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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Comment of the Moment: The Optimum Neil Young Setlist for Pacing & Drama

"Alabama" - Neil Young + Promise of the Real, June 11 in UK, London at The O2 Arena

The Comment of the Moment is on Neil Young + Promise of the Real concert in London on June 11 by Scotsman regarding setlist for pacing and drama (because a rustie just has got to be rustie):
A few more impressions from London/11 June.

I thought the acoustic set was strong, and the acoustic set with the band was simply faultless. Amazing. Was this 2016, 1992 or 1972? I don't know. And it was a real treat to hear Western Hero, from one of favourite albums.

I'm sure that a lot of people felt that the first half eclipsed much of the second. Certainly, a lot of the younger people around me were literally in awe for the first two-thirds of the show, but collectively began checking their phones and watches during the last few songs. They were up for it from song one, Neil grabbed their attention, but somehow managed to let it slip away. I think this was simply a matter of slightly-dodgy pacing (a common theme in recent years), which could very easily be rectified in later shows.

I do like the idea of an acoustic song near the end of the electric set, as it adds a different dimension to the sound, some variation. It works (e.g Music Arcade/1996). But it needs to followed by something more exciting than the 2015 version of Love And Only Love, which has lost so much of it's intent and drama in recent years. POTR try too hard, they jump around, pose, play rock stars, try to disguise the fact that the song itself sounds bloated and directionless and padded-out to the extreme.

These Euro versions of LAOL have so far been a little better, Neil has reclaimed most of the lead guitar duties, which has improved the song no end. But there's still too much noddling around; it drags, it's too jazzed up, there's too much superfluous nonsense (having said that, my Dad loved it).

And recently it's just too similar to Love To Burn, as I commented on here shortly before the gig. Neil himself proved the accuracy of that observation: just before LAOL, he started to play the riff to Love To Burn again, before quickly realising his error and going into LAOL. It's all one song, perhaps, but on the other hand, you don't have to exaggerate that.

F*!#in' Up was good fun, but as an encore it makes me remember the days when the show would go out on a real dramatic moment. Something heavyweight. Cortez or Hurricane or Watchtower or Tonight's The Night. Or Revolution Blues (as in Texas back in April), which was a real highlight of this London gig. Succinct, powerful, dramatic, punchy, beautiful, sinister etc etc etc. You've heard me raving about the April version for weeks now, so it was a real treat for me to experience it first hand in concert.

Mansion On The Hill was the other clear highlight of the Old Black set. Another timeless performance, rolling back the years.

The sound in the venue was good. Some of the time, the sheer volume of the electric set caused the guitars to sound indistinct and distorted. It all mushed together a bit too much. Neil's guitar solos are supposed to come through with graceful ease and awe-inspiring clarity, not be buried in a wall of chugging guitars. This was probably less of a problem for those further back in arena, and those of you listening to recordings will be unaffected (unless you really crank up your speakers).

Overall, I left the gig feeling like I'd witnessed a powerful and energetic electric set but an extraordinary, timeless acoustic set. So I really enjoyed it.

It wasn't the best Neil Young gig of all time. That's an insult to the sheer brilliance of 1978 and 1989 and 1991 etc. But it absolutely was the sound of a man who has been on this planet for over seven decades, playing to a standard easily comparable to his brilliant best. The acoustic set in particular was beyond criticism.

At this stage, what more could I possibly ask for?

Thanks Scotsman! Nice reflections. Indeed, what more could you (or anyone) possibly ask for? Your "words" are appreciated -- they are between the lines of ages -- because sometimes it's NOT "all illusion anyway." Sometimes it actually gets REAL... sooner or later, that is ...


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