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

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
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.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before