Concert Review: Neil Young’s Live Rust – The Civic, August 9, 2019

An all-star New Zealand lineup hit the stage at The Civic last night, delivering three hours of Neil Young classics including a track-by-track performance of the rock masterpiece, Live Rust, celebrating the album’s 40th anniversary.

‘Supergroup’ is a term that hasn’t felt so overwhelmingly applicable as it did last night since Cream formed in 1966. While the British rock band featured three musicians of phenomenal talent, last night’s performance of Neil Young classics and a full, track-by-track, back-to-back rendition of the 1979 album, Live Rust, displayed the staggering talent of nine all-star New Zealand musicians.

Consisting of Liam Finn, Jon Toogood, Sam Scott, SJD, Reb Fountain, Delaney Davidson, Chris O’Connor, Brett Adams and Dianne Swann, you’d be hard-pressed to find a performance so vibrant in energy, enthusiasm, and pure talent as last night’s concert at The Civic. While all of these musicians are capable of delivering brilliant, individual performances at their respective gigs, to see them perform together last night was nothing short of pure magic.

The first 90 minutes of the concert including selected Neil Young classics, opening with a gorgeous quartet of strings and excellent group renditions of the Buffalo Springfield favourites, Expecting to Fly and Broken Arrow, before Delaney Davidson elevated the energy in the room to palpable levels with his captivating performances in Mr Soul and the gut-wrenching Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young counterculture protest song, Ohio.

SJD (Sean James Donnelly), Dianne Swann, Sam Scott, and Reb Fountain weaved their complementary sounds through Don’t Let it Bring You Down, Helpless, Down By The River, and Revolutionary Blues, before Jon Toogood took centre stage for a flawless and powerful performance of the Harvest hit, Old Man, afterward addressing the crowd and revealing the concert also marked his 48th birthday.

With the collected band on stage together for Harvest Moon – featuring a perfectly authentic use of musical broom by Reb Fountain, lead vocals by Sam Scott, and angelic harmonising vocals by Liam Finn and Dianne Swann – the first set closed with Pocahontas, Cowgirl in the Sand, and Southern Man which, despite feeling it was impossible, raised the bar even higher through a combination of thumping drums by Chris O’Connor, and the howling guitar and pure musical brilliance of Brett Adams and Delaney Davidson.

To look at the collaborative performances mentioned so far, this would have easily been a satisfactory concert had the evening ended there – and this barely covers the consistent presence of every member of the supergroup, each of them nimbly moving throughout the stage and drifting between backing vocals, percussion, and taking the individual or shared spotlight throughout.

Following a short break and the raising of the stage backdrop, the group returned to begin the second half of their performance: the full, track-by-track, back-to-back rendition of Live Rust. By this point, and with absolutely no exaggeration, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking there couldn’t be any improvement on what we’d already seen on stage. However, with Reb Fountain taking a seat at the piano for After the Gold Rush, what followed was a balanced and precise rendition that made me fall in love with Neil Young and Live Rust all over again.

To hit that high point with 12 songs yet to be played is a feat within itself, but to elicit that same level of awe and appreciation from an entire theatre of die-hard fans for the remainder of the set was simply breathtaking – it was a collective performance that demanded adjectives yet-to-be invented within the English language. Jon Toogood’s stable and resonating presence in My My Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) was beautifully contrast with Liam Finn’s penultimate Hey Hey My My (Into the Black), while Finn’s solo acoustic on The Needle and the Damage Done showed an artist capable of near-immeasurable talent.

Special mention – if that is even possible within this review – must be given to the duo of Reb Fountain and Dianne Swann, who seemed at once euphoric, graceful, and unfathomably appreciative of their opportunity to perform these songs, reflecting the pure joy of the crowd in their every moment across the stage and directly toward their fellow musicians. It was something that tribute bands often fail to achieve – a true, undeniable level of respect for both the artist’s work they are rendering on stage, and a performance which seems not just for them, or the crowd, but for everyone in attendance, including themselves.

With the entire theatre clapping along to Tonight’s the Night, it seemed almost unfair that we received an encore, with the entire supergroup closing the evening with Heart Of Gold and

Rockin’ in the Free World on a soaring high note and final burst of energy.

To witness last night’s concert was to see a group of musicians at the very height of their combined musical excellence, putting on an unforgettable show that paid fitting tribute to an artist who helped invent and shape modern rock, folk, and country – it was a concert that many in attendance will never forget, and one that will reignite their passion for an unforgettable musical icon.

Oxford Lamoureaux

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Ivan Karczewski:


Set 1
Expecting to Fly
Broken Arrow
Mr Soul
Don’t Let it Bring You Down
Down By The River
Revolution Blues
Old Man
Harvest Moon
Cowgirl in the Sand
Southern Man

Set 2 – Live Rust
Sugar Mountain
I Am A Child
Comes a Time
After the Gold Rush
My My Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)
When You Dance I Can Really Love
The Loner
The Needle and the Damage Done
Lotta Love
Sedan Delivery
Cortez the Killer
Cinnamon Girl
Like a Hurricane
Hey Hey My My (Into the Black)
Tonight’s the Night

Heart Of Gold
Rockin’ in the Free World