Sunday, January 25, 2009

Neil Young and My Morning Jacket

Seldom can I go to a concert and look forward to anything the band plays. Usually I have a level of anticipation for certain high spots; usually the band has some rather average moments.

Neil Young has behind him 40-odd years of experience in his craft, and just as much material to draw upon. Appreciating his guitar style alone is enough to appreciate the whole of his concert. He can improvise with consummate ease; and he clearly loves what he does.

I don't remember too much of the song list: much of it wasn't immediately familiar to me. He played Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere; one of the more trivial songs from the eponymous album, but possibly something that he simply enjoyed playing. He played a rousing Cinnamon Girl too, and The Needle And The Damage Done, but to my memory nothing more from his first seven albums. The centrepiece was an extended take on Cortez The Killer, which was truly mesmeric. Four Strong Winds was also included but again, as an acoustic song it seemed to be no match for those where he was electric. It's also worth mentioning an instrumental piece he played solo, on a miniature pipe organ and harmonica. Haunting; very well done.

There are few concerts to match such an experience that was captivating from beginning to end. Most of those for me have been guitar bands (The Clean, The Verlaines, Sonic Youth and The Church), but to that list I would add Solomon Burke, whose secular gospel style was truly spiritual.

My Morning Jacket was quite a surprise. They have (to me) a somewhat shoegazer ethic, but their guitar work is ultimately a mark of respect for Neil Young. Yet the guitarist is also a singer, with a voice that aspires to the heights of Thom Yorke. It is a wonder to see the two talents in one person, but it is unsurprising that he doesn't do both at the same time. Definitely a band to watch out for.

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