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Monday, January 26, 2009

Concert Review of the Moment - Auckland, New Zealand : 1/16/09

Neil Young @ Brisbane Entertainment Centre - 21 January 2009 by Stuart Blythe

The Neil Young Concert Review of the Moment is from Auckland, New Zealand: 1/16/09 by Gavin Hancock:
Though I don't think my words can do justice to what I witnessed, I felt too moved to say nothing, so here's my modest account...

Neil Young
Big Day Out, Mt. Smart Stadium, Auckland, 16 January 2009

WOW!!! Three days later I’m still buzzing! I feel this is the best live show I’ve ever been to, even over the highly impressive Police, Split Enz and Stevie Wonder gigs I attended last year. All the senses were overloaded with an awesome display of musical power, passion and seemingly effortless skill.

Dressed in blue jeans and a black blazer spattered with bright paint, Neil casually walked on stage at 9:10 to wild cheering and applause and didn’t let up for a single moment during the 90 minute main set. The band kicked straight in and blew us all away with sheer power you would normally associate with a much younger ensemble. It’s obvious that Neil’s chosen his band very carefully and that they’re well honed.

We had much fun picking out songs as they began, some being a little unrecognisable due to Neil’s much appreciated tendency to jam away. After a minute or so a few familiar notes would ring out and the crowd would cheer. From time to time Neil would let his dry sense of humour creep in, which was a delight. Watching this elder statesman stomping around the stage you wouldn’t think he was such a rocker until he let fly with the solos…and did he what!

Halfway through the electrics were rested and a well received acoustic set was played, complete with harmonica and sweet backing vocals to the fore. Out came the perennial favourite ‘Heart Of Gold’ – as expected it was to a rapturous reception. His solo organ performance on ‘Mother Earth’ during this segment was particularly moving.

I’ve found it hard to pick a favourite song, but the numbers from his 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps are right up there – ‘Powderfinger’ and ‘Hey Hey, My My’ were given stirring renditions as expected, though not a single song disappointed. The crowd, a happy mix of younger folks and loyal older fans sung along to virtually every song, or at the very least showed much appreciation for the lesser known ones. The setlist was a very satisfying mix of the classic, the recent and the rarely heard.

After finishing the main set, Neil and the band came back on for the unexpected yet well arranged rock version of the Beatles’ classic ‘A Day In The Life’, complete with the familiar climatic moments and ended with Neil doing a appropriately rock ‘n’ roll de-stringing of his trusty electric guitar Old Black to an equally frenzied response from the crowd. Then, just like that, he tapped a note or two on the vibraphone and strolled off stage, leaving us gasping for more in the perfect culmination to Auckland’s Big Day Out for 2009.

I’m going to be on a high over this for some time yet. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to see one of my (and popular music’s) unchallenged heroes.

Gavin adds later: Eight days after seeing Neil in Auckland I'm still buzzing. I wish I had a time machine! Until then, watching clips on You Tube has had to suffice. I've uploaded the live clips I took - these can be seen at

Thanks Gavin!

More on Neil Young concert in Auckland, New Zealand: 1/16/09.

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