By Niels J. Dinnesen.
My my, hey hey
Rock and roll is here to stay
It’s better to burn out
Than to fade away
My my, hey hey.
Hey hey, my my
Rock and roll can never die
There’s more to the picture
Than meets the eye.
Hey hey, my my.
As Neil Young halfway into the electric set steps up to the edge of the stage and takes a long look at his audience he is dressed in a dark suit splattered with paint spots and carrying his scratched and battered old electric guitar, Old Black. Young’s gaze over the seated crowd is determined and almost provocative as he stands there for a long moment like a frozen statue. Then he strikes his guitar just once, rousing a thunderous roar from the loudspeakers, signaling with his eyes and motion – “Okay everybody, now I’m gonna play the f#*¤... hell out of you all, watch out!” He kicks off his classic performance “Hey Hey My My” with the legendary lines ROCK AND ROLL WILL NEVER DIE and IT’S BETTER TO BURN OUT / THAN FADE AWAY, while his guitar quite un-gently is beginning to weep and moan, producing sometimes indescribable sounds resembling a clash between fallen power lines and exploding jet planes in a thunder storm.
This is incredible, so grand and breathtaking – and the entire crowd is totally spellbound by the old rock’n roller. A man a couple of rows in front of me literally catapults from his seat and several meters into the air the second he recognizes the tough chords from Young’s guitar as the introduction to “Hey Hey My My” – and now he is standing in the aisle swaying and bending, totally shrouded in the phenomenal sounds and rhythms from the stage. Later during the same set Neil Young and his band give us a similarly majestic “Powderfinger”, and at the end of the show a long long version of “No Hidden Path” – where Young’s thundering and searching solo just goes on and on, and it takes maybe twenty or more concluding rounds from the bass and the drums before the volcano is brought under control and the last embers from Old Black finally expire.
We have passed midnight at this time – on an evening which started at 8 pm sharp with a half hour unexciting country set by Mrs Young, Pegi, followed by Neil Young solo for well over an hour and in the end the electric set lasting more than ninety minutes. There were many highlights during the concert – but for someone like me, who has followed Neil Young since the sixties, the classic songs in particular were the most awe-inspiring – From Hank To Hendrix, Ambulance Blues, A Man Needs A Maid, Harvest, Journey Through The Past, Mellow My Mind, Don’t Let It Bring You Down, Cowgirl In The Sand, Down By The River, Hey Hey, My My, Powderfinger – and of course the encore with Cinnamon Girl.
I always see motion pictures when I hear the song “Powderfinger” – thrilling action scenes resembling a movie like Deliverance many many years ago. The song grips you immediately and must be played precisely as hard and tough, as sparklingly Crazy Horse like, as Neil and the band are playing it on this particular evening in Copenhagen. The song kicks off in the middle of upcoming disaster and chaos:
Look out, Mama,
there’s a white boat comin’ up the river
With a big red beacon, and a flag,
and a man on the rail
I think you’d better call John,
’Cause it don’t look like they’re here
to deliver the mail
And it’s less than a mile away
I hope they didn’t come to stay
It’s got numbers on the side and a gun
And it’s makin’ big waves.
Same thing with Neil and his band that evening in Copenhagen. There were not there just to deliver the mail.
The concert took place at the Falconer Salen auditorium in Copenhagen on February 28 2008.