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Bridge Benefit IX (October 28, 1995)
Bridge benefit reviews courtesy of Broken Arrow, the magazine of the Neil Young Appreciation Society. Much thanx to Steve Kitchen for transcribing them from hard copy to soft copy to enable presentation here.
Review by Dave Sigler
The first thoughts that come to mind regarding this year's Bridge show: plodding,stultifying pace, uncomfortably cold weather and varied performances...some brilliant and other very dissapointing.
Neil opened the show...about 15 minutes or so after the announced start time of 6:00...with a very pretty Comes a Time sporting the 'Summer of 95' guitar treatment. Next came the obligatory and expected Needle and the Damage Done. This was followed by a pedestrian Heart of Gold.
The first of what seemed interminable set changes followed. These set changes killed whatever momentum the show ever managed to build, The entire concert had the feel it was thrown together in a couple of days judging by the length of time it took to set up the next act.
Beck came on next brandishing a guitar and harmonica. About two minutes into his offkey bleating...I bailed. His set and the 'neverending'changeover accounted for nearly an hour.
Emmy Lou Harris and Daniel Lanois came on and offered a very poignant set that featured many beautiful harmonies and some fine guitar work by Lanois. Lanois was using an odd 12 stringed instrument more akin to a mandolin in size, but displaying the full guitar sound.
Emmy Lou and Daniel's set contained the new Orphan Girl and the Hendrix tune May This Be Love. Though not as psychedelic as the CD version, the pair were able to deliver a great version. Among the highlights of the evening was Lucinda William's Sweet Old World. Neil kind of snuck onstage for this one...emerging from the shadows to contribute some soulful harmonica and backing vocals.
Sometime during the next twenty minute set up two negative things happened. San Francisco scene "icon" Wavy Gravy (in complete clown regalia) joined us as our unfunny and extremely lame emcee. The temperature also dropped about 15 degrees and was joined at times by a brisk breeze. I know we Californians are lightweights when it comes to "cold"...but it was getting downright nippy. I don't remember a more frigid Bridge.
Bruce Springsteen was next and provided (for me) the biggest dissapointment of the entire evening. Bruce was in fine voice and good spirits..but his choice of dirgelike, early Dylanesque material was the antithesis of what this show needed. We needed to be rocked and Bruce took us to rock bottom. Don't get me wrong, I love Springsteen's work and think "Nebraska" is a classic....but the pace of this show was already anemic when Broooooocce took the stage...and then he gave us nothing but depression, death and heartache in Adam Raised a Cain, Point Blank, Sinaloa Cowboys and the Ghost of Tom Joad. It was a matter of mood for me, not a commentary on the strength of the material. Another time and place and I will really enjoy this stuff...but I wanted Open All Night, orn in the USA,or Thunder Road.
His set ended and the crowd begged him back for more angst. Neil brought him back out and they collaborated on a rousing Down by the River. Great stuff...good guitar interplay and a fragile treatment of the lyrics provided a shot of warmth for the crowd.
The Pretenders came on accompanied by a string quartet (The Dukes) and they played a compelling 35 minute set highlighted by Back on the Chain Gang, an almost acapella Kid, and a touching 2000 Miles. Though somewhat lost in the cavernous expanse of the Shoreline, the quartet up added a fresh warmth to the older songs. I would very much like to see them play in a small venue... a place where you could get the full effect of the sweet strings. The band closed the set with an intense Needle and the Damage Done dedicated to the recently deceased Shannon Hoon. They were called back for an encore and delivered a spirited Brass in Pocket. A great set. In fact, the epitomy of the Bridge Concert tenet of an 'evening of acoustic music.'
Hootie and the Blowfish followed another debilitating changeover. I have to be honest, I don't give a hoot about Hootie or the Blowfish and I left... had to walk off some of the cold.
Up to this point we had no inkling of what Neil had in mind for his show closing set. Would he play it solo? Rumors of a surprize Pearl Jam backing inspired thoughts of acoustic "Mirror Ball." The reality was a pleasant surprize: Crazy Horse. The audience reclaimed those twenty degrees lost earlier in the evening. They opened with a real nice Pocahontas. It only got better from there. A tremendous Look Out for My Love followed with the band displaying the same fervor as at last years Bridge.
Neil offered a little commentary on how he was not as diligent as he should have been in school as a child...then told us he would make up his own history late at night anyway... a folksy segue into a monstrous Cortez The Killer. That the band was into it was plain to see and hear. I have said it more than once, if I never hear Powderfinger again it's ok by me, but the version played this night was very cool.
The closing song was Tonight's the Night and was the absolute highlight. Billy had the bass cranked, Ralph had the beat and together they provided the floor for Pancho and Neil to take us to a place where Bruce Berry still loads that Econoline van. The sinuous, thundering undercurrent of the song rippled through the audience. Looking around...everybody was standing and moving...each propelled by the music and the message. An ethreal, bearded figure playing a battered conga bobbed in the background...to the left of the band. I was told later it was Mick Fleetwood. The song ended in a long drawn out fashion and the cheering was erupting even before it was over.
The typical Bridge finale followed with Neil inviting everybody out for Rockin' in the Free World. Sometimes these things can get a bit ragged, but tonight it was smokin... Steven Tyler wandered out and contributed a few yells... Chrissy Hynde played some harmonica, Bruce pitched in on guitar and vocals.
The cold was long forgotten....the annoying set changes forgiven. I still wish Bruce would have rocked a bit more...hell, I wish he had rocked period. Emmy Lou and Chrissy once again proved the delicate strength of acoustic music. Neil and Crazy Horse again proved that thunder comes from wood.
Baron Rouge's 95 Bridge Benefit Concert Roundup page.
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