Angel Olsen, Koko, London — ‘Dramatic’

Angel Olsen grew up with an unusually potent interest in pre-Beatles pop culture, the result, in her telling, of being an adopted child with a lot older parents than her peers. The 5 guys and women in her band wore matching grey jackets at Koko, like members of a wholesome musical troupe. Olsen’s singing echoed a vanished era of vocalists, with hints of country-pop pioneer Skeeter Davis (a favourite of her mother) and the deployment of a startling vibrato descended from Roy Orbison.

But it was not a evening of pastiche. The singer-songwriter, raised in St Louis, Missouri, brings other influences to bear in her perform, all fused with each other with imagination and originality. The opening number, “Never Be Mine”, from her new album My Woman, filtered an Orbison-esque tale of doomed romance via jangling guitars that frayed at the edges as although straining to unleash some wilder force. “Hi-Five”, from her 2014 breakthrough Burn Your Fire for No Witness, set a classic nation lament about lonesomeness to disruptive fuzz-rock riffs. Other songs built from slow, moody beginnings into stormy squalls of noise.

Olsen, 29, served her apprenticeship as a member of the backing band for Will Oldham, the unbiddable indie musician who goes by the stage name Bonnie “Prince” Billy. His cussed persona has rubbed off on her. She projected seriousness at Koko, a welcome unwillingness to pander for laughs or applause. An ironic wolf whistle from an audience member attracted a haughty “Oh really?” appear in response: the smattering of laughter instantly died out.

She was a measured presence at the microphone with her guitar, standing still, flanked by two other guitarists, a bassist, a keyboard-playing backing singer and a drummer. But her vocals, heightened by reverb, have been very dramatic. Lyrics had been drawled in a languid slur, a dreamlike effect. But then the spell would be broken by an emphatically delivered line, such as the barked pay-off to one track: “I mentioned I had to!”, sung with a curt nod.

She encored with the lengthy alt-torch song “Woman”, overhauled for the stage with an intense finale of guitar solos and drumming, a knockout finish to an impressive show.

angelolsen.com

Section: Arts


Justin Bieber, O2 Arena, London — ‘Remote’

Justin Bieber on stage in his ‘Purpose’ tour © Pieter-Jan Vanstockstraeten/Photonews by means of Getty Images

The final time Justin Bieber played the O2 Arena he kept his audience waiting two hours prior to gracing the stage. Young children wept, parents fretted about the last train, tempers frayed. Taxis circled the domed venue in its obscure peninsula fastness like vultures: a bonanza for London’s cabbies, but a blow for brand Bieber.

Three years later the controversial Canadian heartthrob is back at the O2 Arena for his “Purpose” tour. The first of six nights started on time. Lights strafed an elaborate stage structure, five backing musicians struck up a dramatic intro, dancers performed acrobatic moves. Then the primary attraction created his entry suspended in a Perspex box, captive in the public eye. He was singing “Mark My Words” and writing illegible messages in pen on the see-by way of walls of his cage.

His new tour is named soon after his most recent album Objective, a 4m-selling hit with a surprisingly powerful set of songs. These who dismiss the 22-year-old as a bratty purveyor of buying-mall schmaltz are out of date. The new Bieber, the one who starts shows on time, has been repurposed as a charming R&ampB-pop crooner. However for all his newfound credibility he seemed only fitfully engaged at the O2.

The show was designed as slick arena entertainment, a busily choreographed affair with subsidiary stages, hydraulic platforms and extravagant visuals and lighting. Bieber cut an oddly remote figure amid the action. The former kid star exhibited neither nervous energy nor pleasure at being on stage. As an alternative he came across as a brooding but rather blank figure.

Some of his street-dance methods with the 12-strong troupe of dancers were crisp, others had been lackadaisical. His singing was great when the microphone was switched on, a persuasive higher tenor. But he produced tiny work to hide the fact that he was miming at other instances, typically throughout strenuous dance-pop numbers, a widespread sufficient arena-pop deceit despite the fact that normally practised with far more artfulness. Songs ended with him turning his back on the audience as though broadcasting his apartness.

A 20-minute interval threatened to sabotage any momentum that had been constructed up, as did a long drum solo that the singer permitted himself shortly right after resuming (“You guys nonetheless with me tonight?”). But the second half brought a far more committed Bieber.

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“I really feel that I just drunk a bunch of caffeine and I’m prepared to go,” he announced, belatedly coming to life with a caffeinated, drum-heavy version of his old puppy-really like hit “Baby”. He departed from the script to quiz fans in the front row about the meaning of enjoy, only to acquire such unsatisfactory responses — they mostly loved him — that one particular almost felt sorry for the philosophical Bieber.

Objective’s title track followed, sung with genuine feeling but the sense of connection was fleeting. “Make confident you focus on your goal,” he declared following an encore with “Sorry”, a catchy, curiously apt note of contrition with which to finish. If only Bieber had followed his personal suggestions more consistently tonight.

justinbiebermusic.com

Section: Arts


Ed Ruscha: Extremes and In-betweens, Gagosian, London — overview

“Words reside in a planet of no size,” Ed Ruscha has observed. “You can make them any size and what’s the genuine size? Nobody knows.” Such lucid innocence is usually the prerogative of geniuses or small youngsters. But if we’re lucky, it also animates our fine conceptual artists, of whom Ruscha is undoubtedly 1.

The Los Angeles-based artist’s most recent paintings, at present on show at Gagosian’s new gallery in London’s Grosvenor Hill, spin the above insight into a surreal, optical poetry. Produced this year, nearly all of them display pyramid-like scales of words whose descending size mirrors their meaning. “Universe”, for instance, is stencilled in a massive white font at the top of a list that encompasses “America”, “Tampa Florida”, “Back Bedroom”, “Dust Bunny” and “Static Electricity”. “Silence” is writ huge — Ruscha constantly gets his priorities right — above “Commotion”, “Racket” and “Peak Volume”. That the final word, which surely summons some apocalyptic cacophony, is illegible is no error of judgment. Ruscha is a painter who when said that each operate he created would be “completely premeditated”.

The meticulous however insouciant linguistic slopes at Gagosian are inscribed on plain grounds painted in hues of grainy dun brown, astral grey and dusty black. Here and there a wrinkle or fold disturbs the empty prairies. At instances, they are juxtaposed with painting of scraps of wooden planking, as if Ruscha is telling us that any old surface will do for a humble signwriter like him.

‘Silence with Wrinkles’ (2016)

That capability to produce high art out of low approaches and signifies has created Ruscha as enduring and crucial an artist as any operating these days. Now in his 79th year, he did certainly begin out coaching to be an industrial painter when he moved to Los Angeles from his house town of Oklahoma City in 1956. Within a decade, however, he’d segued into the Pop/Minimalist/Conceptual zeitgeist. His early paintings slapped vast words — “Boss”, “Smash”, “Noise”, “Space” — on monochrome backgrounds. With photographic books such as Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations (1963) and Each and every Developing on the Sunset Strip (1966) allied to his seminal painting of the Hollywood sign (1968) at sunset as if dipped in the faux-gold of the collective American dream, he stamped himself as the Californian painter par excellence.

Over the decades, the versatility of his media — he has created photography, prints, artists’ books, and has even painted in blood — has in no way diluted the clarity with which he continues to demonstrate that the bond between language and which means is supremely vulnerable. “I like the concept of a word becoming a picture, almost leaving its body, then coming back and becoming a word once more,” he when said.

The very best of these new operates flirt with our eye, obliging us to draw close in order to study the smaller text, then unsettle our thoughts when we get there. Often the journey is beguiling. Set against a sandy ground, “Sun/Earth/Texas/Horse/Hoof” is a marvellously unexpected declination, as if a benign visual-art equivalent of Cormac McCarthy were leading us out into the desert which, Ruscha has frequently mentioned, is his favourite landscape.

‘Sun, Atom’ (2016)

But it is unlikely that McCarthy, the American author known for his explorations of his country’s psyche at its darkest and most existential, would have come to mind at all when we contemplated Ruscha’s perform a decade ago. Then, the painter’s zany, ethereal lyricism still had the laconic playfulness of a single who prefers to rise above gritty sociopolitical realities.

These paintings really feel bleaker, sadder, as if Ruscha has finally plugged himself into the gloomy massive picture. One chops up the words for numbers — “Tril/Bil/Mil/Thou” — so that their endings appear to have plunged off the edge of the canvas in what is surely a metaphor for wealth’s crucial frailty. An additional begins “Bio” and steadily shrinks the word until “biology’ is spelt out at the bottom like a tiny death sentence.

Ruscha has stated repeatedly how a lot he fears for his country’s social and environmental future. This new operate isn’t perfect. Many of the photos add practically nothing to what their a lot more potent fellows are reaching, and their almost uniformly large size, though acceptable for Gagosian’s capacious galleries, creates a leaden cadence. But it’s exciting to see an older artist acknowledging that anxious occasions demand a response, and taking dangers with feeling and intensity as a outcome. Ruscha mustn’t retire into the desert just but.

To December 17, gagosian.com

Section: Arts


The Boys in the Band, Park Theatre, London — assessment

It is shocking that this was shocking just a few decades ago basically simply because of its topic matter. In 1968, the year ahead of Stonewall, Mart Crowley filled a stage with openly gay characters — a ground-producing moment. Adam Penford’s revival is, then, in element, a reminder of an age when that act alone was radical. But what emerges now, with the shock worth removed, is the drama’s enduring insight into the deep psychological damage done by homophobia. It is worth reflecting that there are nevertheless no openly homosexual footballers in the English Premier League.

In the safety of his New York apartment, Michael is hosting a birthday celebration for Harold: a likelihood for a group of gay pals to get collectively. But this safe cocoon is threatened by the unexpected arrival of his old college buddy, who is both straight and strait-laced. Michael’s determined efforts to disguise the nature of the guests to the dinner-jacketed gate-crasher produce a lot of slapstick comedy. But beneath all this, there is a dark lagoon of painful emotions. Ultimately they break via: first in a physical attack and then, as the night wears on, in a cruel parlour game.

Mark Gatiss and Jack Derges © Darren Bell

Harold (played by Mark Gatiss with waspish brilliance and professional timing) may possibly be the supposed centre of interest but the genuine concentrate of the play is Michael, whose brittle one particular-liners and sharp put-downs mask a corrosive self-loathing that at some point pours out. Ian Hallard doesn’t hold back on the sheer nastiness of his character’s game-playing, but he also gradually reveals the damage that drives it: the internalisation of a lifetime of guilt, fear and secrecy.

What hasn’t lasted so effectively is the play’s structure. The scene-setting opening is extended and somewhat clunky and there are some terribly unconvincing telephone calls and awkward plot twists. Meanwhile the understandable selection to have a kaleidoscopic range of gay characters in order to represent the various struggles within the neighborhood now appears a bit contrived.

Penford’s staging doesn’t overcome these issues, but it does consist of some superb laugh-out-loud moments (a joyous dance routine, for instance) and brings a actual shiver to the violence, both physical and psychological. And it brings out the emotional truths in the drama. The final celebration game, in which Michael forces every single man to telephone the person he loves and tell them so, is painful, poignant and beautifully delivered: not least by Greg Lockett, James Holmes and Ben Mansfield.

To October 30, parktheatre.co.uk

Section: Arts


No’s Knife, Old Vic, London — assessment

For 12 years, Lisa Dwan was recognized to theatregoers only as an illuminated mouth on an otherwise blacked-out stage, attempting the land speed record for Samuel Beckett’s glossolalic monologue Not I. With the passing of Billie Whitelaw, she has turn into most likely the foremost committed female interpreter of Beckett in English. Now she turns her focus to a selection from his 1950-52 prose pieces Texts for Practically nothing.

A enormous closed eye projected on a front cloth opens the pupil expands till we appear to fall into it, to see blurred shots of Dwan underwater, with vague ideas of the womb. The four scenes themselves, nonetheless, are much more characteristic of Beckett’s assorted afterlife scenarios, or other kinds of un-life. Dwan, clad in a dark shift and leather leggings with bloody grazes, perches in a fissure on a rock face, strides through a wasteland or sits above it in a cage, giving accounts of … what? Of the Beckett usuals: existence, isolation, relationships which aren’t at all, selections, compulsions and coercions — the different approaches we construct an identity from shards and wisps. “A story is not compulsory, just a life,” observes Dwan’s character (character?) at one particular point.

It’s an odd idea, but these early prose pieces — written around the same time as his novel trilogy and ahead of the 1953 French premiere of En attendant Godot — look a tiny overwritten compared with his theatre work, as if the absence of an actual speaker meant that the language had to labour tougher. But it provides Dwan far more scope to stretch herself: she interrupts herself with parenthetical lines trumpeted, chirruped and growled, and in 1 scene with her own recorded voice. In the finish she even breaks the fourth wall, stepping on to the apron to deliver the final phase of the fourth scene.

This makes explicit an undercurrent all through the 70-minute evening, which is that of introducing gender as a consideration. These pieces were by and large written with a male figure in thoughts, but the mild subversion of earlier scenes comes into stark concentrate with the final narrative of a tortured non-relationship. Beckett famously wrote “No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail far better.” Lisa Dwan fails brilliantly.

To October 15, oldvictheatre.com

Section: Arts


The Machine, Barbican (Pit), London — ‘Quirky, fun’

All in all you are just another brick in the wall. The functionality business Collectif and Then (operating with Karkatag Kolektiv) take Pink Floyd’s lyric virtually actually, making their audience members, if not bricks in the wall, cogs in the machine: moving parts in an elaborate physical metaphor about society. It’s ingenious and a lot of fun, if larger on concept than content.

Here interactive theatre meets social experiment. You are “part of the machine”, a disembodied voice informs the audience as they wriggle into white lab coats and security goggles and line up at the door, ready to clock in to the method. As soon as inside they are allotted tasks on an absurd Heath Robinson-like production line: pedalling baroque contraptions to drive conveyor belts running from workstation to workstation piling stuff on to pallets — all in order to fill plastic bags with sand, water or hot air. Each now and then, for no reason, every person is essential to jump. Not so various from the day job, some may reflect darkly.

Interactive theatre meets social experiment in ‘The Machine’ © Richard Davenport

The second operation includes loading mentioned bags on to human machines, 3 of the circus performers behind the show. 1, “the human claw” (Lucie N’Duhirahe), dangles from a beam to collect as several bags of air as achievable a second (Natalie Reckert) holds a handstand and invites workers to suspend bags of water from her upturned body. The third (Francesca Hyde), most disconcertingly, is winched into the air by her hair as workers load sandbags on to a suspended platform.

This is where the show becomes most exciting — and where it requirements to expand. As soon as the audience/employees realise that their work is causing her discomfort, they instinctively pause. Some then start to unload — to revolt against The Machine — despite being warned that their disobedience has been noted. But there is no adhere to-up and no further examination of what occurs when social conditioning and moral imperative come into conflict.

And all round there is a sense that the show could dig deeper. It is an intriguing development on circus, taking the co-operation, physicality and physics of circus into interactive and symbolic territory. It touches on considerable questions about the rat-race, about the role of humans in an increasingly mechanised planet, about endurance and about why we operate. But it hasn’t incorporated a way to discover the concerns a lot more totally. As it stands, it’s quirky and inventive, but, like so several machines, it runs out of steam.

To October 8, barbican.org.uk

Section: Arts


Carole King, Hyde Park, London — evaluation

Carole King on stage in Hyde Park, London. Photo: Dave Hogan/Getty©Dave Hogan/Getty

Carole King on stage in Hyde Park, London. Photo: Dave Hogan/Getty

Carole King’s 1971 album Tapestry encapsulated what Joan Didion named “the morning soon after the Sixties”. It is such a behemoth that help artist Don Henley singing “Life in the Fast Lane”, an unexpected Tears For Fears cover, and “Hotel California” was a mere warm-up. “You can verify out any time you like,” Henley sang, like an ominous warning from Brussels, “but you can never leave.”

This British Summer time Time festival appearance was the initial time King had performed the album in concert in its entirety. As an overture, her band vamped via its melodies even though video messages from Tom Hanks, Elton John and two-thirds of Crosby Stills and Nash attested to its value. Then King strolled on, sat at the piano and hammered the opening riff of “I Feel the Earth Move”, and a sun-dappled Hyde Park felt like Laurel Canyon. Barrelhouse chords, Hammond organ skirl, breathy syncopated hesitations in the chorus: King ended the song bouncing up and down on the piano stool, hair flying.

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Tapestry is so loaded with memorable songs that it sounds like a greatest hits album. Right away following “I Feel the Earth Move” had been “So Far Away”, which King committed to James Taylor, and then “It’s As well Late”, with Toni Stern’s peerless opening line “Stayed in bed all morning just to pass the time”, King playing sprays of jazzy blue notes with her appropriate hand. There is arguably a slight longueur in the middle of side 1, but a bouncy “Beautiful” contained the DNA of Elton John’s entire profession in a single bar.

By now King’s piano was blazing orange with the reflected light of the sun sinking over Lancaster Gate. “Way Over Yonder” played with gospel tropes, as the organ churned like magma. After the crucial alter in the last verse, the audience involuntarily twitched to turn the record more than — and indeed a giant video screen showed just that taking place. The audience sang along with “You’ve Got a Friend”: the crowd strained for the high note King herself was impeccable.

Subsequent was “Where You Lead”: King had dropped it from reside efficiency on feminist grounds, but now reinstated it in her reworked version for Gilmore Girls, joined by her daughter Louise Goffin, an amiably punchy singer. “Will You Really like Me Tomorrow?” has not aged nicely, but King sang it sweetly. She then revealed a sequinned leading as she strapped on an electric guitar for “Smackwater Jack”, right here a honky-tonk thrash with a 4-guitar frontline led by the veteran Danny Kortchmar. “This,” shouted King with the understandable pride of a lady who made her first recording in 1958, “is what 74 appears like.”

“(You Make Me Really feel Like) A Natural Woman” started with footage of the 1971 King nervously introducing the song and playing the very first verse: the real one joined in on the chorus and then took more than the rest of the song although her younger self blurred, but then the video sang the last line and acknowledged the applause, the older woman momentarily overcome.

Tapestry was, of course, the second act in King’s life, and the concert played out with reminders of the extent of her songbook. There had been Brill Constructing-era songs she co-wrote with her then husband, Gerry Goffin: snatches of “I’m Into One thing Good”, “It Might as Properly Rain Till September”, a hip-grinding “Loco-Motion” and a thunderous “Chains”, channelling the version by The Beatles. On her personal “Jazzman” her glissandi ricocheted off a free of charge-jazz saxophone solo “Up On the Roof” created the most of a summer time evening, and a final reworking of “You’ve Got a Friend” integrated the line “I enjoy you, England”, at a time when England demands all the close friends it can get.

caroleking.com

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Section: Arts


Boys will be Boys, London — ‘Sharp but skimpy’

'Boys will be Boys'©Helen Murray

‘Boys will be Boys’

Although the Bush Theatre undergoes a year-lengthy refurbishment, venues around the district will residence the shows. Boys will be Boys settles at Bush Hall, an Edwardian dance hall down the road from the theatre, exactly where the elegant stuccoed ballroom makes an atmospheric setting for this sharp, but in the end skimpy cabaret-style drama (a co-production with Headlong Theatre) about women in the City.

Melissa Bubnic’s all-female play picks up exactly where two other astute female dramatists — Caryl Churchill with Best Girls and Serious Income, and Lucy Prebble with Enron — left off, to deliver a bleak, blackly comic portrait of sexism in the City. Astrid is a 42-year-old female broker, who, to make it in a testosterone-packed planet, has turn out to be a lot more ballsy than the blokes, and, as she says, channelling Ginger Rogers, done it all in heels. But when she takes on a new young female protégée (Ellora Torchia), items start to unravel and she realises that, by playing by the guidelines of a patriarchal set-up, she has let herself be played.

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It’s a excellent premise and, as Bubnic herself makes clear, it is not genuinely about the City: it’s about endemic sexism a lot more broadly and about how you change a culture rather than survive in it by internalising its values. Meanwhile a connection that Astrid strikes up with a prostitute touches on broader questions about when and whether females are empowering themselves by way of sex and when they are getting exploited.

The play doesn’t get deep enough into these concerns, though, and is hampered by a rather clunky plot and some truly awkward scenes guying the drunken, bully-boy antics of Astrid’s colleagues. The males are deliberate caricatures and that they are played by females here ought to accentuate that their macho strutting is an act. But sadly they are way too formulaic to hit property: a ruthless, challenging-speaking boss and a dozy City boy employed only simply because his Dad has a lot of clout.

What lifts it is the sensible notion of shaping it as a cabaret, so scenes are spliced, in Amy Hodge’s staging, with dance sequences and solos from Kirsty Bushell’s Astrid at the onstage piano. And Bushell is terrific as Astrid: acerbic, funny, she flirts with the audience, inviting intimacy then slapping it back at the last moment. She also has a wealthy voice and puts across some great and apt blues numbers, finishing with Etta James’s “I’d Rather Go Blind.” Sharp notion, but too hit and miss in execution.

To July 30, bushtheatre.co.uk

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Section: Arts


AlunaGeorge, Scala, London — ‘Quirky, catchy’

Aluna Francis of AlunaGeorge at the Scala. Photo: Robin Pope/Retna/Photoshot©Robin Pope/Retna/Photoshot

Aluna Francis of AlunaGeorge at the Scala. Photo: Robin Pope/Retna/Photoshot

“We had this unplaceable sound: glitchy beats with pop songs more than them,” Aluna Francis said earlier this year. But the music she tends to make with George Reid as AlunaGeorge is not unplaceable to their new US label, Interscope. It is the sound of London, or a marketable version of it: multicultural, pan-generic, quirky, catchy.

The model is Disclosure, the Surrey dance-pop duo whose 2013 debut struck gold in the US. But Disclosure’s bland, mainstream-chasing stick to-up is a warning to AlunaGeorge. Elevated commercial expectations tend to have the perverse impact of ironing out the qualities that created an act fascinating in the initial location. Will AlunaGeorge’s next album be a case of significantly less glitch and more pop?

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The record is not due until September but the query was emphatically answered at the Scala. They opened with “Attracting Flies” from their 2013 debut Physique Language , a charming alt-R&ampB number built about a cute squiggly melody, greeted with the warmth of familiarity by the pair’s hometown audience. But it was produced to appear winsome subsequent to the very first new song debuted, an elegantly urgent dance quantity with a twist of dub reggae and synthesised sax, a effectively-worked mix of repetition and unpredictability.

Francis was out front singing, flanked by a pair of dancers. Reid stood behind her, surrounded by keyboards and synths the only other musician was a drummer. The hour-long set blended tracks from the forthcoming album, I Don’t forget, with old favourites, like their collaboration with Disclosure, “White Noise”, a UK hit in 2013.

New songs were bigger and a lot more assertive than these from Physique Language, but no significantly less agile. Hip-hop beats shaded into dance music peaks and drops pop sheen was applied to Jamaican dancehall rhythms. A characterless ballad with the emollient name of “Mediator” was the only misstep. Much more typical was the commanding flow of newest single “I’m in Control”. Francis epitomised its sentiments, a charismatic frontwoman, at when dynamic and at ease. Her singing was higher and sweet, but she negotiated even the most bustling passages of music with out providing an inch. It was the sound of somebody moving to the next level with consummate assurance.

alunageorge.com

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Section: Arts


Neil Young, 02 Arena, London — ‘Mesmerising’

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JUNE 05: Neil Young performs at The SSE Hydro on June 5, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ross Gilmore/Redferns)

Neil Young performs on the Earth tour. Photo: Ross Gilmore/Redferns

“You commence down in the Shire, and by the end, you are in the crater of Mount Doom.” So stated Micah Nelson final year of Neil Young’s newest, epic touring show. (With each other with his brother Lukas, this son of Willie fronts the fantastic man’s backing group, Guarantee of the Actual.) Even if the 70-year-old Canadian is nobody’s idea of a retiring hobbit, the Tolkien analogy isn’t a bad one for a mighty, usually mesmerising yarn of a gig that sweeps from heart-sore balladry to whammy-hammering electric guitar jams — with a touch of Manichean panto thrown in.

It begins with two figures scattering seeds (“hurrah!”) later, 3 other folks in hazmat gear spray pesticides (“boo!”). Apart from the title track of 2015’s GM-crops-trashing, corporate-greed-bashing idea album The Monsanto Years and the splashy, rowdy newie “Seed Justice”, that’s the extent of the agitprop, though the star’s eco-sympathies frame the opening movingly. A downlight reveals Young, solo, at a stand-up piano. That famously reedy voice — maybe more watery, but still clear — launches into “After the Gold Rush” with an elder’s conviction. The updated lyric “Look at Mother Nature on the run, in the 21st century” rings out over Young’s filigree playing. “Heart of Gold”, on acoustic guitar, has a stoic’s dignity and an old rebel’s defiance. A pump organ, meanwhile, provides a ceremonial air to the lamentation “Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)”.

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With his band now on board, “Out on the Weekend” seems much more leisurely drive than drifter’s escape: the incongruous patter of congas from the percussionist has me imagining Young and new squeeze Daryl Hannah pootling down to Acapulco. In reality, this mellow middle section is rather too sweetened with soft-concentrate nostalgia. It is a relief when Young straps on his Gretsch White Falcon for the baleful stew of “Alabama”, and the jamming genuinely gets below way.

The riffing becomes really immersive once Young switches to “Old Black”, his 1953 Les Paul. “Love to Burn” manages to be thunderous and meditative “Mansion on the Hill” giddily consoling the seldom heard “Revolution Blues” nevertheless menacing and magnificently bitter. As with the best journeys, it is not the arriving that counts but the acquiring there.

neilyoung.com

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Section: Arts