Concert Review of the Moment: Sydney, Australia Neil Young Concert - 01/24/09
The Neil Young Concert Review of the Moment is the Sydney, Australia Concert - 01/24/09 by Paul Busch:
Full fledged legends come to town infrequently. This has to do with economics and the fact that there are not (arguably) many of them in existence. Neil Young is now 63 and he has been in the ditch and he has been in the middle of the road along with many places in between. On Saturday the 24th of January at the Sydney Ent. Cent, Neil and his Electric Band burst out of the gate with the Crazy Horse number, Love and Only Love. The searing electricity of his guitar work and the passionate vocals of his and the rest of the band, kicking off with this song made a simple statement about the endurance of love and the misguided nature of hate. It was a beautiful way to enliven the audience with positive energy at what we all hoped would be a classic Neil gig.
Sea Change sort of changed the tempo and the obscurity of this song for most changed the mood slightly, but Neil continued to fire out the notes on his guitar. On a stage that had a spooky looking American Indian statue, some mangled letters of the alphabet adrift above the band and an artist painting the show, my eyes were pretty well focused on Mr. Shakey himself throughout the gig. Having a vantage point in the second row made it very special and after about 20 minutes it appeared we were in for one hell of a set
The first 3 rows at least seemed ready to rock as we got to our feet, made our way to the front and rocked out to a stunning Cortez and Cinnamon Girl. Alas, I turned around expecting to see a writhing, bopping mass of old hippies and rockers, but to my dismay I found a group of zombies sitting and watching.
Rock concerts have come a long way from the days of rebellion and nudity and public marijuana smoking and over the past decade this has now come to an almost unwritten ban on dancing and standing. Of course promoters and artists picking certain venues are to blame, along with the heavy handed security at these arena shows. I also believe the artist has some responsibility to ensure the audience and security understands that grooving and dancing at a concert is an alright thing to do. Neil ignored my plea to tell the audience to get up and dance but I guess he had other things on his mind.
So we headed into a more country and quiet set of numbers for 6 songs where we had Needle And The Damage Done, Four Strong Winds (very special and one of 2 covers), One Of These Days and Unknown Legend which were well received but definitely not rockers. Of course, Neil has to please a selection of fans, but with him not hitting some of his big favourites from Harvest or After The Goldrush, the less Neil Young obsessive fans may have been disappointed.
Neil got back to the electric machine with Get Back To The Country and then a stunning rendition of Words (Between The Lines Of Age) from Harvest. This is a rarely played selection and Neil and Keith duelled between pedal steel and guitar. This was a moment where Neil took us back in time once more and displayed how great a song well over 30 years old can sound today. You just had to stand their in awe and sing-along to his fairly cryptic lyrics.
But there was consternation and a blue condition on Neil’s face throughout the gig and Rick Rosas and Ben Keith also seemed concerned at the audience participation based on their facial expressions I was kind of amazed people were still sitting behind me and at one point I had a confrontation with a dude who wanted me to sit down. Neil jumped into Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World and the people near me went even crazier. Neil seemed to be playing with fervor to the people up front who were giving him positive feedback. His response to the people sitting behind us was to feign a heart attack and also rest his head on his hands and asking them if they were asleep in pantomime.
I’ve seen it before when Patti Smith asked the crowd if they were in a coma; Elvis Costello cut his set short and departed the stage for 10 minutes until people went crazy and were standing (he then returned for over 90 minutes); and at John Fogerty recently where the security let no one get up at all. We have so few places and moments where we can take a journey through the past. Rock concerts are those moments to discover your youth if you are young or to re-call what it was like to be if you have been around the block. People may argue this point of standing or not standing at a gig and on whether it has an impact (or should) on a musician. especially someone as well traveled as Neil Young. All I can say is that I have never seen Neil play a non-festival show that lasted less then 2 hours until this night.
Let’s hope he comes back.
More on Neil Young in Sydney, Australia Concert Reviews - 01/24/09.