Anyone ever actually been hit across the face with a wet kipper? No matter how many Neil Young shows you’ve been to, nothing ever seems to prepare you for the immense jukebox of musical history that Neil throws straight at you. Sure, the set list (like Springsteen’s) has had a certain consistency for a while now but when you get assualted with -My My Hey Hey (Into The Black)’ (the most quotable song in modern rock and roll) as the opening track, it’s like been dropped from the top of a huge rollercoaster with the wind rushing through your lungs. It’s followed by a glorious -Mansion On The Hill.’
Without meaning to sound rude, the band have tightened considerably since Cork last year and now reproduce the Crazy Horse material perfectly. Another glimpse way back as the kipper comes back out, slap, -Are Your Ready For The Country’, slap, -Pocahontas’, slap, -Words’ and slap, slap, -Cinnamon Girl.’ Neil’s very real brush with death a couple of years ago (and perhaps his recent festival appearances) have given his set lists an added edge, a lust and vitality unmatched in all but a few acts.
At one point, Young’s shirt started to come off: for some reason he didn’t remove it fully and it was left hanging for the whole gig under his guitar strap on one arm and shoulder, like some specially made West Coast garment (it wouldn’t surprise us) on the most durable of (anti) war clothes horses. Finally some breathing space as he sits at the big old church organ for -Mother Earth’, a song that always starts much grumbling amongst even the faithful. Given that he’s surrounded on stage by a Topanga/ Laurel Canyon junkshop featuring the big old lights, the spooky wooden indian, the red telephone, even his painter painting, -Mother Earth’ is Neil reminding us that he’s a big old hippy and like an old socialist who’s bleated on about the bankers for years to the point of no one listening, -Mother Earth’ feels like hippie Neil saying ‘are you listening?’
The kipper is back, slap, -Don’t Let It Bring You Down’ is followed by an emotional -Harvest Moon.’ Dedicated to his dad, who lived for a time in Howth, on Father’s Day, it’s hardly a coincidence Neil Young was here tonight. At which point, he lets rip and we get a massive -Down By The River’, all grizzly guitar solos, as the O2 collectively gasps in awe at what we are witnessing. -Get Behind The Wheel’ from recent (very good) Fork In The Road is, unusually, his one concession to his recent work, a great Booker T-like workout, before we are crushed by -Rockin’ In The Free World’, where this anti rock star somehow avoids the cheesiness of such a huge song. It encourages a devoted audience of all ages to give him the warmest and most ecstatic of send-offs as the song climaxes a number of times.
The Beatles’ -A Day In The Life’ has become a staple encore now, allowing Neil and band to tear it up one last time, shred a few guitar strings, pull a few more passionate faces, tear out a few hearts and remind us that the very mortal Neil (as the stage lights spell out at the end) Young has enrichened so many of our lives for so very long and it’s hard to consider a world without him’¦..very hard.
Photo credit: Kim Erlandsen