Tentative pre-show murmurs about which Neil Young is going to take to stage are quickly dampened by a savage, tenacious performance by the guitar legend, backed by an in-form Crazy Horse. Given the mixed reaction to last year’s Dublin show, it is unsurprising that there were some questions, however the prolonged standing ovation that the band received at the show’s climax shows that these have been resolutely, conclusively answered.
Opening with a scintillating rendition of ‘Love and Only Love’ that clocks in at over ten minutes, Young, guitarist Frank Sempedro and temporary bassist Rick Rosas are on fire. The track is relentless and defiant, swinging full-throttle into a micro-jam session. Before they delve too far into the wig-out, however, we are pulled into the magnificent ‘Goin’ Home’. The set is bathed in classics from all aspects of Young’s huge discography, though the tender trips down the route of solo classics ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ and ‘After the Goldrush’ prompt the biggest cheers of the night, save for the powerhouse performance of ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’.
At times, the interplay within the band was as energetic and feverous as that of a group of seventeen year olds playing in a garage band; Young’s 68 year old frame not showing an inch of slowing down as he shreds his guitar with enthusiasm that is lacking in musicians half his age. Vocally, he is sound – in fact, the whole band is tight, on form. Perhaps it was the zeal of being on just the second show of a new tour, but that famous Neil Young cantankerous nature was nowhere to be seen. His mood is light and lively, joking with the crowd that “tonight’s show is brought to you by water. And the colour green.”
A highlight of the set was Young taking to the stage alone for acoustic performances of ‘Red Sun’, ‘Heart of Gold’ and Dylan’s ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’. The latter two were particularly well received, inch perfect performances that could have been ripped straight from the vinyl they had been pressed on decades ago. This was a performance that fit that stature of the songs being played.
Even for the most casual observer, this was a spectacle to behold. The Crazy Horse die-hards were thrilled by ‘Days That Used to Be’ and ‘Psychedelic Pill’, those that yearned for the hits enjoyed tender renditions of ‘After the Goldrush’ and ‘Heart of Gold’, as well as a rollicking version of ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ to round out the night. All available boxes were ticked.