Review: Neil Young in Cork, 10th July 2014

Neil Young - Live at the Marquee, Cork
Cork conquered by Mr. Young again...

Despite his 2008 show being one of the best rock performances these eyeballs have ever witnessed, I didn't make Neil Young's appearance on Leeside last Thursday evening. Fortunately for us, roving reporter Kieran O'Keefe was on hand to fill us in on everything we were unlucky enough to miss.

Like any Neil Young gig, the question in the run up to it is, what kind of a show is he gonna deliver this time?

Based on experience I knew it could only be amazing, its just that ol' Neil always does what ol' Neil wants - whether or not that makes any sense to anyone else. Consider this: as soon as the guy spearheads Pono, the highest fidelity digital music file system yet, when more capitalist-minded musicians would have tied in with a suitably high octane, lushly produced 4 disc quadrophonic 144-track album with strings and congas, Neil - just for the hell of it - releases a mono covers record recorded with Jack White that is best listened to out of a battered old radio that's been thrown out of a pickup truck at high speed, and it still sounds fantastic.

From a wonderfully hazy Marquee show around 6 years ago featuring a 15 minute version of Words, through a rock solid run through of career highlights in the O2 in 2009, right up till last year's Crazy Horse psychedelic pill driven jamtastic RDS show (and god help those folks who went not knowing who they were dealing with), the exciting thing is that it may not be what you are hoping for. I mean, that should included in the Ts&Cs on the ticket upfront.

No giant Marshall stacks tonight, but we do have the Cigar Indian and a pirate flag. Neil arrives onstage, reversed basball cap, moving like a teenager jamming with his buds in his parents' basement. Neil forms a tight onstage group with Frank Sampadre, and Rick Rosas standing in for Billy Talbot who suffered a stroke earlier this month. The dynamic might be different but it hasn't tamed the Crazy Horse any.

Serious guitar chops are the order of the day from the start, with Love and Only Love from Ragged Glory, followed by a similar epic, Going Home from Are You Passionate? kicking things off.

If there is a difference tonight from last year's Dublin gig, it's with the crowd - immediately digging and responding to the heavier Crazy Horse numbers delivered early on in the setlist - and the sound, which where we are is perfect, with Neil's signature vocal coming across loud and clear amongst the glorious noise of the band.

The appreciation from the crowd seems to set the scene for the songs they play later -- including Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Don't Cry No Tears, After The Goldrush and Heart of Gold. This to an audience who raise as huge a cheer for the opening bars of Powderfinger as for anything else.

Love is the order of the day, with most of the songs speaking of love, Neil asking for love of Mother Earth as the gigs main function ("Look after tonight's sponsor," he says, indicating the legend EARTH on his shirt. "she doesnt need your money". And - hell - a whole lot of love in the room for the group onstage.

Other highlights included Red Sun, Rockin' in the Free World, Separate Ways, a cover of Blowin' in The Wind, and a new song, Who's Gonna Stand Up and Save the Earth? Each sounds amazing in front of an appreciative audience.

With half a century of solid material behind him, Young refuses any reductionism and still exercises his perogative to play what he wants of his immense catalog, and confounded tonight by playing what everyone would assume he wouldn't play if hell froze over. This year I expect most of the RDS booers probably pegged for something more reliable and predictable, like the Garth Brooks greatest hits package. Genuinely, I hope that works out for them.
Kieran O'Keefe

For more on Neil Young visit:

- Neil Young played Live at the Marquee Cork on Thursday, 10th July 2014

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