Neil Young & Promise Of The Real, ‘This Place Rocks’ (Crystal Cat CC 1076-78)
Disk 1; After The Gold Rush / Heart Of Gold / The Needle And The Damage Done / Razor Love / Mother Earth (Natural Anthem) / Out On The Weekend / Human Highway / Here We Are In The Years / Someday / Unknown Legend / Winterlong / Words / Alabama / Bad Fog Of Loneliness (69:30)
Disk 2; Love To Burn / Mansion On The Hill / F*!#in’ Up / Western Hero / Vampire Blues / After The Garden / Seed Justice / Wolf Moon / Revolution Blues / Rockin’ In The Free World (78:40)
Disk 3; Cortez The Killer / Cinnamon Girl / When You Dance I Can Really Love / Powder Finger / Country Home / Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere / Love And Only Love (78:47)
Tuesday 5th July, 2016, Dalhalla, Rättvik, Dalarna, Sweden – Bonus tracks disk 3, tracks 3 & 4 – Lille France, 13th June, tracks 5 – 8 Roskilde Festival, Denmark 1st, July.
People sign up to see a Neil Young show to hear long lost tracks from 20, 30, 40 years ago, it doesn’t always mean that NY will always comply but theres always a good chance that he’ll dig something out for the ragged Youngian who’s ears have been given a bashing after a few hundred Crazy Horse appearances or even to justify the ticket prices of a modern day concert – haulage doesn’t pay for itself, y’know and carting around these speakers must cost. (Spotify plays don’t amount to much either). The set at Dalhalla was one of Neil’s longest – that is before he landed in Amsterdam a few weeks later and pushed the boundaries in a Springsteenian way, playing for over three hours – an event that saw release on Eat A Peach’s ‘Rebel Content In Amsterdam’.
The concert venue is, according to Wikipedia; “An amphitheatre located in a former limestone quarry, and is used as a summer music venue.” Situated in the beautiful Swedish countryside, one assumes it must come with the correct prospective for perfect acoustic qualities.
The concert starts with a balanced (though mainly balanced towards the early 1970’s) acoustic set from Neil who, as usual, dances around between acoustic guitar and piano, placating his restless mind and the urge to stop and start between intros and outros.
Neil strolls on to the stage without a word, sits at the piano and proceeded to play a gentle ‘After The Goldrush’ which lays the opening proceedings out. The best thing about Neil’s voice is that it has always sounded cracked and aged so the impending years do nothing to soften or dilute it, maybe it sounds a little more choked up than usual tonight but the high notes are still relatively easy to reach for Neil and his renditions sound ageless.
We follow this up with an acoustic ‘Heart Of Gold’ – a breezy strum that must have sounded a treat on a warm Swedish afternoon, pretty soon the peal of a couple of thousand quiet voices singing Neil’s lyrics back to him drifts in and adds atmosphere to the already warm recording. Straight after we slide in to ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’, then an even more tender, ‘Razor Love’. ‘Mother Earth’ rounds off this solo section, back on pump organ, it’s final notes soon consumed by the sounds of the crop dusters that enter on to the stage bringing with them Promise of the Real.
A second set begins that evenly pools as Neil and the band build a roundly bigger sound unveils while ‘Out On The Weekend’ draws out, we slowly begin to feed from a quiet rumble.’Human Highway’, ‘Here We Are In The Years’ and ‘Someday’ follow the languid pace of the set, the feeling of squinting towards the sun as you lay shirtless in the sun, listening to these tracks is palpable.
‘Winterlong’ begins our third phase as the amps buzz with a frisson of electricity, the eak of the lamenting guitar line underneath the first verse beautifully wrung out leaving an extended ‘Words’ to doomily crash in and lay down it’s coat – you can almost see the (metaphorical) dark clouds start to cast their shadow when a broody ‘Alabama’ slides in to view and brings its own darkness in.
Next we get a lesser played, ‘Bad Fog Of Loneliness’ which, I have to admit, electrically, it loses it’s power for me. I much prefer the acoustic renditions from way back.
After a brief break, the band return with a little extra punch having turned up the amps more for their second return. A mammoth ‘Love To Burn’ is the lead off track, typical Young Grunge, chords ghost in and out of play as they slither and dance around each other. Allowing the band to each pitch heavily reverbed riffs around each other while Neil throws out his lines like cards. It’s a perfect post round which the rest of the set stands and as you listen you find you can’t take your ears away from it.
‘Fu*!in’ Up’ barrels in with it’s unrelenting riff, it’s chesty harmonies well replicated by the Promise band, maybe even a little better than Crazy Horse might have attempted themselves. Screeching soloing and box punching drumming driving a hard force through the crowd.
‘Vampire Blues’ gets one of the biggest cheers of the night, as precedent as it would have been back in the 1970s, it’s creaky, over fed, arch groove has a fantastic grip over everyone as Neil swaggers through his lyrics, playing the part of the oily protagonist.
Among some of the newer tracks, ‘Seed Justice’ is pointedly more political – certainly more than ‘Vampire Blues’ veiled imagery, almost heavilly bass lead, the cacophony of animal noises leading out the coda. Neil takes the time after the song to thank Sweden for looking after it’s farming produce and their country. This point is very possibly made at each stop outside of the States however ..
Back to “On The Beach” era Young, ‘Revolution Blues’ has the audience blowing a storm again. Delighted hollering seeps through the line about 25 rifles, Young’s voice growls with a passion that seems to grow throughout and the squeaky soloing has the grit of a tank in it’s body. The band don’t stop for breath as they hammer straight in to ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ too. A straightforward, lengthy, workout, it ends with a clutch of showy bravado including a couple of false endings – it should get tiresome but in it’s own diabolically overwrought way, it works brilliantly.
The last disk features the encore from the night and the rest weighted from the Cat’s own stash – heavily weighted towards classics (Love And Only Love being the latest piece written) – A slow burning and broody, ‘Cortez The Killer’ drags the set on stage, it’s extended intro allowing for a thousand or so phones to light up and have their own candle moment. The spacious soloing butts Neil’s guitar with Lucas’ at secular, momentary points but these are flash moments which are easy to ignore.
Both ‘Cinnamon Girl’ and ‘When You Dance ..’ from Lille in France, pick up the speed briskly, the former draws itself out from the pop-song length allowing Neil to drop in lyrics when he wants – it doesn’t always work as he drops lyrics in to the riff in the middle missing his cue but then when you’ve played these songs this often, what does it matter? The latter still a glistening but battered diamond from the days when Neil could write a classic each sandwich that he ate – the de facto wordsmith of the early 70’s. These tracks are ever so slightly muffled as opposed to the main recording, not so that it’s so notable but enough to pick up under headphones.
From the Rokskilde Festival in Denmark – ‘Country Home’ and it’s off-kilter country warble vies for place as the song that wants to send the crowd home with strong competition from ‘Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere’, one of Neil’s most repeatable tracks, ‘Everyone ..’ has the crowd singing lustily more or less straight from the off though and wins it’s stake hands down.
The night ends with a very well placed ‘Love And Only Love’, Neil’s rather obvious reply to the foreboding ructions around the world given a free airing – a mash of 80’s basslines, disco influenced guitar, Neil’s own brand of rugged rock allowing the band to spar together, meeting in the middle of the stage and gathering around in classic “Crazy Horse” style (The bands may change but the methods remain) – this spirals around for a never overbearing 26 minutes.
Another fantastic recording by the Crystal Cat Label, the presentation too is fantastic the outside sleeves seem to be printed on a much thinner paper than usual – though it’s hardly likely that you’ll touch that so it’s no issue – The two insert inside are printed on to thicker photo paper, the first in a monochrome blue features a picture of Neil stood with two police women at an unspecified location, the other three pages taken up by an extensive list of Neil’s shows with Promise of the Real from February 2015 up to October 2016. The second booklet featuring full colour images of the band, a track list, an image of a festival and it’s quarry location along with a write-up by Dalademokraten.
Another excellent release from the Cat.