Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Down The Tracks, June 29th 2008, Neil Young, Malahide Castle, Dublin

Back from Dublin, straight to Boss Tracks after an absence of a few days. Now, I'll have to step into the confession box for a bit. I wasn't in Dublin just to see what subtle differences in taste there is between a pint of Guinness in the various Dublin pubs. I was out cheating on the Boss. While the Magic tour is still going ahead full steam, I was in Dublin ticking off another box in my list of living legends I've got to see in my life time. His grand old grumpiness Neil Young was playing the picturesque Malahide Castle near Dublin, a good excuse to visit the green isle I figured. A decision I will not regret anytime soon. If only because I got to experience how relaxing pit lines can actually be. We arrived at three o'clock and found ourselves, front row, center stage in the pit, arms on the rail. Mind you, this is 3 pm I'm talking about, none of that camping out business.

Another big difference was the fact that we got opening acts until the grand old man was ready to come on stage. While the first band, Everlast, was charming but nothing spectacular, the second act, the Frames, most definitely were. I had heard of the Frames, even listened to one of their albums before, but that didn't prepare me for the show they gave. Front man Glen Hansard is no stranger to drama, or even melodrama, but on stage he balanced that out quite nicely with a down to earth sense of humor. Hansard is quite the communicator and story teller, and the band more than a little impressive. The Frames have a sense of dynamics in their music that is rare and Hansard's emotional range seems to know no bounds. At one point his voice strikes you as dark and brooding, like Leonard Cohen, the next moment he'll be wailing Solomon Burke with a ragged edge. By playing a few verses of "Here Comes the Night" the band gave a nod to Van Morrison, quite probably thanking him for inspiration. I must say though, the Frames will give you a show that will make Van the Man bow his head in shame. It has been a long time since that grumpy Irishman did anything that was nearly as inspirational as what I saw at Malahide.

With the Frames opening Neil actually had something to prove. Neil's current touring band is aptly called the Electric Band with old road buddies Ben Keith and Rick Rosas delivering the cement. The set opened full electric, Neil hacking away at his guitar "Blackie". Neil's electric work is not everybody's cup of tea. Its a great big howling and growling monster threatening to stomp all over you. Young never quite got over his taste for noise, he loves letting the beats claw at you. His erratic way of attacking his guitar during solos leave a lot of room for failure, but I must admit that it all came together quite nicely. For a grumpy old man Neil was in quite the chipper mood, even talking to the audience some between songs. The song selections were pretty representative for his career. High lights like "Mr. Soul" and "Hey Hey, My My" featured prominently in the opening set, along with harder to stomach pieces as "Spirit Road". Quality control never has been Neil's strongest point when it comes to song writing, which seeped into the show a bit. The high point of the show for me was when Young abandoned "Blackie" for the acoustic guitar. My appreciation for young lies more in the subdued song writer than the aggressive rocker, so a selection as "Oh, Lonesome Me" came as a welcome break from all the guitar violence. Young showcased his more fragile side perfectly with a heart breaking rendition of "Old Man" with Larry Cragg stepping out momentarily on banjo.

Maybe it is because of that fragile side, where Young communicates his emotions so eloquently that his stage presence almost comes as a shock. Like his music Young seems to growl on stage, barely able to force a smile. If there's a glitch in the night Young seems to explode, smashing his cup to the ground, cursing. Though by the time Young tears the strings from "Blackie" during the encore, I was half convinced that all this grumpy old man business is simply his take on show bizz. I mean, he still has to at least give us the impression that he's burning out, not simply fading away, right?

"Oh Lonesome Me"

MP3 File

Download the full show in mp3 here
A small request, use mp3s for personal use only. Keep them in your iPod or on your computer but never use a mp3 based CD in a trade. The quality of mp3s deteriorate rapidly every time a CD is ripped. Using high quality music files such as FLACs is essential in keeping the trading pool healthy.

Recording: 3- out of 5
Show: 3,5 out of 5
Artwork: none

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