What a beautiful evening it was on Sunday for an outdoor concert. No doubt Oxegen will be waterlogged as usual, but Neil Young could not have asked for a better Irish summer’s evening than we had at Malahide Castle. This was the first time I had ever been at the castle, and I must say getting in and out of the venue was a joy. There were special Dart trains put on for the concert, and although ours was packed (with happy Dublin fans after the match as well as concertgoers), not one person fainted! The trek home wasn’t as smooth, as the train left about fifteen minutes late, but the adrenaline distracted me from looking at my watch.
So, onto the show itself. I only caught the end of the first act, Everest, who did impress me from what little I heard. Their version of the Bob Dylan/Byrds classic ‘You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere’ (which Glen Hansard has covered on occassion) made me wish I had gotten there earlier to see them in full stride. We sat down on the grass and ate ice-creams while we waited for The Frames to come on stage. Not too often you can say that at a gig, is it?
The Frames were wonderful. I didn’t expect them to be as on-form as they were. Marketa Irglova makes a great addition to the band, and her harmonies are beautiful. Colm Mac Con Iomaire was his usual splendid self and is surely the most underrated musician on this island. They opened with ‘Redchord’ and played a host of crowd-pleasing tunes. Glen Hansard only told a handful of anecdotes, none of which were particularly new. One, however, was quite bizarre. He invited us to sing along with the chorus on ‘Happiness’, but then told people who weren’t feeling it (or something along those lines), not to sing at all. A very strange man indeed.
In fact, ‘Happiness’ was the low point of the set. It followed ‘Santa Maria’ which is a cracking tune which builds and builds up to fantastic proportions. However I felt many of the people in attendance weren’t as into the song as they should be, probably because they were there for Neil, and maybe hadn’t heard it on the radio. The radio tunes were excellent, and Glen has really grown in confidence as the years have passed.
But nothing could have prepared the crowd for the man himself. As soon as a glimpse of his paint-stained white shirt and pants were seen, a huge roar went up in north Dublin. The one and only Neil Young. Kids, cherish this day. He opened with a very long version of ‘ Love and Only Love’ which I felt was a bit of a disappointment. He didn’t seem on form, and his solo was a little jarring. ‘I’ve Been Waiting for You’ was a vast improvement, but I still wondered would this be a set of songs that only half the crowd knew. However, any fears I had that this would be one of the biggest disappointments of the year totally disappeared when he tore into ‘Mr Soul’.
‘Spirit Road’ and ‘Powderfinger’ were wonderful. And it was only during ‘Powderfinger’ that I noticed each song was accompanied by a lovely little painting at the right-hand side of the stage. A neat effect, and also a way to make every fan there seem like they knew every song. The guy beside me bellowed out “I bet this is Too Far Gone”, which impressed the rest of his posse. I was in on the act though. He couldn’t fool me. He wasn’t even singing along. ‘My My Hey Hey’ was truly a highpoint, and the only song that was on the recent 2FM advertisments that he actually played live! The crowd belted out the chorus, perhaps even loud enough to drown out Neil himself.
‘Oh Lonesome Me’ was also excellent, and the band had some downtime and a little sitdown during the so-so ‘Mother Earth’. They got back into the swing of things with ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’. Oh what a song! The next trio of tunes were similarly brilliant, ‘Unknown Legend’, ‘Old Man’ (oh yeah!), and ‘Get Back to the Country’. ‘Words’ was much better than the performance Boyzone gave of the same song the previous night.
‘No Hidden Path’ went on very, very long. About half an hour I think. I actually noticed some people leaving at this point, probably to beat the traffic and catch the bus back into town. The encore was the same as the last few shows this tour, and after studying setlists before the show, I wasn’t one of the many claiming disappointment with a one-song-encore. Young’s take on ‘A Day In the Life’ is definitely up there with the original, and caused another superb singalong, sending the crowd home on a high.
A night we’ll all remember. And a night to tell the grandkids about. Although guessing by the ages of some of the audience present, some grandkids have already been told.
‘Hey Hey, My My’: