NEIL YOUNG thrilled a sell-out 3000 crowd at the Playhouse last night with an exhilarating two-and-a-half hour set. A living legend, and one of the most influential songwriters in music with songs such as Harvest Moon and Heart Of Gold, the 62-year-old's rare appearance in the city did not disappoint.
When the concert was initially announced, tickets were snapped up in less than half-an-hour. Briefs were like gold dust, and before the show yesterday people stood outside in the freezing cold in the vain hope of finding a spare. Some wore placards around their neck begging for tickets, while others offered up to 250 for a ticket in order to see their hero.
Inside, however, Young's wife, Pegi, warmed things up with a 50-minute set of breezy, easy-listening country tunes. The air was already thick with anticipation, and when Young finally arrived on stage the audience greeted him with a standing ovation.
Opening with an acoustic set, from the opening chords of From Hank To Hendrix, the sound of "Shakey's" signature nasal tenor had the audience spellbound. Indeed, as classic tunes such as Heart Of Gold eased by, Young emoted every bit of feeling from his songs as though he'd written them that very afternoon. Usually a man of many words, Young chose to let his music do the talking last night; at one point holding up his hands to the crowd, as if to repel the constant, tediously irritating shouts of what song he should play next.
After the break, Young put down the acoustic and picked up the electric, delivering a blistering grunge-rock set that surely scalded the earlobes of those sitting in the front row. Dressed in a dusty suit, and pounding furiously away on his famous Les Paul guitar ("Old Black"), fan favourite Hey Hey My My (Into The Black) was an obvious standout, as were Oh Lonesome Me ("I messed up Don Gibson's song with my own melody, but the words are still pretty good"), and, The Believer, a song, Young revealed, was originally written for his mother.
One of the most compelling aspects about the show, however, was the visual element of the stage set. Comprising old movie-set style lighting, a gigantic fan and large neon-lit letters and numbers, what really made the show unique, though, was Eric Johnson. While Young bashed away on his guitar, Johnson stood at the back painting original works, before standing them upon a large easel at the right of the stage, each song's title appearing within the painting. Highly imaginative – the paintings are to be sold to raise money for the Bridge School, an innovative educational environment close to Young's heart.
Young, however, had the last word, encoring with arguably his finest song of the night, the irresistibly catchy Cinnamon Girl. Which, just like this concert, was a joy to behold.
Fans hail icon after gold rush for tickets
THE anticipation in and around the Playhouse Theatre building started well before 7pm.
In the queue before the concert, Canadian Lynne Boyle, 25, a nurse from Leith, said: "I've seen him about eight times in various guises, on his own, with Buffalo Springfield, with Crazy Horse and with Crosby, Stills and Nash and I can't wait for this. I've never seen him in a theatre like this and it's going to be really interesting."
Crowds swarmed into the local bars, and numerous touts – probably more than have been seen in years in this area – circulated the huge pavement outside.
Unfortunately, there weren't nearly enough to meet the demand of the scores of fans.
Everyone gathering outside was desperate to get in by 7.30 prompt to ensure not a chord, strum or pick of Neil Young's guitar was missed.
Afterwards Norval Barclay, 37, who has played live music in and around Edinburgh for more than a decade, said it was the best live music event he'd been to in the city.
David Ferguson, 36, an IT executive from Broughton, added: "I've never seen so many guitar amplifiers on a stage and don't remember enjoying a gig as much as this since I saw David Bowie in Manchester a few years back."
Young wowed the crowd and didn't appear to have lost the legendary quiver in his high voice which has made him so famous.
Rae McQueen, 48, a home help from Dalkeith, said: "I just wish Edinburgh could host more gigs like this, that was absolutely fantastic."