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A night with one of the last rock'n'roll mavericks

Over the course of almost five decades, Neil Young has confounded record companies. Insisting on embarking upon a doomed movie project, Journey Through the Past, at the height of his commercial success with Harvest and After the Goldrush he responded to record company pressure for more of the same by releasing three utterly uncompromising albums, Time Fades Away, Tonight's the Night and On the Beach. Brilliant though these were, they baffled audiences, critics and must have sent Reprise Records apoplectic.

Even better was Young's attitude at a London show to support Tonight's the Night. With the punters expecting a 'greatest hits' set with maybe a few new songs thrown in, what they got instead was the new album in its entirety and when they made their displeasure known he responded by performing the album – death, drugs and despair seeping through every single song – all the way through again. Now how punk rock is that?

In the Eighties his new label, Geffen, tried to sue him for making music that 'didn't sound like Neil Young' after he'd given them an acoustic rockabilly set and a collection which embraced electronic music. Good man, Neil. The last time he played here in the O2 he gave the best performance myself and other veteran Young aficionadoes had seen here, even better than the Malahide Castle show in 2008, but he's on a different tack this time out.

 

EPICS

With the great Crazy Horse returning as his backing band, Young is focusing on wig-out, guitar-heavy epics, in the spirit of his last album, Psychedelic Pill, which featured several tracks that hovered close to and, indeed, crossed the 20-minute mark. The sight of Young and Crazy Horse in full flight is a jaw-dropping experience, but a 15-song set stretching to 150 minutes might prove something of a task for anyone expecting a few familiar favourites from Harvest and Harvest Moon. Neil Young remains one of rock'n'roll's last great mavericks. God bless him.

George Byrne

Neil Young & Crazy Horse, with support from the Waterboys, Los Lobos and Little Green Cars, play the RDS this evening


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