Neil Young (with Promise of the Real) and Paul McCartney at Desert Trip, in Indio, Calif., on Saturday.
Coming together, over the Beatles.
For the second consecutive night, Liverpool’s most famous band was the darling of the Desert Trip festival. On Friday, the Rolling Stones covered the creepy Lennon-McCartney classic Come Together, which provided an announced crowd of 75,000 people the unexpected opportunity to hear Mick Jagger wrap his lips around such eclectic phrases as “He got muddy water, he one mojo filter” and “He got Ono sideboard, he one spinal cracker” and “He got joo-joo eyeball, he one holy roller.”
Saturday’s Fab Four moment was more foreseeable, given that one of the best Beatles ever, Paul McCartney, was one of the evening’s two attractions. The other one was Neil Young, who after his own epic opening set, joined McCartney for his medley of A Day in the Life and John Lennon’s Give Peace a Chance, complete with giant peace signs on the screen behind them.
The mashup was pure catnip for the baby boomers, who might have expected the collaboration, given that Young has covered A Day in the Life previously. After an appeal from McCartney – “Come on Neil, you gotta solo on this one for me” – the Canadian rocker stayed on for Why Don’t We Do it in the Road?, the White Album piano-pounder not known to be part of McCartney’s live repertoire.
Young’s own robust set was marked by a political bent and new material, sometimes both at the same time, as was the case with the folk-rocked Show Me. Another one fresh off the press satirically commented on hang-gliding terrorists, fear-mongering and finger-pointing: “I think I know who to blame/ All those people with funny names.”
Young was in good humour, telling the audience to make sure to come back on Sunday to see The Wall conceptualist Roger Waters. “Roger’s gonna build a wall and make Mexico great again,” Young said. Later, he declared Welfare Mothers to be Donald Trump’s new campaign song.
The troubadour began his performance alone on stage at an upright piano for a slightly updated After the Gold Rush: “Look at Mother Nature on the run, in the 21st century.” Later, his current live band, Promise of the Real, electrified the occasion, particularly on an extended version of the classic guitar jam Down by the River, during which he hit angry, lonely notes on his Les Paul guitar and sang about shooting his baby dead. He countered the rage with soft sociopathic murmurs of “be on my side,” which seemed in the context of the song to be less a plea and more a strong suggestion (if not a veiled threat.)
McCartney covered a commendable amount of ground, defying a line from Band on the Run –“Well, the night was falling, as the desert world began to settle down”– by ramping up the energy again and again.
The affable Beatle was in an honouring mode, dedicating songs to his wife (My Valentine), producer George Martin (Love Me Do), John Lennon (Here Today) and Jimi Hendrix (whose Foxy Lady was tacked on as an outro to the Wings’ blues-rocker Let Me Roll It).
Before Day Tripper, McCartney told the seemingly endless audience that “We’re going to have a party tonight, Liverpool style.” Ironically, when it came to kicking it old-school Liverpool, the song that may have exemplified the Beatles hometown heritage was In Spite of All the Danger, a country strummer in the early Elvis Presley style that was recorded as a demo tape by The Quarryman, which included McCartney, Lennon and George Harrison and two others.
The song was a peculiar choice, perhaps even an indulgent one. But that’s McCartney – he one mojo filter.
Desert Trip’s final day finds The Who opening for Roger Waters on Sunday. The first weekend’s schedule is repeated next weekend.
Neil Young set list:
After the Gold Rush
Heart of Gold
Comes a Time
Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)
Out on the Weekend
Words (Between the Lines of Age)
Down by the River
Rockin’ in the Free World
Paul McCartney set list:
A Hard Day’s Night
Can't Buy Me Love
Let Me Roll It
I’ve Got a Feeling
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
Maybe I’m Amazed
We Can Work It Out
In Spite of All the Danger
I’ve Just Seen a Face
Love Me Do
And I Love Her
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
A Day in the Life/Give Peace a Chance (with Neil Young)
Why Don’t We Do It in the Road? (with Neil Young)
Band on the Run
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
I Wanna Be Your Man
Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The EndReport Typo/Error