Neil Young – Hard Rock Calling (Crystal Cat CC 976-77)

Hard Rock Calling (Crystal Cat CC 976-77)

Hard Rock Calling Festival, Hyde Park, London, England – June 27th, 2009

Disc 1 (78:08):  Intro., Hey Hey My My (Into The Black), Mansion On The Hill, Are You Ready For The Country?, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Spirit Road, Words, Cinnamon Girl, F*!#in’ Up, Mother Earth, The Needle And The Damage Done, Comes A Time, Unknown Legend, Heart Of Gold

Disc 2 (77:42):  Down By The River, Get Behind The Wheel, Rockin’ In The Free World, A Day In The Life (w/Paul McCartney), Sydney Entertainment Centre, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia – January 24th, 2009:  One Of These Days. O2 Arena, Dublin, Ireland – June 21st, 2009:  Lost In Space, Harvest Moon.  Trent FM Arena, Nottingham, England – June 23rd, 2009:  Burned.  Aberdeen Exhibition Centre, Aberdeen, Scotland – June 24th, 2009:  Cortez The Killer, On The Way Home

Hard Rock Calling on Crystal Cat documents Neil Young’s set at the Hard Rock Calling Festival in London on June 27th, 2009.  The label uses what is probably the best available source.  It is a good, up front recording but also slightly distorted.  It’s not a bad recording, but not as good as other tapes released on Crystal Cat. 

It’s a shame because, unlike the Sweden show, this is extremely intense.  Young and the band were determined to give a killer performance for their final night in Europe.  Allan Jones in Uncut magazine gives a good review of the show.  He writes:  

“I’m on my way at a casual dawdle from the backstage area to the front of the stage when for a moment I’m convinced by a slow ominous rumbling that what I can hear is more of the thunder that had accompanied the earlier downpour, this time with the splintery crackle of not-too-distant lightning, something elemental anyway afoot that I can’t immediately put a name to that of course turns out to be Neil Young, plugging in and without attendant ado launching into a shuddering Neanderthal riff that mutates almost reluctantly into the belligerent intro to ‘Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)’, a song to which an added layer of poignant significance has been added by the inescapable events of the last few days, another pop king ending up on the autopsy table.

“What follows is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen Neil Young play, a full-on sonic rupture, two hours of unforgiving and unforgettable guitar distortion, seismic upheaval, deafening detonations, feedback rapture, wave after wave after crashing wave of noise, uplifting and triumphant, the kind of thing that tears vents in the atmosphere, disarranging the senses, wholly transcendent, an often savage aural maelstrom out of which emerges finally a charred beauty, that old ragged glory that is oft-mentioned in talk of Neil, his music and the way he plays it.

“We have in astonishing succession: ‘Mansion on The Hill’, a barn-burning honky-tonk rave-up on ‘Are You Ready For The Country?’, ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’, a fearsome ‘Spirit Road’, an astonishing version of ‘Words’, a crunching ‘Cinnamon Girl’ and a thoroughly monstrous ‘Fuckin’ Up’.

‘Mother Earth’ leads into what by now is a welcome acoustic set that includes a grave ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’, a winsome ‘Comes A Time’, ‘Unknown Legend’, a perhaps inevitable but entirely welcome ‘Heart Of Gold’ and a version of ‘Old Man’ that somewhat incongruously starts a mass singalong.

“Things turn sulphuric again in a hurry with a long and brooding ‘Down By The River’ that seems destined never to end, but eventually does, and following the terse garage-boogie of ‘Get Behind The Wheel’ from the recent Fork In The Road, a version of ‘Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World’ that I am sure in some alternative universe or spooky other dimension continues even now to rage unstoppably.

“Tonight it reaches climax after teasing climax, ecstatic and deranged and after a while just exhilaratingly hilarious, Neil grinning madly as he comes back for one more chorus, and then another and another after that, no one by now wanting the thing to be put to bed, the delirium palpable.

“And he’s not done yet and tops even this with what’s become a formidable version of ‘A Day In The Life’, a song long-regarded by many as something no one in their right mind would think of playing live, including you might think Paul McCartney, who’s been standing at the side of the stage, but is within minutes at the microphone with Neil, arm around Neil’s shoulder, clearly euphoric, the crowd a-roaring. McCartney, now that things have moved on to a guitar-shredding instrumental section seems at a bit of a loss, not sure quite what to do, a problem he solves by waving his arms in the air, grinning wildly, dancing like someone who’s just been introduced to his feet and having a grand old time and then clawing at the strings of Neil’s guitar.

“It’s an amazing moment, and an amazing end to an amazing show.”

Crystal Cat include several rarities as bonus tracks on disc two.  “Lost In Space” from the 1980 album Hawks & Doves received its live debut in 2009 and “Burned” from the first Buffalo Springfield album in 1966.  The disc closes with two tracks, “Cortez The Killer” and “On The Way Home” from Aberdeen, Scotland. 

Hard Rock Calling is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with a thick booklet, printed on very thick and shiny paper with an interview and several photographs of McCartney on stage with Young.  This is a good release from Crystal Cat, although it does make one wish the tape were a bit better.  The historic significance of having McCartney join Young onstage makes it worth having.   

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