Monday, 29 June 2009

27 June 2009 - Neil Young, Hard Rock Calling, Hyde Park

My Oh My ..

That's it - that was officially my best festival set ever ... Neil Young rocking out 'Day in the Life' with bonus added Macca!

I love Hyde Park - turn up, get soaked in a storm and then a great gig (see Aerosmith). Neil Young was headling this time, fresh from his assault on Glastonbury - day two of the UK 2009 Springsteen v Young Festival Smackdown. Same stage set as at Glasto (same clothes even) - mind you it was exactly the same as at the Hop Farm last year, down to the "dove from above" (wtf?), the red telephone and the "art guy" dashing off canvasses of each song.

Odd assortment of supporting acts - got there too late for The Pretenders (who deserved to be higher up the bill), puzzled by Nick Harper (who he?) and not entirely wowed by the Fleet Foxes, who seemed a bit foxed by the whole English festival thing. Not that it mattered, there was no doubt the crowd were there to see Neil Young alone - from the kids to the very proper gentlemen. Our man kicked off with 'Hey, Hey, My My' and never let up for a second. No strutting or posing here - it was all about the music, and rocking good it was too. He was on top form and clearly enjoying every minute. Prayers were answered as he ripped through favourites such as 'Heart of Gold', and for my money 'Get Behind the Wheel' (why not 'Just Singing a Song' too?) but the biggie was ' Rocking in theFree World'. If you saw the BBC coverage from Glastonbury, you'll have some idea of what it was like to have the grunge-meister enchant the whole crowd and goad it with endless joyful choruses of "rock, rock rocking in the free world" while he waved his guitar aloft and from side to side like some screaming light-sabre. (At least that's how it seemed to me and you'll have to excuse me if the detail is wonky but by that point I was very possibly under the influence of (ahem) a bit of passive smoking..)

Well, we pretty much knew that the encore would be 'A Day in the Life', but what a blast it was. Before it began, Neil went off to stage right to greet someone at the side - a pal or industry insider, we thought. When he got to the chorus - yes, on came Paul McCartney and the crowd went wild. I can't do justice to the atmosphere, or describe it properly - so you'll have to see the amazing video for yourselves -

Totally everyone came away happy and slightly dazed - strangers talking about it on the Tube on the way home, for heavens sake. Yup, it was sublime - thank you Neil, thank you Paul and thank you Festival Gods.

Footnote: the next night at Hyde Park The Boss was supposed to have his own special guest Bon Jovi, but the show overran (very strict about Sunday night curfews in the UK). So I guess that makes it Neil Young 2 - 1 Bruce Springsteen.

Set List: Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black) / Mansion On The Hill / Are You Ready For The Country? / Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere / Spirit Road / Words / Cinnamon Girl / F*!#in' Up / Mother Earth / The Needle And The Damage Done / Comes A Time / Unknown Legend / Heart Of Gold / Old Man / Down By The River / Get Behind The Wheel / Rockin' In The Free World // A Day In The Life

Sunday, 28 June 2009

5 June 2009 - Ralph McTell, Cadogan Hall

Still with the 70s, I finally get to re-visit Ralph McTell. What a classy joint the Cadogan Hall is - built as a Christian Scientist church, it has been re-fitted as a very high-quality, all seated concert hall - much like Birmingham Symphony Hall but on a more intimate scale. Superb for solo-ing folkies (Thompsons & Wainwrights please take note), Ralph liked it so much he talked of doing a show there every year.

Families and early influences was a thread running through the choice of songs. We didn't get 'Nana's Song' (dedicated to his wife) but instead the charming 'Growing Old with Naomi' about the long-lasting love between his grandparents. For the musical influences Ralph credited a long list of Blind Willys and Blind Jimmys etc and he put on some very intricate blue-grass finger-picking to prove it. His Dylan homage 'Zimmerman Blues' - "Oh Lord I got the Zimmerman blues!" was hugely enjoyable for me. You see, Ralph's voice is still strong and he interacts with his audience in a good-humoured way - unlike his Bobness. I have the utmost respect for Dylan the poet, but I should tell you that I saw Dylan at the O2 in April this year and was so disappointed in the show I couldn't bring myself to post about it. Until now.

Even "that song" got an airing. As he said, 'Streets of London' had made so many things possible in his life, so couldn't really begrudge playing it. 'Oh England' was green and lovely, 'Long way from Clare to here' was poetic - but no 'Ferryman'? Oh well, maybe next time.