Last week started on an absolute high when Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s Alchemy tour rocked up to London’s 02 Arena, turbulence in its wake, some of the crowds they had recently played to evidently unhappy with aspects of the band’s current set, notably the long jams around the songs they are playing from last year’s Psychedelic Pill, especially “Walk Like A Giant” and the extended feedback cacophony of its final 10 minutes, which was spectacularly brutal. Audiences in Birmingham and Newcastle had been from all accounts clearly agitated. In Dublin, a couple of days before the London show, there had been boos, which perhaps hasn’t happened to Neil since he took Trans on the road in 1982.
Uncut reader Paul Horton went to the Birmingham gig and was sorely disappointed. Like similarly disgruntled commentators in Newcastle and Dublin, he bemoaned the fact that Neil and Crazy Horse hadn’t played any of the songs he had expected to hear. He cited examples of Neil’s ‘great music’ like “Southern Man”, “Alabama”, “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and “Old Man”, which Paul seemed to suggest should have been played out of some kind of servile obligation to fans, as if Neil has ever felt ‘obliged’ to do anything apart from what to him at any given moment is important. That the songs he wanted to hear weren’t played Paul described as “shameful”.
Interestingly, none of Paul’s favourite songs were written after 1972. Was this the last time Paul and others like him actually heard anything new by Neil, the vast sprawl of whose music between Harvest and last year’s Psychedelic Pill is therefore largely unknown to them? It seems possible. How otherwise could they complain about the absence of classic Neil songs in a set that included “Like A Hurricane”, “Powderfinger”, “My My Hey Hey”, “Cinnamon Girl”, “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”, “Comes A Time”, “Mr Soul”, “Roll Another Number (For The Road)” and “Fuckin’ Up”?
I can’t really comment further on the show Paul saw in Birmingham because I wasn’t there. But at the O2, Neil and Crazy Horse were sensational, as the crowd recognised, no evidence here of the sulking audience grumpiness that had attached itself to the performances on the Alchemy tour that had immediately preceded it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them quite as resplendent, despite Neil’s typically perverse comment, late on, that a lot of what they’d played had “sucked”, which brought a visible guffaw from Frank ‘Poncho’ Sampedro. You’ve probably already seen John’s typically thoughtful review on his Wild Mercury Sound blog, but if you missed it you can read it here.
And thanks to whoever filmed the following three videos of “Like A Hurricane”, and from Psychedelic Pill, the brilliant “Ramada Inn” and “Walk Like A Giant”. Its’ amazing stuff.
Have a good week.
Pic: Brian Rasic/Rex Features