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Bridge Benefit IV (October 26, 1990)
Bridge benefit reviews courtesy of Broken Arrow, the magazine of the Neil Young Appreciation Society. This review comes from issue 42 (February 1991). Much thanx to Steve Kitchen for transcribing it from hard copy to soft copy to enable presentation here.
Review by Dave Sigler
The night started off poorly, traffic like hell from the Bay Bridge to Mountain View... forty miles or so of brake lights. Only the thoughts of what lay ahead made it worthwhile - Bridge IV - Neil and the Horse!
We pulled into the dirt parking area at 7:20, but so did thousands of other people with the show just 10 minutes away. I took heart knowing that few concerts start at the appointed hour.
Time to grab a cup of warm foam and head to our seats. Pegi Young, looking sweet in black leather pants, was thanking us for coming, and introducing Neil and a few of his friends... Crazy Horse.
Neil, looking tall, lean and clean-shaven, sporting his multi-layered flannel shirt look, led the band out to a tremendous welcome. They launched right into Lotta Love. Not the best mix but it sounded good to me. Then, uncharacteristically for a Bridge Benefit, Neil left the stage without doing the usual opening solo set. But as it turned out the best was still ahead of us.
The host for the evening, an unfunny Cheech Marin, introduced the next act, Larry Keegan. They performed an average set and gave way to a thoroughly flat Jackson Browne. The mix still seemed below par. Jackson was trying hard and appeared to be glad to be there, a part of the benefit, but his set was devoid of anything catchy.
The Edie Brickell and a Few Bohemians set was largely forgettable, she seems lost in a venue of that size. Her music is too fragile, more suited to a club, not an amphitheatre filled with more than 10,000 people.
Following the always short breaks between performers came the first highlight of the evening, the Elvis Costello set. Gone was the horn-rimmed, Buddy Holly clone, instead Elvis looked more like an ultra-orthodoxed Hasidic Jewish rabbi. Plain wire-rimmed specks perched on a bearded face, and long black coat. But despite his conservative appearance and acoustic guitar, Elvis ROCKED.
Costello opened his portion of the show with the fairly recent Veronica, in which he beautifully sequed a verse from The Ways Of Love. Seemingly a musical tribute to his host, who stood off stage to the right, clutching a bottle of Evian and swaying to the beat for Elvis' whole set.
Elvis continued to rock and filled the Amphitheatre with acoustic thunder on Hurry Down..., Radio Sweetheart and then into the Van Morrison hit, Jackie Wilson Said. Tremendous. Elvis' set also included another one of the evening's surprises and highlights. Singing Allison as his encore number, Elvis was joined on stage by Neil for the chorus. At first Neil made use of a mike to Elvis' left, apparently not wanting to be a distraction, but he was soon beckoned to the main mike where he and Elvis closed the song beautifully together. One of the beauties of the Bridge School Benefits, or any benefit show, is the chance to see such combinations, groupings that produce some great music, but may never occur under any other circumstances.
Steve Miller was next and turned in his usual excellent set including his standards, Wild Mountain Honey, Baby's Calling Me Home, The Joker, and Who Do You Love?, before closing with the obligatory benefit tune Take The Money And Run.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse hit the stage to a great ovation. Old Black was nowhere to be seen, but the feeling was still electric. Neil donned a black, amplified acoustic and led the Horse into a stunning version of Love And Only Love, complete with extended jams. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere followed and was done well. The band then did Days That Used To Be and it was kind of halfway between the treatment Neil gave the song during the '88 Bluenotes tour (as well as the '89 shows with the Restless) and the "Ragged Glory" version.
Next came a beautiful, guitar-oriented Helpless. Neil and the guys followed up with a very nice turn on Mansion On The Hill. I found the acoustic and live sound of the song more satisfying than the album version - perhaps it will turn out to be a sneak preview of the "Ragged Glory" tour. The upcoming concerts are said to contain an acoustic set, and Mansion On The Hill certainly fits well into that style.
The absolute highlight of the evening, in my opinion, was a scorching version of Down By The River with Elvis Costello joining in. Elvis seemed to exercise a little poetic license with the lyrics, or perhaps he just had trouble with knowing the words. Either way, Neil seamlessly bailed him out during the chorus and the song remained intact and true to it's strongly emotional spirit.
The show was closed by an all-star cast performing Rockin' In The Free World. It was a great, upbeat rendition of the song but somewhat marred by the turning on of the house lights before it was over. I guess the intention was of diffusing the raucous call for encores that would not be forthcoming. The show was over and the amphitheatre people apparently wanted us all to know it.
The shock of the abrupt end was tempered by Neil appearing back on stage holding a child in his arms, both he and Pegi receiving a well-deserved ovation and thanking us for attending the show. I remember thinking we should be thanking them! as I began the long walk to the car to begin the drive home.
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