Neil Young and great expectations
As Shakey found out at the weekend, audiences who pay big bucks to see heritage acts expect to hear the hits and nothing else
It’s like Cat Stevens all over again, innit? There is much fuming today in the usual parts of the online universe about last Saturday night’s show by Neil Young at Dublin’s RDS. Irish Times reviewer Kevin Courtney probably nails it for many people (“instead of Heart of Gold, The Needle & the Damage Done and Rockin’ in the Free World, the crowd got 20-minute-long guitar jams and only a handful of songs that you could consider classics…Rock’n’roll may never die, but last night it certainly had a long, loud snooze”), but other people vehemently disagree and thought old Shakey was in fine fettle in Dublin 4 (see some of the comments here). Certainly, no-one is as worked up about Bob Jovi’s big day out in Slane.
When it comes to heritage acts playing in big outdoor fields (though, it was the first time many saw the RDS big field reduced to a small field because of the low turnout), it seems that audiences expect them to do the greatest hits and do them in the same manner as on the records they have at home. The fact that it was Neil Young meant that people wanted, as Kevin Courtney notes, “Heart of Gold”, “The Needle & the Damage Done” and “Rockin’ in the Free World”.
However, the fact is that it was not billed as Neil Young, but rather Neil Young and Crazy Horse and this seems lost on many people. Now, this is a horse of a totally different colour and one totally in line with what Saturday’s setlist looked like and what the setlists from the other dates on this tour would indicate. Seeing as the gig was just over half full according to reports, it seems many Young fans did their homework in advance, realised the Horse was in the house and decided to stay away (or went to Slane instead).
But it’s the summer in Ireland and that means the event gig crew are out in droves regardless of the weather. You’ll get them everywhere over the next few months, the crew who have bought their tickets based on the radio ads and the buzz and the greatest hits, rather than the new album or the deep album tracks or the artist’s last couple of interviews talking about how he wanted to get Disclosure to remix his old stuff.
Event gig junkies want to wave their hands in the air like they don’t care (as long as the jumpers knotted casually around their necks don’t fall off) when the act plays the Big Tunes. When the act doesn’t play the Big Tunes – or doesn’t play the Big Tunes within the first 20 minutes of the show – they get bored and go off to buy a burger, grumbling about “money’s worth” and stuff like a grumpy toddler.
Event gig junkies will be out in droves at Bruce Springsteen shows in July too. While the Springsteen fanboys and fangirls will be hoping that we happen to go to the show where Springsteen and E Street Band do, as they did in Wembley at the weekend, “Darkness At the Edge of Town” from start to finish in the middle of the set, the event junkies will just want the hits. And that doesn’t necessarily mean playing a 1978 album from start to finish.
There were other complaints about Saturday’s show too, chiefly to do with sound at the venue. Given that the majority of dates on the current leg of Young & Crazy Horse’s tour are indoor sheds rather than outdoor arenas, that would seem to have been on the cards from the get-go – most touring acts rarely switch from indoors to outdoors within the same run because there are completely different production requirements. No doubt it would have been a better show indoors at somewhere like the O2 – and given the numbers, a better result all round for everyone.