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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Concert Review of the Moment : Neil Young in Melbourne, Australia - 01/28/09

Neil Young, Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne, 28th January 2009
Photo by elmuzz's Flickr: Photostream

The Neil Young Concert Review of the Moment is from Melbourne, Australia - 01/28/09 by DC Cardwell:
For once, I paid the extra to get up close to one of my major musical heroes. I was accompanied by my wife Marjie and my son Samuel, both also Neil Young fans.

But it was just too hot for me to really enjoy this show. I've been in Melbourne for twelve years now, but for a Northern Ireland kid these 40+ days are hard to take, especially when they drag on for too long a period! And after a long hot day and a scorching walk to the venue, you're not exactly in the mood to rock and roll all night long, free world or not.

I regret that we stayed in our seats under the dome as it was indeed like baking in an oven, but the heat was also making us feel so tired that we were reluctant to move back to watch and listen from out in the open air. I now wish we had, judging from other people's comments.

I'm a long-time Neil fan (since Zuma) and his playing has influenced me more than any other guitarist's. Anyone who knows me will attest that I am a huge Neil enthusiast.

And I've only seen him twice before - the last two and a half songs (don't ask!) of a show in Vancouver back in the early 90s and his last appearance here in Melbourne on the Greendale tour, which was really great but not a typical performance.

So I was primed for this to be the "gig of a lifetime", but it was not to be - which was probably more due to the scorching weather, my fragile physical state (for various reasons), poor sound from where I was sitting, a guy to my left who was not large but somehow took up way more space (mine) than was justified, and a song selection which was not to my taste. So I'm surprised to be writing a less-than-enthusiastic review and I apologise for it, because I think most people there enjoyed it more than I did.

The Greendale show had been at the same venue, and from our vantage point then, much further from the stage, the sound was perfect. Tonight, down near the front, it was rather boxy and unfortunately the drums were mixed way too loud and reverberant like any crappy bar band, which was annoying most of the time, but especially in the ballads, when it was completely ridiculous. And from where I was, Neil's acoustic guitar sounded really bad and that spoiled songs that should have been good, like "The Needle And The Damage Done".

I thought the backing vocals were spot-on and beautiful, especially Pegi's, and the playing was generally sympathetic, but I couldn't really hear the piano at all from where I was. And as for the bass, it was pretty much impossible to clearly identify any particular note, so we just got a general boominess in the lower registers.

Anyway, Neil was full of energy, which amazed me given the extreme heat. He was wearing a white open-necked shirt and Eric Morecambe style khaki Bermuda shorts.

And despite regretting not moving back, it was good to be close enough to really *see* Neil and observe what he was doing with his guitar.

An early song was a fave of mine, "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" with its delectable la-la-las. But for my particular taste there were just too many songs that I find mediocre, with throwaway tunes and sophomoric homespun cod-religious or philosophical lyrics which are probably crowd-pleasing but lack the depth of which he is capable. Many of them had failed to interest me on the original albums and these live performances didn't enhance them any. I noticed that Marjie and Samuel laughed heartily at some of them, and not in a good way!

An exception was "One Of These Days" which I had never liked much but which suddenly rung very true on this occasion, and I guess it's moments like that which make a show worthwhile!

"Four Strong Winds" came across quite well too. The harmonium on "Mother Earth" was nice, but, well, the song is laughable, really! I mean, you'd think you can't go wrong with the tune of "O Waly Waly", but the words... This was one which really had Marjie and Samuel cracking up and who could blame them? (Flame away - we all have our likes and dislikes and I've already stated that Neil is one of my absolute fave artists so I don't feel guilty!)

As others have commented "Cortez The Killer" was, well, killer, and the only song of the night where he really let his guitar do what it does so well - sing.

For me, another highlight of the evening was "Words". That was the only song in which Neil played his Gretsch and I hate to say this, but it sounded way better than Old Black. I think the cleaner, bitier sound helped make up for the muddiness of the PA. I had never really loved this song on Harvest, but tonight the 11/8 time signatures (or whatever they are) sounded perfectly natural and even swinging. Marjie hated it though!

The finale of "A Day In The Life" was brilliant. It's a great song that the Beatles made kinda difficult to cover (although I have a 45rpm record of Wes Montgomery doing it) but it was good to hear it being done so well by Neil. He and his band are as capable of doing cacophonous wig-outs as anyone, as we all know, but they somehow managed to make the orchestral crescendos sound remarkably like the Sgt Pepper version! I was sure I could hear the swirling strings but it was coming out of bass, drums, piano, organ and guitars. For the second crescendo he proceeded to break all the strings on Old Black and thrash the pickups with them, at great length and to noisy effect. The middle bit (woke up, fell out of bed) was perhaps a little off, and Nil seemed to be forgetting the words or forgetting to go up to the microphone, but the overall effect was unforgettable.

Pegi had utilised the illuminated vibraphone in a pleasantly Motownish way earlier in the evening, but for the climax of "A Day In The Life" Neil ran up to where it was located at the back of the stage and hit a percussive version of the Beatles' famous piano chord. Not quite as cute as the Rutles' "plonk", but a good way to end.

- DC Cardwell (

For full review see my blog at DC CARDWELL’S BLOG

Thanks DC!

More on Neil Young concert in Melbourne, Australia - 01/28/09.

Neil Young, Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne, 28th January 2009
Photo by elmuzz's Flickr: Photostream

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At 2/11/2009 04:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Mother Earth is a great song in my eyes. The lyrics are the best part, I think. I guess everyone has different tastes, but for me, that is one of Neil's most enduring songs. I got a tear in my eye while watching him perform it at Rock In Rio last year...and I was only watching the online broadcast...couldn't imagine actually being there :)

At 2/11/2009 10:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not a great review of Melbourne concert.Cannot comment ,cause wasn't there ,but @ perth concert
we applauded NY on anything he chooses to do .NY has earnt that over a long and successful period of time , anytime you get an opportunity to see NY is a GOOD TIME !!

At 2/14/2009 05:19:00 PM, Anonymous danger bird said...

So he lugged that heavy fucken pump organ all over the country...just to play ONE new song on it!..Oh please!


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