24 April 2016

Wallowing in the music of Neil Young with The Honeyslides at The Half Moon

I have seen many covers bands in the last few years, mostly at the Fox and Duck, and while they do the occasional Neil Young song it is not that often and it is almost always Rockin' in the Free World. So when an opportunity arose to see a Neil Young covers band I jumped at the chance even though it meant paying £8 (the Fox and Duck is free), travelling to Putney and missing the Sunday night pub quiz.

The band in question were the Honeyslides who get their name from a mysterious concoction known as a 'honey slide' that was heavily consumed during the On The Beach sessions. A somewhat obscure connection, I will admit, but they made up for it by putting Neil Young on their poster and going for a Harvest album cover look.

The doors were due to open at 8pm so Pete and I arranged to meet at 7pm and let the 85 bus take us steadily from Kingston to Putney. We arrived in good time and that allowed us to look in the windows of a books and a comics shop as we passed. It also allowed us to grab our first beers before going in.

I dug out my t-shirt from the NYAS London Convention in 2005, celebrating Neil's sixtieth birthday, and there were a few other NY t-shirts in the bar and quite a few people who looked like NY fans either because of their lumberjack style checked shirts or their general age and appearance.

There were a few very keen people standing near the door waiting for them to open and we were among them and so were able to claim a good spot. I was expecting it to be standing at the front but the room was arranged with tables and chairs at the front so we claimed a couple of seats at the table in the centre. Speaking to a couple sharing the table with us it appears that this arrangement is not unusual and I must admit that it was nice to have somewhere to put my beer, which encouraged me to have more beers than I might otherwise have done.

The Honeyslides took the stage soon after 8:30pm in a formation akin to Neil Young and Crazy Horse, a good sign. In addition to the four band members shown below there was a female vocalist who provided backing vocals on most songs.

I was not interested in compiling a full set list, just making a note on my phone of the songs that made be happy the most, and it became quite a long list. Normally in Neil Young circles, and elsewhere, songs are known by their initials, e.g. Rockin' in the Free World is RITFW, but I preferred to use key words and my list was; Cinnamon, Hurricane, Words, Alabama, River, Helpless, Heart, Sugar, Powder, Cowgirl, Cortez, Ohio, Southern,  Tonight, Rockin'. Remember, these were just my favourite tracks and there were fifteen of them!

As expected with Neil Young there was a mix of the rock and the folk with a run of four acoustic numbers (Helpless, Heart, Sugar, Powder) in the middle. The songs were not as long as NY has been known to play them but I timed Like a Hurricane at around ten minutes and some of the other songs, e.g. Cortex the Killer, were string out to a similar length with the extended guitar solos over the sympathetic rhythms of the rest of the band.

I was absolutely delighted with both the choice of songs and the way that they were played. My feet were tapping, my head was shaking and my lips followed the words. I was in rapture. It was that good.

The Honeyslides played for the best part of two and a half hours and were only stopped by the pub's curfew, they had more songs to play and they looked to have the energy and enthusiasm to play them.  I managed to get a few words with main-man Tom Billington afterwards and he was still energetic and enthusiastic as I explained how much I had enjoyed the performance.

There was so much to love in the music and, for reasons that I do not understand or particularly care about, it was Words (Between the Lines of Age) that rattled around my head for the next few days. A fitting tribute to a great evening.

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