Live In Concert – Neil Young, The Point, 2001

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Well, unfortunately, they can’t all be good. It’s dawned on me that the first three Live In Concert features have been a little too universally positive so I figured it was time for me to show that I also have the ability to not enjoy a gig! That side of things begins, unfortunately, with my first ever “real” rock gig when I caught Neil Young in 2001.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that Young is probably the artist I’m least a fan of in my 14 years of attending concerts. Yes of course he has written some incredible songs (and it probably doesn’t help that very few of such were played at this gig) but I’ve just never really bought into him as an artist. Maybe it’s a disconnect with the heritage and culture he’s coming from, a lot of it could be to do with the fact that his voice, whilst unique and capable of holding a fine melody, just doesn’t sit well with me. Low and behold though he was one of the artists that my father felt we needed to see live and that I do not begrudge either of them at all. I blame only myself that this wasn’t the only time I went to see him too.

I suppose this was also back in a better time, when concert tickets for any level of a gig could be bought without all that much care for cost or quality. The difference nowadays in the quality of shows available at little expense versus back then is simply staggering. One good thing to come out of the oppression of rock music in the last few years. In we trot to The Point Depot anyway, and before long Neil Young and Crazy Horse (or whatever band he was playing with at the time) took the stage. Kicking off with “Don’t Cry No Tears” it was nearly an hour before I heard something I recognised. Ordinarily, this would not bother me at a gig but when the unfamiliar songs I’m hearing seem to be just incomprehensible noise my interest wavers rapidly. “From Hank To Hendrix” provided some respite from the agony, mainly because I knew the song and was able to drown out what was being played live with what I knew it to sound like in my head.

“Don’t Let It Bring You Down”, “Pocahontas”, “After The Gold Rush” and “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” served up a great mid section four piece, mainly because these slow quiet numbers got rid of the excruciating noise that came before and after. Now there was definitely a sound engineer at fault here too, and up until later gigs like Bowie I had blamed a lot of the poor quality on the venue, but what has annoyed about Young since that night is that a gig to him seems to be “I’m going to come out on stage and jam, maybe somebody will listen”. Much like Eric Clapton in the same venue some years later (oh we’ll get to that one soon enough), there was just zero connection with the audience. I have always maintained that the main function of a live performance is to ensure that I couldn’t get the same experience by listening to an album at home with random crowd noise playing in the background. Young failed in this duty.

My memory is a little hazy, but I’m nearly certain that it was after this slowed down mid section that the organ arrived. Yes, in an attempt at stage theatrics an organ was lowered, excruciatingly slowly, from the ceiling of the stage as the band jammed out nonsensical noise to herald its arrival. Come to think of it, maybe it was before the slow set, it doesn’t matter. That was the point I knew I was at a truly awful gig. All around watches were checked, remarks were passed, blank expressions were shot. We actually may as well have not even been there as far as all on stage were concerned.

A little more of an upswing came with “Rockin’ In The Free World” and “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black” closing out before the encore, but it was too little too late. I’ve been to some amount of gigs since this one, and the vastly superior quality of them has maybe distorted my view further than it should of this night. But all I know for certain is that it was, mostly, all uphill from here. Except of course when I was foolish enough to go and see him again…

Next Week’s Live In Concert – Metallica, RDS, 2003

Image courtesy of neilyoungnews.thrasherswheat.org/

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niallhetherington

Bachelors Degree in Arts from NUI Maynooth. Double Honours English & Philosophy.

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