In a career that’s spanned 45 years and more than 30 studio albums - just how do you go about assembling a setlist that does justice to Neil Young?
OK, so we can discount most of the 80’s when he lost his mojo and briefly flirted with synthesizers, but that still leaves a Mount Everest-sized cliff face of great work to clamber over. For my money, even Young’s biggest rivals like Dylan, Springsteen and Lennon and McCartney all come up short over the long haul.
Five-piece tribute band Heart of Rust rose to the challenge admirably though, cannily merging shoe-in choices with relative obscurities for the die-hards.
And they were equally fine at showing both sides of Young’s persona - the gnarly Crazy Horse rock hero and the delicate folk troubadour.
David James had Young’s distinctive nasally, shaky vocals down to a tee as well as his nasty, overdriven Gibson electric sound.
They kicked off in reflective mode, with the nostalgic Buffalo Springfield Again and two prime cuts from his most commercially successful album, Harvest - Old Man and Out On The Weekend, the latter boasting a sweet pedal steel solo from Yi Vei Kok in the Ben Keith role. Bassist Tony Fitzpatrick took over on vocal duties for Helpless before the band turned the guitars up and blasted out the still-powerful Ohio and Southern Man, which found James channelling his hero’s soloing style like he was wrestling with an electric eel.
Second half selections went more off piste and included Don’t Be Denied, Roll Another Number (For The Road) and a brave stab at the frazzled Mellow My Mind.
Of course, no Young tribute would be complete without a little self-indulgent jamming and the band got their opportunity to stretch out with Cortez The Killer and Down By The River. Young himself, has been known to start those songs clean shaven and finish with a full beard.
As curfew passed, James came full circle and squeezed in an unamplified version of Young’s Sugar Mountain, penned when the songwriter was just 19. Five decades on, he’s still casting a spell over us.