There can be few other artists who’ve pursued their own muse to such a singular extent as Neil Young, whether it’s walking out on bands… he missed playing the legendary Monterey Festival in 1967 by walking out on Buffalo Springfield, making albums to spite label boss David Geffen or walking out on his friends during a tour; just ask Stephen Stills. But whatever, his influence is undeniable and in a fifty year plus career, he’s more than made his mark and has produced a body of work few artists will ever equal.
So, on a gorgeously sunny late Friday afternoon, Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famer and all-round legend Neil Young and his band, Promise of the Real, roll into Hyde Park and proceed to lay down some incendiary rock. Always a man of few words, he leads his band onstage and they hit the ground running by starting with three numbers from 1990’s Ragged Glory album, ‘Mansion On The Hill’, ‘Over And Over Again’ and ‘Country Home’. After what were, by his standards, a series of patchy albums in the 1980’s, Ragged Glory was a welcome return to form, and it led to Neil being anointed the Godfather of Grunge. There’s a school of thought amongst Neil’s fans about Crazy Horse being the only backing band for Neil, to which this writer subscribes, but Promise of The Real fill the role admirably.
Always unpredictable, he surprises many in the sell-out 65,000 crowd by dipping into songs from right across his career, including some which haven’t had a stage airing for many a year. Never one to shy from political statements he performs ‘Alabama’, possibly as a riposte to the state’s recent controversial abortion ban. The situation in the USA is reflected in ‘Throw Your Hatred Down’ from 1995’s Mirrorball, an album cut with Pearl Jam. On a less controversial note, he goes back to 1969 for ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’, and takes the temperature down a notch by donning an acoustic guitar and performing ‘Hank to Hendrix’, ‘Old Man’ and ‘Heart of Gold’, the latter two inducing many to sing along with the choruses.
Tonight, Neil curbs his penchant for lengthy onstage jamming, mindful of the fact Bob Dylan’s due to follow him onstage, and His Bobness doesn’t like to be kept waiting, thus songs which are usually stretched out are kept to reasonable lengths and he concludes with two of them, ‘Love And Only Love’ and ‘Rocking In The Free World’, which gets everyone singing the chorus. He encores with ‘Like A Hurricane’ and leaves the stage to rapturous applause and with a big smile on his face.