Posts tagged ‘Neil Young’

March 6, 2008

Apollo Epic


There are very few certainty’s in life.  Music’s innate power to lift us out of our daily malaise is an exception.  Live music is possibly the greatest form of human expressionism, transporting us to a place of supreme inspiration.   Though sometimes the emotional prop we depend on from our heroic live performers is not as bankable as we would like.  We can all recall a time when a so-called legend has failed to spark beyond the perfunctory routine.   As was the danger of hyping Neil Young’s first UK tour for 5 years,  last time he played it was a largely conceptual set comprising the whole of the Greendale album and very little else.   Last night however was one of those musical moments that makes you believe in infinite possibilities, the whole performance made everyone in the Apollo realise why they’ve devoted their whole life around the emotional dependence of music.                  

The stage rather resembled Young’s life, ramshackle, creative and eclectic.  Always labeled as a contrary old buzzard, last night he showed his full repertoire of personalities.  Entering from behind a painting, in a crumpled white suit, he sat on a stall and from the opening chords of ‘Hank to Hendrix’ everyone sensed a night of greatness.  Eternally blessed with the wisdom of a man way beyond his years, he now bears the image of that wise old sage.    His voice has aged well, slightly worn but matured, every word suspended in the air, the crowd hanging off every syllable.  His unmistakable falsetto befits such world weary melodies.  After much focused silence his mood relaxed and he began to banter with the crowd, adding abstract humour to a limitless pool of talent – he joked about talking to Jesus the last time he played in Hammersmith.  Much of the acoustic set was handpicked from across his career,  highlights included the circular strumming of ‘Ambulance blues’ and the befiting ‘Old Man’, which both encapsulated his skill for poise and grace.  

If much of the first set was all about methodical restraint then the second half showed his split personality.  Oppositely dressed in a black suit with paint splashed all over, he completely inhibited the grunge master of Crazy Horse notoriety.  With a set that leaned heavily on the three albums of Everybody Knows this is nowhere, Rust never sleeps and chrome dreams 2 Young and his band constructed a barrage of sound that thrilled an increasingly vociferous crowd.  At times leaning back and scything his way around the stage Young resembled a man wrestling with an old piece of machinery, shaking and squeezing every possible sound out of its body.  New songs ‘Spirit road’ and ‘No hidden path’ were particularly brutal, the latter augmented into a 15 minute epic with Young, head-back, staring transfixed into an enormous searchlight.  Particular highlights were the beautiful waltz of ‘Oh Lonesome me’ and the rousing grunge anthem ‘Hey, Hey, My My’.  A peculiar sight amongst all the frenzy – which somehow fitted in with the eccentric nature of the performance – was the conceptual gesture of a different painting being placed on an easel at the side of the stage to represent each new song, though it did add lightness of mood to an increasingly menacing thunder.

And so the encore.  Young and his old stalwarts reappeared and unleashed a uncompromising ‘Cinnamon girl’ that mutated into a cacophony of feedback and chord surfing.  After a small discussion the band continued and rewarded the now delirious crowd with old favourite ‘Like a Hurricane’, which incited the crowd into a mass singalong.  After nearly three hours Neil Young looked like a man who wanted to play all night,  though during the customary group huddle he resembled the look of a man slightly possessed, spent of emotion and energy, but like everyone else transported beyond the banality of the concrete world to a higher consciousness.