The Human Highway is a six-piece band covering the songs of Neil Young from Western Australia, formed by David Hyams, who plays guitars and does the majority of the vocals. David is backed by five other musicians, playing instruments essential to Neil Young’s song book, like steel pedal guitar, keyboards and fiddle. And Dave does look and sound a little like Neil.
When one attends a “tribute” bands performance, be it U2, The Beatles or an Oasis one, you can usually pick the songs they will play. They don’t generally dig too deep, so I was suitably impressed when the band started the first set with Out on the Weekend, a cut from Neil’s Harvest album. Comes a Time follows and then yet another deep cut in Look Out for My Love, also from the Comes a Time album. Jeremy Threlfall moved from peddle guitar to electric for the song, adding new depth to the sound. Interestingly, the band The Human Highway is named after a song from the Comes a Time album, but the song was not played this evening.
Old Man and Harvest came next before Dave changed his acoustic guitars with electric, for a trip down memory lane to the sixties and For What It’s Worth, a song from Neil’s Buffalo Springfield days. The next song, Long May You Run, came from his time with Crosby, Still, Nash and Young. Roy Martinez played bass guitar and keyboards at the same time on this number, not an easy feat.
The band were tight and the backing vocals heavenly beautiful. Rose Parker is not just a great singer; she also plays guitar. David invited us “to come Perth for a concert with Rose when she releases her new songs in the coming weeks” Rose took lead vocal on Motorcycle Mama and showed a trip maybe well worthwhile.
Cortez the Killer, a Neil classic, rounded out the first set and included a fine violin solo from Adam Glare. Set two started with some Neil Young staple, Down by the River, Powderfinger, Cinnamon Girl and When You Dance, leading to some people getting up off their chairs and dancing.
When Neil recorded Man Needs a Maid for the Harvest album, he used The London Symphony Orchestra, but David told us “The London Symphony was busy tonight and couldn’t come.” However, with just keyboard and drums playing behind David’s vocal’s, it really did sound like an orchestra playing and the song remained faithful to the original. They really dug deep for Ride my Llama from the Rust Never Sleeps album. Nice.
Rose returned to lead vocal for a stunning rendition of Don’t Let It Bring You Down, before the closing onslaught of Like a Hurricane, surprisingly done without the traditional organ intro but with a furious violin playing during the song adding a flood of sound that kept on giving and a very electric Hey Hey My My (Into the Black).
Drummer Russell Wilson marched back on stage beckoning his band members to follow and the evening finished with Only Love Can Break Your Heart and a short Rockin’ in The Free World that should have been ten minutes longer.
It can’t be easy being in a tribute band. People will always say “you should have played this or that song” It would be even harder doing Neil Young songs as he has released or been involved with, over fifty studio albums. So which songs did I wish they had played? I couldn’t fault the set list played. They went outside the “hits” at times which was great but maybe I would have liked to hear a couple of songs Neil released after the year 2000, like Ramada Inn, Ordinary People or Driftin’ Back.
I did leave the venue with a smile on my face, ripped the new Stones CD out of the car player and put in a live Neil Young CD for the trip home.
A wonderful evening of great music and memories of my favourite 21st Century concert, Neil Young & Crazy Horse at the Entertainment Centre.
Live Review By Geoff Jenke
Photo Credit: Geoff Jenke