US Secretary of State Antony Blinken covers Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World in Kyiv, Ukraine

The performance came amid a surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital after the US signed a new aid package for the embattled country.

Antony Blinken captured with a red Epiphone in hand among band 19.99 on stage

Image: Brendan Smialowski / Getty

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Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, joined a Ukrainian rock band in Kyiv to play Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World following a number of meetings and pronouncements regarding US military aid, as the country remains at war with Russia.

The song was originally released as part of Young’s 1989 album, Freedom. Its lyrics were inspired by the political landscape at the time, and were critical of George H. W. Bush’s presidential administration.

Blinken was captured earlier this week singing with an Epiphone guitar in hand at Barman Dictat, a speakeasy-style bar in Kyiv hidden in a basement inside a courtyard, according to The Guardian.

Before playing, Blinken said, “The United States is with you, so much of the world is with you and they’re fighting not just for a free Ukraine, but for the free world. And the free world is with you, too.”

Reportedly, the band – who are called 19.99 –  were told before the event that they would be performing with Neil Young himself (according to one of its members), but were told to keep it a secret. It was only at the last minute that they discovered their guest member was actually Blinken.

Guitarist Arsen Gorbach told BBC Radio 4, “He was connecting with eyes, with our band leader, with me … It was our first performance on stage but it feels like we were a band for two years.”

The performance has received mixed opinions online, with some criticising Blinken for spending time in a bar during the ongoing unrest, though others saw it as a gesture of support.

Take a look below:

Young and longtime collaborators Crazy Horse released a new live album, FU##IN’ UP, last April. The record was recorded at shows from 2023, and features nine songs on two LPs. It first arrived on a limited edition colour vinyl pressing on Record Store Day (20 April) with a wider, all-format release on 26 April.

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