Revisit Thom Yorke’s touching cover of Neil Young’s classic ‘After The Gold Rush’
Neil Young’s annual charity event for The Bridge School has seen some incredible acts grace its stage. One such memorable moment came from Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke in 2002 as the singer covered Young’s classic track ‘After The Gold Rush’.
The footage shows the entirety of the two performances Yorke gave for the benefit concert and sees the star take on the 1970 piano number with a touching authenticity. The singer has never been afraid to pay homage to his preferred singers and it is clear as day the affections he holds not only for this song but the event’s organiser Neil Young.
Back in 2002, Thom Yorke wasn’t exactly the acclaimed solo artist he is today, making soundtracks, albums and film scores. With previous acts including the likes of David Bowie, Tom Petty and Young, himself, the stage had been graced by some of rock’s leading lights and was quickly becoming a daunting place to be. Though this was four years before Yorke’s debut solo record The Eraser would arrive, in the video below he shows that he was more than capable of holding an audience all by himself.
The singer provided both nights of the event with a beautifully touching stripped back performance of some Radiohead stalwarts including ‘True Love Waits’ and ‘Paranoid Android’—two outstanding performances in their own right. However, it was on the final moments of the first evening that Yorke would gather up the audience in his grasp and deliver the standout moment of the weekend.
Yorke is a huge Neil Young fan but his obsession with the songwriter started in far more curious circumstances than you may be expecting. As a 16-year-old, he sent some home recordings into the BBC: “They said, ‘This guy sounds like Neil Young,’” Yorke told the BBC in 2008. “I was like, ‘Who is Neil Young?’”
The singer soon found himself a nearby record shop to write his wrongs and picked up Young’s 1970 LP After The Gold Rush. “I immediately fell in love with his music,” said Yorke. “He has that soft vibrato that nobody else has. More than that, it was his attitude toward the way he laid songs down. It’s always about laying down whatever is in your head at the time and staying completely true to that, no matter what it is.”
After being asked by Young to perform at the event, Yorke decided to pay homage to the artist and the first album purchase by covering the titular track as the final number for his first appearance. It starts around the 15:25 mark on the video below and, though we’d suggest the whole performance is worth watching, especially if you’re a Radiohead fan, this particular rendition of the song is simply beguiling.
In the clip, Yorke says, sitting down at the famous piano on stage, “This piano is Neil Young’s piano, and this piano is making me do this,” as he plays the first notes of ‘After The Gold Rush’. The crowd roars and Yorke cements the touching moment with a beautiful performance of one of his favourite songs. It can seem trivial to watch this now and feel connected with performance but the audience in attendance are clearly enthralled almost as much as Thom Yorke himself is.
Watch Thom Yorke performing Neil Young’s classic ‘After The Gold Rush and his entire performance at The Bridge School Benefit in 2002:
Thom Yorke setlist:
‘Everything In Its Right Place’ ‘I Might Be Wrong’ ‘There There ‘Lucky’ ‘After the Gold Rush’ ‘Morning Bell’ ‘Nice Dream’ ‘True Love Waits’ ‘Paranoid Android’