hmv.com reviews... Neil Young & Crazy Horse @ British Summer Time
Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Hyde Park, London
Tell us about the supporting cast?
The National were on co-headlining duties, playing a full set lasting 1 hour 20 minutes. Matt Berninger, gifted with what seems to be the world's longest extension lead, took his microphone down to the crowd, climbed the barrier and sung the ending of 'Mr. November' amongst the crowd, emphasising the lyric "I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders" whilst several sweaty men jumped at the chance to hug him and dance along side.
Elsewhere in the set their dedication of England to the crowd went down a treat, especially as their backing video of rain for once didn't seem like an all too accurate representation of the great British summer.
Songs like 'Graceless', 'Sea of Love', and 'Bloodbuzz Ohio' exploded onto the stage, showcasing the extent of lead singer Matt's aggressive vocals.
Whilst 'Afraid of Everyone', 'Pink Rabbits', and 'Fake Empire' had him more subdued and serene, giving the rest of the band a chance to show off their prowess, adding guitar solos and trumpet blasts that transformed their more mellow and woeful hits into being hot-blooded and angry.
Tom Odell quickly sprang forth about how he was honoured and thrilled to be supporting Neil Young; giving him the energy of an ecstatic Randy Newman as he bashed away at the keys to crowd favourites 'Another Love' and 'Grow Old With Me'. But it was 'I Know' that was his best track, flaunting both his jazzy pianist side and his uncompromising ability to build songs up to rousing climaxes suddenly, as if it were from underneath you. It's no wonder he drew the biggest crowd of the afternoon.
On the Village Hall stage The Webb Sisters brought a sweaty indoor crowd to complete silence with an enchanting rendition of 'If It Be Your Will'. Later showcasing that a harp isn't just an instrument to be played delicately in a ball gown, and using it to a similar effect of a Ukulele, creating a series of jaunty folk that rested well against most of their more delicate offerings.
Was it full? And how were the crowd?
For a large part of the afternoon people were scattered around stages, relaxing on the grass, taking in the sun, sounds, and pints of Heineken. But as things descended into the evening, and everyone had cooled off from their sunburn, the main stage was packed, with a lively mix of young and old, all eager to see Neil Young & Crazy Horse.
So what was the set like? What did they play?
Neil Young & Crazy Horse burst onto the stage to a 10 minute guitar jam, quickly removing what little doubt there was in the audience. Before going into classics like 'After the Gold Rush' and 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart' that all, when played live, lasted over 10 minutes, and embraced the warming yet inspiring guitar work of three mega talents. Seeing all three of them play alongside each other at the same time was incredible but was pulled off so effortlessly that it looked like a random jam.
Later Neil took the stage alone and performed a cover of 'Blowin' in the Wind' by Bob Dylan, only to be followed by 'Heart of Gold'. Both of which got the biggest sing-a-long of the night.
By this point the crowd had been prepared and softened, and were ready to go wild. 'Rockin' in the Free World' saw the crowd at their most lively, 'Cinnamon Girl' inspired the largest amount of air-guitaring, and 'Who's Gonna Stand Up and Save the Earth' got people raising their fists with pride, and saw the backing singers at full force.
He ended with 'Down by the River', lasting what must have been well over 20 minutes, it reflected the overall gig in all parts; part enveloping guitar solos, part folky-country ballad, all rock. It would have been fantastic to hear 'Old Man', 'Harvest Moon', 'Powderfinger', 'Cortez the Killer', 'Like a Hurricane', and so many more but when you've had a career that's lasted over 50 years it's unsurprising that even some of the bigger tracks have to be cut from time to time. Getting the set we were given was incredible enough and we certainly got the best choice of cover, and closer.
Any good between song banter?
At times Neil stopped to thank the band, the crowd, and introduce songs. He got the audience easily roused with simple things like pointing to his "Earth" t-shirt.
There was a great sense of respect for him amongst the crowd, and considering 15 songs were played over a 2 hours 2 minute set, people were more excited to hear him perform than anything else.
Did they put on much of a show?
Besides a native American chieftain statue, the Crazy Horse logo backdrop, and the normal set-up of lighting, there wasn't much to the stage during Neil Young. But as it happens it was almost for the best; Neil speaks for himself, and when you get to his status that's all you need, anything else is just a distraction away from the music.
What was the highlight of the set?
The ending to 'Rockin' In The Free World'. The song itself went on for around 20 minutes, whilst everyone around me burst their lungs singing, but then just as the song ended he immediately went straight back into the chorus and, unfazed by how exhausted they were, the crowd still kept going. Then after another 5 minutes of belting out the chorus, he ended the song, and teased us once again with just one more parting note to the crowd before the first encore, telling us all to "keep on rockin' in the free world". It felt like it would never end, and I didn't want it to.
Where can I catch them next?
Neil Young and Crazy Horse are set to play one more day in the UK in the Liverpool Echo Arena (July 13th) and then continue the rest of their world tour through Europe, playing gigs in Norway, Denmark, Sweden etc. before he returns to America, without Crazy Horse, to play four dates across Boston and San Francisco.