Neil Young came to town.
I’ve never seen Neil Young live although he was a huge part of my life during the ’80s. I used to bring a cassette player to Dublin’s St. Stephen’s Green, with its little known spot in its centre and listen to Young, Dylan, Cohen….. I became friends with the local punk rockers who labelled me a hippie. They liked Young, Dylan, Cohen…. too.
In the evenings, I’d go listen to traditional music in O’Donoghue’s pub. I was enamoured by the occasional visitor, Davy Spillane, the quiet spoken member of Moving Hearts, an unreachable mystery to me. He reminded me of my friend ‘The Count’, similarly troubled, almost haunted by their own talent. I was struck at the time by Davey’s concern about his habit of needing a drink before he played. I admired his humility amidst the obvious respect he had from other musicians.
Spillane has produced the most incredibly emotive music since and I wonder if he’s still plagued by pre-performance anxiety.
The uilleann pipes played a significant role in my life. I lost my virginity to another player, lodged for a while with another virtuouso and when pregnant with my first child, stayed up all night at the top of the Cliffs of Moher to await the sunrise while the pipes resounded over the lapping of waves against the cliffs. What a place to hear the ghostly sound of the uillean pipes, a memory that is now indelibly etched in my soul.
Being part of the welcoming audience that had waited 20 to 30 years to see Neil Young (everyone around me had been wanting to see him perform live for that long), I was almost immediately thrown back to that time in Dublin when I was exploring my identity with musicians, poets, artists and punks. My daughter calls me a hippy still. I mustn’t have changed so much.
Compared to others, I did very little research before I went about the nature of his latest work or his set list in other concerts, so went with no preconceptions. The foyer was decorated with promotional stands. Several ecological groups were providing information on permaculture, ecological food choices, seed justice and more. I was quickly sharing local activity with a young Londoner who enthusiastically shared how inspired she felt. Our discussion was cut short. Laura Marling had made her appearance on stage and I didn’t want to miss this wonderful opportunity to hear an extraordinary artist. This promised to be a good night.
Two peasant figures wandered across stage, scattering seeds and we waited in anticipation for what was to happen next. Then He appeared to an uproarious cheer, “Earth” emblazoned across his chest, hat shadowing his face as he sat at an old beat up piano. After the Goldrush was the opening number – I knew all the words and never did they have more significance.
“Mother nature on the run in the ……” Another rousing applause as he replaced the original lyrics “1970s” with “21st century.” Never had a song’s lyrics touched me more when I realised how far ahead of his time he had been.
I felt drawn to tears, and if I heard no more of the set for the night, the visit had been worthwhile.
Hours later, my feet and back were aching from our standing status. The Promise of the Real joined him after a few numbers and we were entertained by protracted instrumentals between lyrics. As good as they were, I liked the simplicity of the acoustic introduction. It must be the hippy in me.
I thought back to those days when I danced my socks off to protracted instrumentals by Moving Hearts and wondered how it came to be that going to a concert has come to be so tiring. But I wouldn’t have missed it, those songs are still rolling round in my mind. Today, it is “Old Man”.
“Twenty four and there’s so much more.” Nearly fifty four and feel the same.