ROCK / Fruitful late harvest: Andy Gill on the unlikely but attractive combination of Neil Young and Booker T & the MGs in Finsbury Park

ON PAPER, it just doesn't work: Neil Young, the most quixotically gifted singer-songwriter of his generation, given to wild mood swings between maudlin sentiment and raw, sculpted guitar feedback frenzy; and Booker T & the MGs, the tightest, crispest soul band of them all. But somehow these presumed opposites, who first hooked up at the Dylan 30th anniversary concert a few months ago, attract perfectly.

To be honest, the match is a little one-sided: as backing band, the MGs have cleaved to Young's style rather than vice versa, applying a tough, stable bedrock where Crazy Horse were once looser and wirier in their support. It makes little difference during the country-rock numbers like 'Helpless' and 'Harvest Moon', which are log- falling territory for pros like Steve Cropper, 'Duck' Dunn and drummer du jour Jim Keltner, but allows Young greater latitude on the long guitar workouts that are today's main course.

Flanked by the impassive figures of Cropper and Dunn, he staggers dazedly around centre stage in London, tearing howls of anguish from his instrument, deconstructing the guitar solo in 'Like a Hurricane' into blocks of feedback and bent-string phrases. It's astonishing, a sonic language all his own, but it's been learnt well by the MGs, who're always there to fall back on, always on the one whatever Neil does to the beat.

Lip-service of a sort is paid to the backing band's heritage by an encore of 'Dock of the Bay', with Cropper's liquid guitar break note-for-note identical to his original one, but otherwise the band are restricted to incidental moments, like Booker T's soulful organ chording in 'Motorcycle Mama' and churchier solo in 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart'.

Finsbury Park is like a giant Leslie cabinet, swirling the sound around in a way that, for instance, ruined Van Morrison's set a few weeks ago; but it's almost right for Young, adding dimensions of depth and space to solos that are already virtually three-dimensional. His performance is at times quite extraordinary, particularly given the basic nature of his equipment: most guitarists rely upon an array of effects pedals to subtly alter their tone, but Neil has just one, an immense red metal board, a yard wide with one industrial-strength pedal in the middle, on which he stamps to send his sound into overdrive.

Today, he stamps on it in almost every song, drawing routine 10-minute diversions out of three-minute songs, then refusing to let them go when they're done with, chasing lines of feedback round each song's conclusion in the manner familiar from his Weld live album. It's especially effective on the encore of 'All along the Watchtower', with Young repeating 'There must be some way out of here' over and over as the song grinds slowly into the ground. Earlier, interrupting the intro to the low- key 'Harvest Moon', he'd professed to hear some feedback creeping in where it shouldn't - '. . . and I hate feedback,' he'd screamed, self-mockingly.

The concert is concluded, as you knew it would, by a storming version of 'Rockin' in the Free World' - introduced as 'an old folk song' - on which Neil and the MGs are joined by the top support band Pearl Jam, one of the grunge outfits who've climbed to fame on the tails of Young's plaid shirts: even for a style vacuum like Neil, fashion comes full circle eventually.

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests