There’s something about his face that lets you know Neil Young isn’t going to divide the room into two halves to see which side can shout the loudest – a permanent glower, downturned since the Sixties.
Yet this rare sighting of him with his scuzzy intermittent backing band, Crazy Horse, offered an even rarer glimpse of Young the showman, providing arena entertainment in his own obtuse way.
So there were men in white coats building a set of giant amps and a towering microphone, before the four bandmates arrived to an unlikely rendition of God Save the Queen. A tattooed girl with a guitar case wandered around theatrically during a new piano number, Singer Without a Song.
Young, 67, may not have said hello but he did encourage some audience participation on the repeated profanities of Fuckin’ Up.
Only the most casual fan would have come expecting a whizz through the hits, especially when their most recent album, Psychedelic Pill, is an indulgent double with songs anything up to 27 minutes long. Young frequently turned inwards to guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro, bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina, and sailed off on crashing waves of savage guitar.
With their huddle sometimes so close that all four could be seen in close-up in one screen shot, they squalled and burned through 1990’s Love and Only Love and a fierce take on Buffalo Springfield’s Mr Soul. New song Walk Like a Giant involved a guitar effect that generated notes lower than whale song.
There were longeurs, especially on an unnecessarily epic new one, Ramada Inn. An acoustic section including Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind and a blissful Comes a Time was lovely and much needed. One more guitar frenzy, Like a Hurricane, provided a neat summary. But there’s no one quite like Neil Young.
Also Aug 19, O2 Arena, SE10 (0871 984 0002, theO2.co.uk)