Neil Young...No Rust Here in Hong Kong. Neil Young promised to play a jamming "greatest hits" set and certainly delivered Thursday night at the Hong Kong Harbourfest. During a mere fifteen song show that lasted over two hours, Young and backing band Crazy Horse delivered a frills free performance that made the audience realize they'd just witnessed one of the best concerts ever to have taken place in the city.
When the opening chords of "Love To Burn" rang out across the open aired Tamar site, it immediately answered any questions the audience might have had about what Young would play. "Greendale" would be saved for another day. Instead, fifteen minutes in, Young and Crazy Horse were still jamming like they were in their garage..
Once finished, Young announced "I'm very happy to be here in this great city of Hong Kong...this time playing for brothers and sisters in China." And so it went with more barn storming, as the set passed the hour mark after only five songs. A blistering "F-----n Up" was followed by a transcendent "Hey Hey My My(Into The Black)" which made many fans in the three quarter full open stadium go into a state of sheer bliss.
Once Crazy Horse exited, the folky Neil Young emerged. Acoustic guitar in hand, he proceeded to completely change the tone with "The Needle And The Damage Done,", "Heart Of Gold", "Harvest Moon" and a faithful version of "Sugar Mountain" that had a pleased crowd singing along.
Young raised the bar even more when Crazy Horse returned. Every note of "Like A Hurricane" left the audience in awe of a rock artist many never expected to see in the city. And even though the encores of "Mother Earth" and "Keep On (Rocking In The Free World)" were predictable, few fans wanted to leave when Young took his grinning curtain call, arms entwined with Crazy Horse. The thrilled crowd reaction surely must have made Young wonder why he'd never made the Asian stop earlier in his career. This was a rare concert where the performer, in this case Neil Young, could have played for another couple hours without any complaints from the audience. The Stones, the Hong Kong Harbourfest closing act, will have to be on peak form to top this show.
When Neil Young ventures down to Australia for his first shows in over a decade, fans are definitely in for a treat: an energized performer who is clearly pleased to be playing his extensive catalog for fans half a world away.
Opening for Neil Young was Michelle Branch, who proudly proclaimed that one of his songs "was the second song I ever learned on guitar". The twenty year old Branch showcased her brand of breezy guitar pop to an attentive, but largely indifferent crowd.
With a pleasant forty minute performance that certainly would have held it's own on a bill with peers in her age bracket, Branch's lightweight angst had little emotional impact against the legend most of the crowd had come to see.
Review by: Scott Murphy