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Bridge Benefit II (December 4, 1988)

Bridge benefit reviews courtesy of Broken Arrow, the magazine of the Neil Young Appreciation Society. These reviews come from issue 34 (February 1989). Much thanx to Steve Kitchen for transcribing them from hard copy to soft copy to enable presentation here.

(Please see a note about bootleg CDs of shows like this one.)

Concert Review 1 - by Don Leary

How can an excellent show like Bridge I ever be outdone? Simple, have another great line-up of stars for the same worthy cause and call it Bridge II. No first row fog at this show, but that didn't take anything away from the quality of the concert.

Neil Young opened the evening with Comes A Time and Sugar Mountain (two crowd pleasers), before playing an acoustic version of This Note's For You. He ended his set by bringing CSN on stage to help him with American Dream. This song was a little rough around the edges but worth an 'A' for effort.

Nils Lofgren played an enthusiastic but average set followed by the odd member of the lineup, Billy Idol. Bob Dylan was next and played very well (some of us know how bad he can be) with the help of G.E. Smith on guitar. Included in the set were Girl From The North Country, With God On My Side, and a good rendition of San Francisco Bay Blues. As an encore Dylan played Gates Of Eden and Forever Young.

Garcia and Weir opened their set with a tuning-up version of Wang Dang Doodle with Neil Young on harmonica, before launching into good versions (if you remove the vocal track) of Friend Of The Devil and Ripple.

Tom Petty was next and had obviously learned from the prior Bridge show that by bringing his whole band he would sound a lot better acoustically. His set had fine versions of The Waiting, Refugee and Blue Moon Of Kentucky'.

Tracy Chapman played one of her usual good sets that crowds around the world are getting quite used to with songs like Fast Car, If Not Now and Mountain O' Things.

The crowd was going to go home happy no matter what CSNY did. And what they did was shock the audience by putting together their finest acoustic set in a long time and turned out to be the best act of the night.

After immediately showing that their harmonies are still intact during Helplessly Hoping, they played Love The One You're With and This Old House. Neil then launched into the best acoustic lead solo of the night during a rare performance of Southern Man. Graham Nash sang Don't Say Goodbye before Neil played harmonica during David Crosby's Compass. David's voice was stronger than it's been in a decade when he sang Long Time Gone. After CSNY ended their set with Southern Cross, Tracy Chapman joined them for the usual show-ending version of Teach Your Children.

The show was very satisfying and I couldn't have felt any more contented than I did that night.

Concert Review 2 - by Bill Deblonk

When I heard word of the second Bridge School Benefit, I was determined not to miss this one like I did the first.

The show itself started with Pegi Young introducing some of the Bridge Schools' students, and then she introduced her husband, Neil to begin the show. He strummed his acoustic guitar for a bit, and this strumming turned into the traditional opener Comes A Time, which in turn sequed into the harmonica solo from Sugar Mountain, followed by the verses from that song. The Coliseum loved it, as it was clearly Neil's night. Next was the acoustic version of This Note's For You, followed by Neil's harmonica playing the flute part of the CSNY version of American Dream.

Midway through the first verse David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash emerged to harmonize with Neil on this predominantly acapella rendering of the song. Then Neil announced they'd return later in the show and turned the stage over to Nils Lofgren.

Nils played the best set of the show besides those by Neil and CSNY. His five song set included: a new song called Live Each Day, Believe A Little Bit In Yourself (with Neil on barely-audible harmonica and back up vocals), and an amazing version of Keith Don't Go that I'm sure gained him more than a few new followers.

Next was the one performer who had everybody wondering what he'd do. Much of the pre-concert buzz was along the lines of "What's Billy Idol doing at the same concert with all these great old people?" Well, the question was never really answered but Idol did his best in the all-acoustic situation, offering songs like Generation X's The Untouchables and his recent hit Sweet Sixteen, as well as comments like "I've got my tie-dyed underwear on, okay?". His guitar incompetence was covered by his Rude-dudes, an unidentified guitarist and his producer Keith Forsey hitting one drum with a set of brushes!

Idol was followed by the evening's disappointment, Bob Dylan, who put in an even worse showing than he did over the summer in Sacramento. He looked and sounded very obliterated as he played Jessie Fuller's San Francisco Bay Blues and his own Pretty Boy Floyd, With God On Our Side and Girl Of The North Country, accompanied by guitarist G.E. Smith. His fifteen or so minutes was not accepted as enough of a set to satisfy the crowd, who cheered him back. First, he sat at the piano then he was led to center stage to sing Gates Of Eden and Forever Young.

The next set was by Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, with Rob Wasserman on bass. Neil sat in on harmonica on their opener, Wang Dang Doodle.

Tom Petty brought all of the Heartbreakers this year, and got the fullest band sound of the show. Their six songs included Blue Moon Of Kentucky, Don't Come Around Here No More, and their highlight, Refugee, which was altered almost beyond recognition but was very hot nonetheless.

At about 11:30, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young reappeared to thunderous applause. They played the longest set of the evening, about forty-five minutes. They led off with Helplessly Hoping, then Love The One You're With. Next came two from Neil - This Old House was followed by the highlight of the evening (and maybe my life), Southern Man. It's the only time I know of CSNY playing an acoustic version of this song and especially surprising because it happened at the Oakland Coliseum, which is not Neil's favourite place. The song sparked the best Stephen-Neil jams of the show.

Next up were two songs from the new album, Graham's Don't Say Goodbye and David's Compass. The set ended with Long Time Gone, Southern Cross and the inevitable encore Teach Your Children, with Nils Lofgren and Tracy Chapman joining in.

All in all, it was a fantastic evening that raised a quarter of a million dollars for the physically handicapped, non-speaking students of the Bridge School and gave 15,000 fans a concert that will not soon be forgotten.

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