Hyde Park, bang in the middle of London, has been playing host to an increasing number of concerts in the summer. It’s a great venue because it is such a big park and can cope with the intrusion. And there are loads of tube stations nearby, to get home from.
I went to the Neil Young show this Saturday. We were lucky with the weather. The sun shone for most of the day, although there was a burst of rain for about 15 minutes around 7.30.
On the main stage we had Half Moon Run from Canada, Tom Odell, The National and NY with his old muckers, Crazy Horse. The second stage, a rather nice enclosed area, had the likes of Caitlin Rose and headliners, Midlake. But because it was enclosed, people couldn’t enjoy it from outside. So there were queues to get in. There were a couple of other open air stages with up and coming bands.
My friend Jon and I started with Half Moon Run. Really liked them. It was Americana, but with a sharper edge. Inevitably I heard War On Drugs in them, because they are my new favourite band. But also, the chiming guitars reminded me of Radiohead’s “In Rainbows”. And there s nothing better than that. I’ve since downloaded their 2012 album, “Dark Eyes”. It’s very good.
Tom Odell was OK. I liked a few of his ballads. But the rockier ones didn’t do much for me. I felt his strength was pop rather than rock, if you know what I mean.
We then went over to the Barclaycard Theatre (not exactly a rockin’ rebel name) for Caitlin Rose. Really enjoyed her set. Good country rocking. She spoke really fast – nerves or just her style? But she sang beautifully. I’ve enjoyed her album, “The Stand In” recently. She is worth checking out.
Then it was back to the main stage for The National. They are a band I know I should like, but for some reason I’ve never really got around to listening to them until recently. In the last couple of weeks I downloaded all the albums and gave myself a crash course. I liked what I heard, but also acknowledged that it was music that doesn’t always jump out at you straightaway. Singer Matt Berninger sings deep and it takes a while to get the nuances. So I was still on the learning curve as I watched them on Saturday. I liked the sound, didn’t get all those nuances, so felt I was almost there, but not quite. Some of the backdrops were extraordinary. The show made me want to listen more, which I’ve been doing since, discovering great songs like “Pink Rabbits” from latest album, “Trouble Will Find Me”.
After The National, we went over to see if we could see Midlake, but the queues were too big. So we wandered over to one of the smaller stages and saw a bit of James Bay. In keeping with the event, he was playing Americana, but he is English, from Hitchin, I think. I really liked his sound and will be checking what he has on record.
And so on to Neil Young. He and Crazy Horse make an awesome sound, but also quite a monotone one. I tend to dip in and out of Neil’s sound, which gets a bit gloomy if you you listen to it too much. I know my good friend Paul will be appalled when I say this, but I got a bit bored on the night. I loved the guitar sound, but the musical backdrop is just a bit clunky when you listen to it for two hours. And I didn’t get “Cortez The Killer” or “Like A Hurricane” to send me home home really happy. There was a moment, half way through, when he played “Blowing In The Wind” by Bob Dylan. It got a great reaction. Better than most of his own songs. But he didn’t play many of the ones that would have got the same reaction, though in fairness he followed “Blowing In The Wind” with “Heart Of Gold”.
It was a concert for the Neil Young aficionados. I couldn’t escape the feeling, watching the big screen, that Neil and his mates needed to tidy up their hair and clothes a bit. Yeah, OK, I know its all authentic, but Bruce Springsteen and the Stones show how ageing stars can really really put on a show.
So, I left, with my respect for Neil Young as high as ever, but thinking, could do better.
It was a great day though. Some excellent music. A good vibe everywhere. Sun shining. Easy to get a beer (albeit at £5.50 a pint). And a decent ostrich burger too!