Neil Young, Playhouse, Edinburgh

Enduring master delivers rough and the smooth

Pity the man sheltering in the front door of the venue, the one brandishing the sign requesting "1 rustie [sic] ticket please". As an unexpected early spring snow falls, the hopefully referential tone of his message isn't bringing out the Samaritan in any of the fellow devotees filing past. After all, a visit from Neil Young is a big date on any gigging calendar, but to a certain brand of middle-aged, quasi-autistic music lover (mostly male), it's an experience which redefines live anew.

One can only hope he managed to get in. While there was a particularly chilly spark in the air outside, warm magic unfolded within this grand old venue. Our shinily modern understanding of the sensitive, heartfelt and quite often tepid singer-songwriter was swept aside by a man who has single-mindedly combined epic tenderness and epic confrontation in his art for 40 years or more. The rough and the smooth of Young's work was judiciously split into two hour-long segments here, one acoustic and one electric. The gentler of these two styles came first, with Young's mere presence on stage carrying a dramatic weight which suggests he might see his show as a theatrical performance, as much as a gig.

Dressed in a battered cream suit, unkempt white shirt and scuffed trainers, Young plays the dishevelled musical polymath. Once opening pleasantries are exchanged with a gorgeous "From Hank to Hendrix", he rises from the nest of guitars in centre stage, warms his hands against the orange light behind his head and strolls the stage like a man who's unsure quite where he is. He strokes his chin for a few seconds, affects a fearful cower when the audience's applause swells towards him and half-stumbles to the piano.

It might be a comment on his own age (62 now), or – more likely – he's just rebelling against a lukewarm conformity of most forms of stage banter. Regardless, near-perfect versions of some iconic songs follow, Young teasing us with adjusted, semi-jammed intros to the most famous including "A Man Needs A Maid", "Heart Of Gold" and "Don't Let It Bring You Down".

His timeless, crystalline falsetto during "Old Man", in particular, was a stunning moment among many. Amidst such a catalogue of definitive song writing, in fact, the real reward is in Young's unique voice, so well suited to both country and rock, and unchanged after all these years.

The second half of the show – performed with a band of acolytes from down the years, including his wife Pegi – didn't allow for such wilfully obscure character playing. Now dressed in a scruffy, paint-splattered black suit, Young once again emphasises an artfully frayed aesthetic. This recreates itself in noisy, vibrant rockers like "Hey Hey My My", "Down By The River", "Powderfinger" and an excellent new track "Dirty Old Man".

And that was it – no politics, no musings on mortality (Young recently recovered from a brain aneurism) and no unnecessary showboating. Just a repertoire of great songs from an enduring, eccentric modern master.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all