A joint headline set with Bob Dylan and Neil Young is a rare and valued experience. When this concert was announced last year the buzz in the UK was huge and made bigger headlines when Neil Young refused to play and be associated with corporate giant Barclaycard. So the sponsorship was removed and the gig went ahead… albeit using exactly the same stage and ticketing set up as the rest of the British Summer Time concerts.
On the day itself, the opening act Sam Fender got the afternoon off to a flying start with a lively performance. It’s been a big year for the North Shields native, who has come to Hyde Park straight after his first major hometown show at Mouth of the Tyne Festival and he’s clearly delighted to be here. Full of enthusiasm, he and his band rip through a confident set that’s well-received by the growing audience.
Hearing Cat Power’s mournful but triumphant vocals, echo over the sundried grass of Hyde Park this afternoon is absolute heaven. Her voice is as deep and smooth as the velvet on the Vampire’s Wife (Suzie Cave’s label) dress she’s wearing. We’ve left the busy London stress behind the entrance gates and let her voice melt into us as the warm breeze rustles through the big trees. Our souls are calm and are at peace, writes Rockshot Mag contributor Belle Piec who was in the crowd.
Chan Marshall cuts a great shape in black up on that huge stage, engulfed in a deep red backdrop with her elegant, hand-drawn ’CP’ logo striping down its centre in white. It’s also good to see two more female musicians up on stage with her, one on drums with short hair and amazing earrings in a black shirt and another, also black-clad, on guitar.
Chan sings with two microphones taped together today. We have surmised that it helps give her voice an extra underwater quality. She finishes her show with a great missive: “Thank you, take care of yourselves and have a great f*cking day!”
Laura Marling is an artist who has had her fair share of accolades, winning the BRIT Award for Best British Female Solo Artist in 2011, several Mercury Prize nominations, and a Grammy Award nomination. She is also regarded as one of the finest songwriters of her generation. Joined by a drummer and two talented female backing vocalists, they open with Master Hunter, also performing the likes of How Can I and Daisy.
Laura’s earnest voice weaves through the crowds keeping everyone tapping along with their folky rhythms and great storytelling. A particular highlight is hearing the awesome “builder” Devil’s Spoke from her 2010 LP I Speak Because I Can. Other than a polite “Thank you” to the audience, she lets her music do all the talking.
Next up comes Neil Young with The Promise Of The Real. It’s my fourth time seeing Neil live and this concert is another great piece of live music history. He is such a sight to behold, no matter how old he gets, writes Belle.
Watching him jam hard with the younger musicians (including son of Willie Nelson, Lukas) while the summer wind whips his long hair around his black trilby hat and flannelette shirt, I can’t help but think he really is the grandfather of cool, especially when you hear him singing “Psychedelic music fills the air” during their opening track Mansion On The Hill.
Young is an staunch environmentalist who uses his power for good and it is so refreshing to enter the festival today and not see any giant Barclays logos plastered over every surface. Young had them removed from the concert sponsorship as they are a “fossil fuel funding entity”. Let’s hope more famous musicians take a stronger stance against climate change.
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere rolls in as we sway in a sea of “silver foxes” dotted with younger fans. This is certainly a great place to be in London right now. There’s even a funnel of white whispy clouds in the sky above, all directing towards Neil and the band. I think it’s nature’s thank you!
With such soothing sounds to be bathed in, Neil’s voice is timeless, having a sound of the ages quality when paired with The Promise Of The Real’s extra harmonies. Alabama really wakes the audience up and gets everyone singing, it’s such a classic from the brilliant Harvest LP.
Being fully present at this concert hearing brilliant songs Heart Of Gold, Old Man, Rockin’ In The Free World, and Like A Hurricane I can’t help but feel that if somehow, somewhere Neil Young is still rockin’ then the world is gonna be okay. Finishing his show with Piece Of Crap makes my day. It’s a testament to consumer culture and too much plastic: “Tried to save the trees, Bought a plastic bag, The bottom fell out, It was a piece of crap!”
What an act to follow and Bob Dylan (noted recently for his unpredictable performances) has a very strong opening with good versions of Ballad Of A Thin Man, Highway 61, and Simple Twist Of Fate played from behind the piano.
Some of the set hangs in the mid-tempo blues a little long but at 78 years old who can blame him for slowing things down a little. Dylan has the 65,000 strong crowd guessing the song on a version of Like A Rolling Stone, with the throng determined to “correct” the tune and sing the original chorus sometimes drowning out what was coming from the stage. The spine tingling moments come from two great versions of When I Paint My Masterpiece and Girl From The North Country and if you can seek these out on Facebook or Youtube it is well worth it.
Dylan really brings the crowd together for a rocking version of You Gotta Serve Somebody and lets them go again with mystifying versions of the encore Blowin’ In The Wind and It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry. It feels like there’s supposed to be an encore with Neil Young but after a long pause, all the lights come up and we have an earlier than expected finish time.
RockShot Mag’s Imelda Michalcyzk, who was in the crowd, says: “But it was a good gig. Dylan is never going to sound like the records. He reinvents, surprises, frustrates but doesn’t do what you expect. We haven’t seen him so keyboard-focused in the last few years. I enjoyed it, as a long time Dylan fan! You can quote me on all that.”
RockShot Mag photographer on the day, Trudi Knight adds: “Bob seemed in really good spirits throughout with plenty of smiles and a bit of a twinkle in his eye at times. This is the only time I’ve ever seen him live and he was every bit as unpredictable as I expected. He had a fantastic band, and if they were surprised by any of the turns the music took as the set progressed you’d never have known.”
Photography by Trudi Knight. Words by Belle Piec, Trudi Knight & Imelda Michalcyzk of Bob Dylan & Neil Young, Hyde Park London 12th July 2019.