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Friday, July 26, 2019

CONCERT REVIEW: Bob Dylan and Neil Young in Hyde Park – July 12, 2019 | No Depression

Setlists: Bob Dylan (left) and Neil Young @ Hyde Park - July 12, 2019

From LIVE REVIEW: Bob Dylan and Neil Young in Hyde Park – July 12, 2019 | No Depression by Doug Heselgrave:
I am sure that you have been in this situation before.

You have two friends and you love them both, but for almost completely different reasons. Taken individually, there’s no problem, but you worry about how it’d feel to see both of them at the same time in the same place together.

One of your friends is upbeat and soulful. He appeals to your sense of hope and optimism. You like it when you’re with him because you feel better when you see the world like he does. You understand and forgive that his vision is selective.

You love your other friend just as much, but he can be a bit of a downer at times and a lot of your other friends simply don’t understand him. The way he describes things, you’d swear the glass was always half empty. He’s probably not wrong, but you’re not always up to hearing what he’s got to say to you. When he’s on, he’s brilliant company and he always gives you a new way of looking at things.

Going to see Neil Young and Bob Dylan at Hyde Park in London last Friday was a lot like trying to find a place of equilibrium between those two friends. It was a sunny day and a sense of occasion could be felt in the air. Everyone was in a good mood. Friendly conversation and laughter could be heard everywhere. Most of the crowd appeared to be middle aged or older, and like me they had probably been listening to both artists for decades.

It goes without saying that both Neil Young and Bob Dylan are seasoned performers with huge back catalogs and impressive repertoires. Beyond that, one would be hard pressed to think of two iconic artists who had more distinct ways of interacting with their music and fans.

Neil Young performed first, supported by Promise of the Real, his most frequent touring band of the last few years. Much has been written about how the band, fronted by Lukas and Micah Nelson, Willie’s sons, has given Young a new focus and lease on life as a live performer. Clearly invigorated by his collaboration with the band, Young was in very fine form at Hyde Park. The deep intuition and reverence Promise of the Real communicates for Young’s music was evident in every song. Seasoned performers themselves, each member of the band displayed the chops and understanding to create the perfect musical context for songs from every phase of Young’s half-century career. The devotion the band members have for Young is palpable; their interchanges are intuitive, physical and kinetic, with Young acting as both mentor and bandleader.

Smiling all the way through, Young was clearly delighted by the aural landscapes Promise of the Real created for him to drop down into. Together, they created a sonic environment that preserved the original integrity of the songs, while at the same time imbuing them with a vitality and relevance that few veteran artists ever reach. Much of this had to do with the material Young and his band chose to perform. Many of the songs they played, such as “Winterlong,” “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere,” “Words (Between the Lines of Age),” “Walk On,” and “Alabama,” are songs that he has either never played before in concert or that have been absent from his set list for decades. When I asked Lukas Nelson about this a few years ago, he told me that the setlist often reflects his band’s favorite Neil Young songs, further demonstrating the give and take between the artist and his music protégés.

Taken as a whole, Neil Young and Promise of the Real’s performance at Hyde Park was the perfect example of how to play to a huge audience of people. Unlike his co-headliner, Bob Dylan, Young respects that people have expectations of him and he can be a crowd pleaser without ever diminishing his artistic integrity. Throughout the set, he effectively balanced his more sonically challenging material with acoustic classics like “Heart Of Gold,” “Old Man,” and “From Hank To Hendrix,” each of which was presented with reverence and care.
Full review on LIVE REVIEW: Bob Dylan and Neil Young in Hyde Park – July 12, 2019 | No Depression by Doug Heselgrave.

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