From last weekend’s utterly hellish at times Libertines gig, there is a very different atmosphere and frivolity at Hyde Park for the latest British Summer Time featuring a stellar line up spearheaded by Neil Young & Crazy Horse. It’s a pretty laid back vibe and ideal for a scorching hot day in London, there are no bottle neck queues and the stages are accessible unlike last week’s clusterfuck.
Before we get stuck into the main course there is some notable talent on the under bill with Phosphorescent, the alias of Americana stalwart Matthew Houck, bringing his considerable talents to the Theatre stage. I’ve seen him in the past and he usually goes all out having come out dressed in a full white cowboy outfit the last time I seen him. But there is less showmanship here and the gig, although decent, lacks the vigour of his own headline shows. 'Song for Zulu' soars live and 'Ride On/Right On' is every bit the rowdy southern American bar room jamboree it sounds like on record yet it overall it lacks a certain bite to really be memorable. The theatre itself suffers from ludicrous viewing and absolutely no air conditioning, something the guys at BST may want to have a look it. Enclosed spaces in the summer tend to get hot and can ruin an event themselves.
The National are our next port of call on the main stage and it’s incredible how far they’ve come over the course of their career. A proper story of carving out a career that sees them second on the bill in Hyde Park and headlining the 02 in London in a few months, the big time has arrived. The set aims to please and leverages on hits spanning their entire back catalogue. ‘Mistaken for Strangers’ ‘Squalor Victoria’ ‘Abel’ are just some of the examples of why this band works in such a setting, hugely repeatable choruses that meant they were always destined for the bigger stage. Matt Beringer sliding between introvert and extravert as it suits him adds to the bands pull and as he launches himself into the crowd near the end screaming the words to ‘Mr.November’ in the faces of adoring fans who react like they’ll never experience anything better than Beringer spital.
It seems the perfect warm up to headliner Neil Young. This is it; I’ve been waiting this gig for over a decade finally getting to see the man responsible for five flawless albums and countless other great ones. I had entered with some trepidation as I’ve read Young plays by his own rules and won’t cater his set to anyone but himself and this was, unfortunately, very much the case tonight.
There were of course moments of great beauty such as the acoustic version of ‘Heart of Gold’ alongside classics such as ‘After the Gold Rush’ and ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’. However, the set will be remembered for the self-indulgent nature of most of it. To put it in context he played 15 tracks in the space of close to two and a half hours, compared to The National’s 17 tracks in much less than that.
Of course there is an argument that this kind of sticking to your guns is real musicianship and should be applauded and I get that argument and can understand how a purist could even thrive off this gig. But proclivity to jam out track after track to a point which verges on testing the patience of the majority of the crowd. It creates a static atmosphere and by the end people are too worn out to really care about ‘Cinnamon Girl’ or ‘Rocking in the Free World’. It’s a shame, but it’ll not deter from his legend, for some it will only amplify it.
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