CONCERT REVIEW: Neil Young, Salzburg, Aug 18 1995 - Reto Koradi

The Residenzplatz is a square in the middle of the old city of Salzburg, right beside the famous dome, and only a 5 minute walk from the house where Mozart was born. Certainly a great place to hold a rock concert - and if they ever do it again they might learn that one or two entrances are not enough for around 10,000 people).

Neil's supporting act was the Levellers. Not surprisingly (if you're familiar with their recordings), they're a great live band, and gave a very good performance despite some technical problems.

The first part of Neil Young's set was completely dedicated to his current album Mirror Ball, starting with "Big Green Country" and the great "Song X". Apart from a few slower moments like "Throw Your Hatred Down", this was completely fat-free rock music, stripped down to the bare bones. Simple, but effective, with a band that sounded very compact.

For the second part Neil sent the others off stage and played some acoustic tracks. First came a very touching rendition of "The Needle And The Damage Done", a bit later the always brilliant "Hey Hey, My My", which has been evoking even more emotions since Kurt Cobain used the line "it's better to burn out than to fade away" in his suicide note. "Broken Arrow" and another very old song fell off somewhat; they sounded dusted and showed that his early years were not his best.

The band came back for the third part, starting with another key song from Mirror Ball, "I'm The Ocean". One of the highlights of the concert was a very long version of "Cortez The Killer". Much too soon they went off stage, coming back for only one encore, "Rockin' In The Free World". By ending that with a few minutes of cruel noise, and immediately turning on the lights after leaving stage, they made sure that nobody would even dare to ask for more.

No doubt, it was at least partly a very strong concert, especially if you consider it a live performance of Mirror Ball. But it's hard to avoid thinking about songs he didn't play. Of course his output has been much too huge to play everybody's favorites, and it's understandable that he doesn't want to play "Heart Of Gold" and "Like A Hurricane" for the millionth time. What's more striking (and disappointing) is the complete absence of material from recent years. No "Mansion On The Hill", no "Harvest Moon", and most of all not a single song from last year's masterpiece Sleeps With Angels. This also implies that his characteristic guitar playing style in slow songs was hardly to be heard.

It's no accident that Pearl Jam weren't mentioned so far. Three of the band members were there, but, like on the album, they didn't get a chance to play a prominent role. This was Neil Young & a band, and they were no more and no less than Neil Young's very good band.

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