A Spiritual Neil Young Experience & Healing Paul McCartney Show At Desert Trip

17 October 2016 | 2:26 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

We're at Desert Trip!

Give peace a chance

Give peace a chance

More Neil Young More Neil Young

Bryget Chrisfield, Melbourne editor of The Music, is in the thick of Californian heritage rock festival Desert Trip, and while she’s witnessing music icons deliver mammoth sets, there’s no decent wine in sight.

If you thought blowing your nose after Meredith produced a grisly sight in the tissue, you ought to see the fallout from Desert Trip! After sleeping in ridiculously long as our brains recovered from extreme wonderment experienced yesterday, there's barely enough time for a Starbucks run and a round of housemade Margaritas before we hit the road again.

One girl swirls a hula hoop that lights up multicoloured as Neil Young performs a set of pure gold, commencing with a winning triumvirate of After The Gold RushHeart Of Gold and Old Man. We're immediately stumped by his brilliance. Young wears a T-shirt that reads "Water Is Life" as do tepees that have been erected on and around the stage. Young's new band Promise Of The Real features Willie Nelson's kid, Lukas, on guitar and he fully reprazents his dad tonight, wearing not only a bandanna that reads "Willie Nelson", but also a T-shirt emblazoned with his father's legendary name. Maybe a statement that he reckons his pop should've been included on this festival bill?

We stare up at a clear full moon during Harvest Moon - a spiritual experience. At one point Young jokingly 'apologises', "We only have so many songs to choose from," before picking up a massive, poster-sized placard with the songs he and has band have rehearsed: "electric" on one side, "acoustic" on the other.

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There's an epic freakout jam during Cowgirl In The Sand that sees this song stretched into the length of four regular songs. We're in fits before Seed Justice as Young brings out a huge basket filled with little bags of seeds, which he distributes throughout the front standing section. He jokes that Jagger was "the Little Red Riding Hood" (one of Jagger's silk shirts actually did boast a red-hood feature) who left this basket behind last night. "There's a California seed law that says you can't take these seeds from one country to the next because they're organic," Neil explains. "So I'm gonna give you some seeds and you can take these seeds wherever you want, and then go report yourself to the police." After pointing out these seeds are "absolutely free", Young cheekily adds, "But if you break the law, you might not be so keep your seeds in your pocket". 

Young's closing trifecta of Like A HurricanePeace Trail and Rockin' In The Free World are particularly affecting in this setting and we can't help but ponder and fear for this country's political future. 

Whoever's DJing between sets is majorly annoying and we would prefer to just tune into Desert Trip Radio, which has supplied an excellent soundtrack throughout our stay. We look around for a brass section during Paul McCartney's opener, Got To Get You Into My Life, but fail to locate one; it has to be said that the keys perfectly replicate these sounds. But seriously, that Day Tripper riff is right up there as contender for best riff of Desert Trip. While we're discussing its merits, in comes another contender: Wings' Let Me Roll It

McCartney's drummer Abe Laboriel Jr is a knockout. And lead guitarist Rusty Anderson is also a gun. McCartney tells us that, two days after they released Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Jimi Hendrix tried to learn the song and came into a bit of trouble. While tuning his red guitar decorated with loads of people with outstretched arms, McCartney enquirers as to whether Eric Clapton is in the house. "Will you come out here and tune this for me?" McCartney's guitar skills are off the chart. He sits at the piano to perform My Valentine, a song he wrote for his wife Nancy, and the visuals are classy black and white. While he's seated at the piano, we also score Maybe I'm Amazed. "There's a nice smell here, right?" McCartney observes. 

Lesson learnt: we're really spoilt with the quality of Australian wine sold at our festivals - don't go there here! 

"This is before we were in The Beatles... we paid five pounds to make this demo," is how In Spite Of All The Danger is introed. "Without George there would've been no Beatles," McCartney acknowledges. Blackbird he tells us was written for Alabama and other places McCartney heard of that were experiencing "troubles".

It's moving beyond belief. "I wrote this next song now after John passed away," McCartney shares after expressing his regrets over not telling Lennon what he wanted to tell him while he was still alive; we're treated to a touching tribute via Here Today. While we're still basking in the afterglow of this poignant performance, McCartney introduces RiRi to the stage and they perform the hideous FourFiveSeconds

And McCartney must deliver the following cringeworthy lyrics: "If I go to jail tonight/Promise you'll pay my bail." Rihanna's baggy black-and-white pinstriped suit is naff. We wish McCartney could leave a tender moment alone. But then Eleanor Rigby rapidly salvages the vibe.

Neil Young is introduced to the stage and something goes wrong. "Your first technical difficulty has arrived," Young announces. McCartney replies, "We like technical difficulties, it proves we're live." Young shares vocals on A Day In The Life, which segues into Give Peace A Chance. Then Young rips out a ball-tearing solo during The Beatles' Why Don't We Do It In The Road?, which had previously not been performed live in concert before it was premiered (also with Young's help) last weekend. 

"Neil Young - the one and only," leaves the stage and then McCartney's solo rendition of Something raises the hackles on our backs. He asks for our help singing Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da and then Back In The USSR absolutely goes off! McCartney reminds us The Beatles were the first band to play in Russia as part of a "cultural exchange" and his stories enlighten throughout the set. He returns to the piano stool for Let It Be then crazy pyros punctuate Live And Let Die. The sound of 70,000 people singing along with Hey Judeprobably contains healing powers.

Flags including the American, English and rainbow variety (hey, where's ours?) are brandished across the stage and the message of harmony is fully received.