Ukrainian band told they would play with Neil Young ‘disappointed’ after Antony Blinken walks out

A Ukrainian guitarist has said he was left “disappointed” after being told that he’d be playing Rockin’ in the Free World with Neil Young – before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken came on stage.

Mr Blinken, 62, made a surprise visit to Kyiv to reassure Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky of the continued US support as Russia’s offensive intensifies in the Kharkiv region.

Just hours after declaring that Ukraine is “not alone” on the political stage on Tuesday, the secretary of state picked up a guitar performed to a live audience.

Armed with a cherry-red Gibson 335, Mr Blinken arrived at Barman Dictat, a bustling live music bar in the heart of Kyiv.

Along with a band called 19.99, he performed Rockin’ in the Free World, a classic 1989 hit released just months prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall from Canadian- American musician Neil Young.

However, the band’s guitarist, Arsen Gorbach, revealed that 19.99 were told that they’d be performing alongside the folk-rock legend himself, and were “disappointed” when they learned it would be Mr Blinken instead.

US Secretary of State joins 19.99 band at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
US Secretary of State joins 19.99 band at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

“We thought, and we were messaged, that it would be Neil Young,” Mr Gorbach said on BBC Radio 4’sToday programme on Wednesday morning.

However, before the gig, the band were in fact informed that they would be performing alongside Mr Blinken, with the news seemingly leaving 19.99 dispirited.

“We were disappointed,” the band’s guitarist admitted.

After getting over the woes that they wouldn’t be performing alongside Young, Mr Gorbach said that he was impressed by the secretary of state’s vocal and guitar skills.

“He was connecting with his eyes with our band leader; with me. We were playing like an ensemble,” he said.

“It was our first time performing on stage, but it felt like we were a band for one or two years,” the guitarist added.

The band’s lead singer, Dmitry Temnyi, equally praised Mr Blinken’s performance.

19.99 were told Neil Young would join them (Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
19.99 were told Neil Young would join them (Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

“He played well,” Mr Temnyi told Reuters.

The venue is now calling for president Joe Biden to perform, it wrote on Instagram.

Before taking the stage, Mr Blinken told the crowded bar that he recognized Ukrain’s forces and citizens continued to suffer and pledged support from the US and the rest of the world.

“Your soldiers, your citizens – particularly in the northeast, in Kharkiv – are suffering tremendously,” he announced.

In a neat segue to his musical performance, Mr Blinken continued: “But they need to know – you need to know – 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,” he concluded.