Neil Young + Promise of the Real gave a triumphant performance at Roskilde day three last night. Opening with a solo acoustic set that included the classics ‘After The Gold Rush, ‘Heart Of Gold’, and ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’, Young then spent the next two and a half hours blasting through a set accented by politically and environmentally conscious songs with his full electric band, who were the most spectacular guitar band of the festival so far.
Wearing a t-shirt with the logo from his new album live album Earth, Young’s set – in keeping with the album – portrayed a man nobly stirred by the greatest injustices on the planet. This is a band who truly have something to say. The anti-war sentiment on ‘Western Hero' shone with devastating realism in the following verse: "And on the shores at Normandy He fought for you/ he fought for me/ Across the land and on the sea/ But now he's just a memory.”
Meanwhile, on ‘Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)’ the words: "How long can you give and not receive/ And feed this world ruled by greed" are a powerful message to be belting out to the tens of thousands of people there, and it's especially relevant at a festival that’s won an award for its green operations.
Musically the set was, as already indicated above, a jaw-dropping display of guitar virtuosity. But importantly it wasn’t the Neil Young show. He gave the stage away to Willie Nelson’s son, Lukas, on so many occasions – it was as if he’s showcasing the next generation of guitar greats to the world and giving them his blessing. The extended jam’s during songs saw Young and Nelson egging each other on to create the most incredible on-stage chemistry. Meanwhile, the rest of the band, are musicians Young seemed to have an immense time playing with, too.
They only started touring with Young last year when he was touring his album The Monsanto Years but they are up there with the best of Young’s backing bands - including Crazy Horse. Their most impresive technical moment was the outro to 'Seed Justice' which led into a powerful rendition ‘Keep On Rocking In The Free World'. After this cut he bowed out with grace as he proudly roared the words Promise of the Real. Everyone in the festival was won over by them and over the moon to see them return with 'Love And Only Love' for an extended encore.
At most festivals, Neil Young’s set would be the end of the night. But, after nearly three hours of Neil Young, Tame Impala were merely a five-minute walk away playing to the biggest crowd to have gathered at Arena (the second biggest stage) all weekend. “We played here in 2010 but this is next level” stated Kevin Parker as he was humbled by the turnout. It was nearly impossible to get close as the crowed lapped up the blissed out psych pop of cuts like ‘Let It Happen, ‘Feels Like We Only Going Backwards’.
Elsewhere, new band Car Seat Headrest, led by 23-year-old Will Toledo who made 12 albums on BandCamp before getting signed, made a strong case to be hiked up the bill next year. They played to a packed out Pavilion stage at 2.15am and there was a sense among everyone, who eluded the likes of James Blake and M83 to see them, that it was a good decision. The Pavement-esque four piece have built some impressive songs that are projected with so much vigour thanks to lead guitarist and backing singer Ethan Ives’ energy complimenting Toledo’s. Their bassist largely just stands there in a nonchalant cool way whilst the drummer is self-confident and has a microphone and regularly ups the energy of the show encouraging the audience to dance.
The way their songs build with the loud quiet dynamic, the sharp lyrics that ranges from playful to sexually frank to sorrowful, often within the same song, make them one of the most impressive indie bands to have come out of America since Christopher Owens’ Girls.
James Blake’s set, which went on beyond the end of Car Seat Headrest’s, was an emotional experience. Before he played ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ he made a speech honouring his band for making his electronic music possible live but he could hardly get a word out to begin with due to the hysteria in the crowd. The TV camera on the big screen honed in on certain audience members faces who looked across to Blake with astonishment and also tears in their eyes in reaction to just how brilliant he had been. There was no limit to the love.
Earlier, in the day Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufield made the most impressive sound for two people on stage playing acoustic instruments imaginable. The bass from the baritone sax interacting with former Arcade Fire violinist’s playing was the most goosebump-inducing experience and a fantastic way to experience the Gloria stage. The Gloria stage is one of the only indoor spaces to watch bands in the festival and is blessed with mystical decorations and ambient lighting.