Thursday, 25 June 2009

Neil Young Rocks!

Neil Young is one of those artists that has appeared on my radar from time to time, over the last 3 or more decades. Whilst I could never claim to have been an avid follower, his rich back catalogue of albums and stand-out songs have often provided much enjoyment. And he is definitely an artist worth revisiting (or rediscovering). With a career spanning well over 40 years, from Buffalo Springfield, through Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Crazy Horse, The Stills Young Band and goodness-knows-how-many reinventions of his solo persona, there is plenty to go at. From laid-back country/folk all the way through to heavy rock that could teach the young upstarts a thing or two (they don't call him the "Godfather of Grunge" for nothing) he has done it all.

So a chance to see Young perform in my home town was not to be missed - and boy, was I glad I didn't miss it. I'm certainly no music reviewer (I'm too much of a music lover to be too anal about such things) so I won't even try to do so. Suffice to say that this was right up there with some of the best gigs I have ever seen. Hardly a "greatest hits" set - he's never really done "hits" - but a liberal dose of some of his most classic songs, interspersed with a few that I was unfamiliar with. He began with an incredibly heavy (and incredibly loud) Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black), followed by Mansion On The Hill. Later on came other rollicking rock classics such as Cinnamon Girl, Down By The River, and Rockin' In The Free World (which, with four or five "false" endings, must have been an attempt on the world record for the longest ending to a song!). Whilst no fretboard virtuoso, Young's guitar playing is gutsy and heart-felt, and totally unique. Brilliantly simple is a phrase that springs to mind.

It wasn't all heavy and grungy, though. Interspersed were some more of his laid back and thoughtful songs, such as Mother Earth (with Young playing harmonica and some sort of pump organ, to great effect), Heart Of Gold and Old Man. An encore of The Beatles' A Day In The Life was an unusual, but mightily impressive way to finish. For those that are interested, you can see the full set list on the Sugar Mountain website.

I would have liked to post an image or two, but I didn't take my camera with me - just my mobile phone, the camera of which proved not to be up to the job. Instead, here's a video I found on YouTube of Rockin' In The Free World, from the concert in Aberdeen, the following night. It gives a fair idea of what the Nottingham gig was like.........

Neil Young also happens to be the Friday headline act on the Pyramid Stage at this Year's Glastonbury Festival. That means tomorrow! I have a feeling his set will be very similar to the one he played in Nottingham. With a little luck, the BBC should give it some airtime on their (usually) extensive coverage. If I were you, I would try and catch the coverage - because Neil Young rocks!

Whilst writing this entry, my son came in and told me that Michael Jackson had died. A little shocking, yes (it always is when someone so famous dies relatively young) but surprising....? Not really. I was never a fan, though I admit to having bought "Off The Wall" when it was released (some excellent Rod Temperton songs and typically lush Quincy Jones production) and did recognise the fact that he was very talented. Indeed, as a youngster, his voice was almost (but not quite) a match for Stevie Wonder. But what a sad life he had thrust upon him. From a young age, it seemed he was groomed for stardom and pushed relentlessly by those around him.

I never quite saw the big attraction, but the millions who paid good money for his records and concert tickets must have seen something I didn't. To me, he came across as a deeply flawed and eccentric human being - someone who I could never identify with in a million years. He had it all - yet ultimately, he had nothing. I hardly have the proverbial two pennies to rub together, but I do have a lovely wife, two teenage boys that make me very proud (well, at least most of the time!) a close-knit family, good friends, a boring day job and a dream that one day I will have a thriving wine business. In other words, I have my feet planted firmly on the ground. And I wouldn't swap my existence for the one that Michael Jackson led for all the tea in China. Nevertheless, a very sad demise. R.I.P, Michael Jackson.


Warren EDWARDES said...

Sad he died as it reminds us all of our own and loved ones' sell by dates. I wonder what provoked the heart attack.

rachyb said...

I went to see MJ twice in concert and it was unbelievable. You cannot take your eyes off him as he is mesmerising. His voice and dancing are unmatched and I've been to a lot of concerts. Such a shame to lose such a talented individual.

Leon Stolarski said...

It does indeed. In fact, after burning the candle at both ends so much recently (and around 12 hours' sleep in the last 3 nights) I felt like death when I "woke up" this morning - about half an hour before I was due on the first tee. Much dashing about and raised blood pressure ensued. One of these days..... Suffice to say, I need a break!

Leon Stolarski said...

I never saw him, although my sister-in-law and her husband were big fans in his heyday. At the time, I was heavily into Springsteen, seeing him 5 times between 1980 and 1988. Without doubt Springsteen is the finest live performer I have ever seen. Horses for coures, I think - we all look for something different. MJ was, I guess, more of a polished, choreographed performer (in the nature of Fred Astaire) whereas Springsteen was sheer joyous rock'n'roll and spontaneity.

Try and catch some of his Glastonbury performance this evening to see what I mean.