|Bridge Benefit XV
(October 20 & 21, 2001)
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When, Where, How:
(with Pegi & Astrid & Larry)
Imagine [Instrumental by Neil & Crazy Horse, audience sings the lyrics]
(with Pegi & Astrid & Larry)
Imagine [Instrumental by Neil & Crazy Horse, audience sings the lyrics]
Billy Idol endeared himself by doing For What It's Worth during his set.
Pearl Jam was very tight and there was a song called Drifting that Eddie said he had written after visiting Neil at the ranch. He went on to ad lib that "Anyone who visits Neil's ranch becomes a songwriter after a few hours there -- even if you came there to sell insurance." (I dunno if Eddie ever tried to sell insurance to Neil or not.) The song was pretty cool... They also did a most excellent rendition of Lennon's Just Gimme Some Truth. I always loved the evocative alliteration in that song, and Eddie nailed it chapter and verse....
Neil was fantastic. Opened with Long May You Run, followed with Love And Only Love. After a solid rendition of Blowing In The Wind, we got to go on a Mideast Vacation. Then came one of my favorite moments -- his playful playing with All You Need Is Love, complete with red and blue stars projected with a mirror ball effect on the audience...
Afterward Neil said something like "There are so many songs that you used to play and now the words have a different meaning... and it is very important to hear the words in terms of what they mean now." He then played a very moving Mother Earth.
The closing moment was Imagine. Neil neither sang nor used the piano... He gave the tune a kind of surf music edge. The audience sang the lyrics flashed on the screen... Neil was wearing a FDNY hat which underscored his statement about the importance of listening to the lyrics....
I thought the show was really good. At the end everyone came out and was hugging each other. A very feel good moment.
It will be interesting to see the show tomorrow...
Neil opened with Sugar Mountain and Blowing In The Wind.
Next up was Jill Sobule, who quipped "Never thought Neil Young would be opening for me." I suppose she was OK, but really out of her league.
Ben Harper got the second slot, and thus was stuck with a really short set. But he made the most of it. Started with one of my favorites of his, a very delicate & aching I Shall Not Walk Alone, into Burn One Down, into With My Own Two Hands. Ben then upped the ante on Jill's I Kissed A Girl with Mama's Got A Girlfriend Now. Let's see...a Sexual Healing that had about 10,000 high school girls swooning, and rightfully so. Finally, The Woman In You. Surprisingly, more love songs than the political & religious material you might expect given the times. But his voice just continues to get better and better.
Next up was the time warp that was Billy Idol. Nothing but the good old hits, delivered with the platinum blonde spikes and the sneer and the fist pumping. Can't say he wowed me musically, but the day needed someone that was pure fun.
My first time seeing Tracy Chapman and she did not disappoint. Cool songs... Some hits and some I didn't know, and just a voice (singing, NOT speaking) sent down from heaven.
My second time seeing REM, and being a Southern boy, I will always have a special spot in my heart for them. A neat mixture of new, old, and hits. Really made me want to buy the new album (Up had scared me away previously). INCREDIBLE re-arrangement of Let Me In, a mellow The One I Love, and a surprise Cuyahoga. Someday they'll bust out an hour's worth of Murmur and Fables material, but until that day, this'll do nicely...
Much to my surprise, Dave Matthews was absolutely in another category. I used to be a big DMB fan, but had really lost faith in them with Everyday. Well, Dave had everyone in Shoreline in the palm of his hands in a way few performers can. (Out of order) Everyday, Bartender Please, Grace Is Gone (really, really beautiful), The Space Between, One Sweet World, plus a couple others I don't the names of. Then, a finale of Long Black Veil (very Dave-i-fied) and a short but INTENSE Watchtower. So happy to see the Lillywhite songs getting some love, but I was also pleasantly surprised with the Everday tunes.
Pearl Jam wisely took a long break before trying to follow Dave. They were pretty mellow, no realy old stuff, a brand new tune, a bit more of a country tinge than I expected. The highlight was definitely an Indifference with help from Ben Harper (the guy just blends with anybody!) Second time I'd caught them at Bridge School benefit, and they definitely earned the return trip.
Finally (the crowd was cold and tired at this point) time for Neil & Crazy Horse deluxe. I was so curious to see what acoustic Crazy Horse sounds like. To be honest, Neil looked & sounded a little haggard to me, but I loved Love And Only Love (they let it jam out a little despite the acoustics), and Mideast Vacation, and Mother Earth is one of my all-time favorites.
Neil's comment "I'm not sure what songs to play as all the meanings have changed" really sent the show into a somber mood. You could feel the emotion and the hurt in his (and all of our) voice. Somehow the Beatles and Dylan & co seem perfect.
Can't say it was the best Neil show I've seen from a musical standpoint, but certainly among the most honest & poignant.
Until next year,
Well, first of all, what impressed me more than anyone else at this concert were the Bridge School children. They were WAY into the music, from beginning to end. I've seen a few outtakes on video from past Bridge shows, but I didn't realize what a tremendous presence they make. Several of the singers, notably Billy Idol and Eddie Vedder, sang directly to the children, and during the part of the concert where we could see them on screen, there were these great shots of them laughing and keeping beat and just generally having a great time. This really got to me, and raises a lump in my throat even as write this now. They were amazing, and it was only about three-quarters through the show, with the overtones of war and all these days, that I really begin to realize why we were there.
Yes, I'm slow. But the whole thing just seemed to represent the spirit of hope that we can actually make this a better world, particularly manifested in all this effort by Pegi, Neil, the Bridge staff, the children and everyone involved, that can begin to overcome the absolute abyss of war... At least the hope is there.
On the music, first, I thought Neil was true. He was ON ... on his feelings I mean. The songs he selected really worked, and I felt like he was leading us all in a real response from real feelings about the horror of what has happened and is continuing to unfold, not just a hyped up patriotic mind numbing sleep walk through a flag waving festival of banality like you see most places. This was the questioning Neil, and the horrified Neil, and the despite it all still hopeful Neil. He really spoke to me, and for me.
Thank you Neil. Love and only love will endure.
On the rest of the musicians, I came into this concert as a huge REM fan, and not really that familiar with everyone else - a Tracey Chapman album here, a Pearl Jam album there, but not that many listens to most of them. But the person, musically, that I really dug was Dave Matthews. And my wife was into Tracy. Matthews just had such a range of emotion and lyric and voice and sensuality and... I don't know. He was a big surprise for me.
And so was Billy Idol - he was going to be my beer run band (and to be honest he was :) - but the 2/3rds of him I did see was really fun. He sang to the kids, and it was just a hoot to watch. Also, in the pleasant surprises category, Jill Sobule was a little shit with a BIG voice and spirit. I'll look for her in the future.
REM - and I'm a big fan - was not that inspiring. They were okay, and of course I loved everything they played, but I just kept waiting for them to get more energized or something. Maybe I had built them up too much in my mind. Not a big fan of Pearl Jam, but after Saturday I guess I could be given enough listens. Same goes for Ben Harper - a little plodding through his songs, but good voice and lyrics. So these three (REM, PJ, BH) weren't my favorite points in the concert, but I still enjoyed their sets, and sang Cuyahoga at the top of my lungs and all that.
Along with Dave Matthews, the other act I really enjoyed alot was Tracy Chapman. I've always liked her range of emotion and probing angry lyrics, although I think I only have one of her CDs. But she was great Saturday - for us anyway. The day after the show, the first thing we did (after heavy doses of tylenol and coffee), was to go out and update our TC collection, and put a first installment on a DM collection. That's what's playing now ...
Anyway, it was probably the best concert I've ever seen in my life. That sounds awfully melodramatic as I write it, and I don't blame you if you gag if you're still reading at this point ... but it was more than the amazing number of great musicians they had lined up - it was the interaction among the musicians and the kids ... plus the feeling of hope that supporting those children seemed to give in spite of the events of horror going on the world at the moment.
Thanks to everyone involved with the Bridge School and this concert for this phenomenal effort. Also thanks to all the rusties who informed us how to handle the lawn - we were well prepared for the cold!
love and only love,
on the skids
Long May You Run -- it seems to me this song has always been about the loss of something you love. May it be an old car, an old friend or maybe in this case, a bunch of innocent people and the twin towers. Maybe Neil was saying good bye to friends or family that he may have lost in the destruction. Or for those of us who didn't lose anyone we loved or knew, we lost a symbol of our freedom when the towers fell. I have always felt very saddened by this song.
Love and Only Love -- A song about love enduring over hate, good vs evil. Maybe Neil is convinced this terrible act is of biblical proportions, and the only reason for it was pure evil.
Blowin' In The Wind -- a song with nine questions and no answer. The only answer our government has ever given when attacked is to fight.
Mideast Vacation -- I had never heard this song before Saturday night. I thought it was a new song Neil had written about 9-11. I must say I thought Neil had a lot of "balls" to play it, from the lyrics I picked up on. The verse:
I went lookin' for Bin LadenIt seems to encourage violence but also compassion. "Stop sniffin that smokin' gun" says enough is enough. You have bombed enough. Go home it's time to heal.
Aboard Air Force One
But I never did find him
And the C.I.A. said Son,
You'll never be a hero
Your flyin' days are done
It's time for you to go home now
Stop sniffin' that smokin' gun.
All You Need Is Love -- probably the most uplifting, hopeful song of our time. Perfect selection to follow Mideast Vacation!
Mother Earth -- seems to imply forgiveness, or our children will suffer the consequences. When I heard Neil do this at Farm Aid I thought he changed the lyrics of this verse:
Oh, freedom land can you let this go
Down to the streets where the numbers grow
Respect Mother Earth and her giving ways
Or trade away our children's days
Or trade away our children's days.
Imagine (instrumental on guitar) -- to have the audience sing this song was pure genius! One of the most peaceful songs on the planet. Neil sang it for us last month. He wanted to hear us sing it on this night. I only wish he would have filled us in, so we could have done a better job.
In my opinion, Neil gave us his take on the tragedy without writing a new song. I enjoyed every second of his set, it was filled with the message of love, the thing Neil sings about the best. If you complain about the set I don't think you "GOT" the message he was trying to give.
I didn't go to the show expecting Neil to preach, but if that's what he wanted to do who am I to argue? I had not seen him in over a year, so I'll take what he gives. He chooses the theme, i just sit back and enjoy.
"time was just a joke"