Concert Review of the Moment: Neil Young @ Brisbane, Australia - 1/21/09
Neil Young @ Brisbane Entertainment Centre - 21 January 2009 by Stuart Blythe
The Neil Young Concert Review of the Moment is from Brisbane, Australia - 1/21/09 by
I’m sitting at my desk finding it hard to concentrate. It’s 1pm and I’m going to see Neil tonight – in just 8 or so hours. My meeting with the CEO in just under an hour isn’t stressing me like it does every other week – I’m seeing Neil tonight.
It’s been over five years since Neil was in Brisbane, Australia. I’ve contemplated travelling overseas to see him before he cuts back on touring, but my wife and two children come first and reset my priorities.
The first time I saw Neil was in the mid eighties. My older brother, who introduced me to Neil when I was quite young, came along with me. The concert was awesome, but the part I remember the most was the downpour that occurred when he started to play “Hurricane”. The rain stopped at the end of the song. I can still see us pulling on our makeshift garbage bag raincoats. My brother passed away from drug-abuse a few months later. I always dedicate “Needle” to my brother, so I hope Neil plays it tonight.
Well it’s the day after. My ears are ringing and my voice hoarse from screaming. Neil lived up to my massive expectations. The concert last night had a few technical glitches and the usual crowd apathy, but contained the best concert performance I have ever seen – in person or recorded.
The first song, Love and only love, had the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. This was Neil, playing in front of me – live. About a minute into this track, the stage right trailing spot blew in spectacular fashion, sending sparks and glass down onto the stage. I don’t think Neil even saw it, but for the rest of the show he wasn’t list-up from his right – which is where I was located.
The mix for the first few tracks was also not great. Too much down low with Old Black and Neil barely audible above the mid-low distortion. I was eight rows back and on stage right, almost in line with the high-mount stack. After the first electric set the mix improved for the rest of the show – I was surprised by this from such a sound-perfectionist like Neil. First show of the tour, so I guess the FOH was still getting it together.
A few songs in, I’ll leave the track list to those more inclined to detail, Neil gave us “A track from recent memory…. For those older folks”. EKTIN. This was the track that set me off. One of my faves, a NY classic, live and done brilliantly. This was special.
Into the brief acoustic set, well Neil on acoustic with the band backing, it came. Needle. I was up, hand on heart and a tear in my eye. The emotional rollercoaster took its second turn, after the exhilaration of the open set.
“Old Man” was off to a false start after a mass of distortion led Neil to stop and comment, “I didn’t know this was electric” of his guitar. A second attempt that brought on similar – but thankfully shorter – distortion was followed by Neil saying, “I’ve disintegrated”. The culprit was quickly tracked to Larry Cragg on the banjo. I assume the pick-up or lead were to blame as they parked Larry in front of a mike and all was well.
Mother Earth of the pump-organ lent another moment of contemplation “Don’t trade away, our children’s day”. Again back to earth – literally. My wife thought too this was excellent – the modern hippies that we are.
After another lightning force electric set came for me the highlight – Cowgirl in the Sand. I’d not seen this live before and it was simply the best live performance on my 28 years of concert viewing. Everything came together on this track, the focus, the power, the history, the abstract content. This was the ultimate trip in music – when Neil, Rick and Anthony were in their triangle driving down the groove they’d ripped open, I was pulled into it with them. Something I’ll not forget.
Following on from this – Neil didn’t let us come down at all – was “Rockin in the free world”. Harnessing the power created from the previous song, this had the whole sell-out crowd on their feet. With hands up high, a peace sign from each singing along to the chorus as the floods lit up the crowd – this was a fitting end to the final set – especially on the night that Obama was officially made president. I was surprised Neil didn’t make any comment on this given his outspoken support during the campaign.
Thirty years on from “Rust” at the Cow Palace, this was indeed a concert fantasy.
More Neil Young Concert Reviews of Brisbane, Australia - 1/21/09.