Neil Young‘s “On the Beach,” the second-side opener from his 1974 album of the same name, is a masterpiece of elliptical storytelling and narcotic atmosphere. It moves languidly, like smoke from the end of a joint, and privileges the spaces between the notes as much as the notes themselves. It’s far from a fist-pumping arena-rocker, which is perhaps why Young rarely ever plays it live. But he did last night, at a concert in Antwerp. As Pitchfork notes, it’s Young’s first “On the Beach” performance since 2003, and the first with a full band behind him since the year the On the Beach album came out.
Young, and his band Promise of the Real, nailed the quiet intensity of the studio version, amping it up only slightly to suit the large crowd. His guitar playing, in particular, sounds great: tasteful, confident, and unhurried. It’s a remarkable performance, even if you don’t factor in the fact that this is a man in his 70s dusting off an old song for the first time in over a decade, backed by musicians who have never played it publicly with him before. Watch crowd-shot footage of the show below.