing a black hat and his trademark plaid shirt on Saturday, has had a long association with humanitarian and environmental causes, but hasn’t made any headline performances since 2019. He’s been a strong advocate of COVID-19 protections and did not perform at last year’s Farm Aid concert, an event he’s headlined for years.

He is expected to return to the stage in April for a charity show in Los Angeles with longtime CSNY bandmate Stephen Stills, raising money for autism.

Young is considered one of the most influential guitarists and songwriters of his generation, producing dozens of studio and live albums over his career, including with bands Buffalo Springfield, Crazy Horse and Crosby Stills Nash and Young.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2023.