It's been almost three weeks since I got back from The Bridge School Benefit shows and if I postpone this post any longer, it may end up like my never posted Calgary Folk Fest '07 Part II (sigh). Quickly, Ben Folds with the Seattle Symphony was awesome as expected (from the 2nd row!), but The Very Best show in San Francisco was unceremoniously cancelled on the day of the show since Esau Mwamwaya had passport issues getting into the US... very disappointing.
After the stage was blessed by native dancers, Bridge School founder Pegi Young introduced the students and alumni sitting at the back of the stage before introducing her husband (and school co-founder) Neil Young who kicked off both shows with Comes a Time before turning over the stage to the other artists. He also ended each show with Comes a Time with all the artists on stage, so in total we heard this song four times in less than 48 hours. Part of their inspiration for starting the Bridge School in 1986, which assists individuals with severe speech and physical impairments, was that their son Ben (in attendance) and Zeke (from Neil's previous marriage) were both diagnosed with cerebral palsy. It was very humbling to witness the students and their families enjoying the concert from the back of the stage and think of the major obstacles they've had to overcome in their lives. One remarkable alumni of the Bridge School recently graduated with a double major at the University of Berkeley!
Kate York - Comes a Time [originally by Neil Young]
From the tribute album Cinnamon Girl: Women Artists Cover Neil Young For Charity available on iTunes or directly from American Laundromat Records.
Gavin Rossdale was up first. He was fine, if a bit of a downer to start off the day. His set included covers of Fleetwood Mac's Landslide and Prince's Sometimes It Snows in April as well as several Bush songs.
Gavin Rossdale - Landslide [originally by Fleetwood Mac]
From a live "Stripped" session on iheartradio.com, which has a fair number of covers lurking in the archives.
The newly retooled Wolfmother brought up the energy level, ripping through a rockin' acoustic set consisting of earlier hits like Woman and Joker and the Thief mixed with several cuts from their latest release Cosmic Egg. Only lead singer/guitarist Andrew Stockdale remains of the original trio, which is now a foursome. On Day 2, they pulled out the Neil Young cover Don't Let It Bring You Down, which they recently performed in the SPIN offices.
team9 - Daddy and the Thief [Wolfmother vs. Gnarls Barkley]
Great mash-up of Wolfmother's Joker & The Thief and Gnarls Barkley's cover of the Violent Femmes Gone Daddy Gone from the 2006 team9 mash-up album for Stereogum.com, which is still available as a zip file here.
Fleet Foxes were next. To be brutally honest, they did almost nothing for me. The first day was pleasant enough with their CSNY-ish harmonies but the songs all started to bleed into each other, eventually lulling me into a mid-afternoon nap through parts of their set. The next day I couldn't even fight it, nodding off shortly into the first couple songs, occasionally opening my eyes to see if they were done yet. I do have to admit though, that I was captivated by their performance of a song called White Winter Hymnal. Maybe I wasn't in the right mood or they're suited to a more intimate venue or something, but I just had to laugh when I was at work last week and saw an old issue of Mojo with Fleet Foxes triumphantly on the cover as the "Best Live Act in the Entire World". And they put me to sleep, sigh.
Next were Monsters of Folk. Honestly I was expecting this to be a rather mellow set based on what I've heard from the individual artists, but I quite enjoyed their set which had some rock, folk, and even an old timey country vibe to it.
Sheryl Crow was never on my bucket list and now I've inadvertently seen her perform three times in less than two months. I took this opportunity to visit the facilities and roll my eyes at the concession stands prices. With $6.50 fries, I chose to skip dinner. Her sets on both days included a singalong cover of You've Got to Hide Your Love Away.
Sheryl Crow - Here Comes the Sun [originally by The Beatles]
I'm not familiar with any Jimmy Buffett songs, not even Margaritaville, which I heard here for the first time. Overall, his upbeat brand of "trop rock" music was pretty good, though his fans are fairly obnoxious... I'll leave it at that.
Jack Johnson - A Pirate Looks at 40 [originally by Jimmy Buffett]
From the soundtrack to the Jack Johnson directed surf film The September Sessions.
Day 2 featured Adam Sandler taking over Jimmy Buffett's slot. I like what he said when he came out: "I'm with you people, I don't what I'm doing here either!" While I knew more or less what to expect with all the acts on the bill, Adam Sandler was the one wildcard. Was he here to do stand-up in the middle of this concert, would he play a string of cover songs, the Chanukah Song? Backed by a full band, he jumped right in with a cover of The Doors' Break on Through (To the Other Side), followed by a string of original songs including the stellar Listenin' to the Radio, which treaded a fine line between funny, clever, and sincere while referencing seemingly every hit song about a girl in the last 50 years. Next, he said he was going to sing a song he "wrote for Led Zeppelin" and I was absolutely thrilled when I heard the opening chords of Hey Hey What Can I Do, one of my favourites.
He finished with two familiar originals Lunchlady Land and The Chanukah Song ("Mel Gibson: Not a Jew!"). Then the biggest surprise came when he brought Neil Young on stage to perform a duet on Powderfinger. This ended up being the only instance during the whole weekend where Neil joined another artist on stage. A Neil Young duet with Adam Sandler, go figure.
Adam Sandler - Listenin' to the Radio
Neil Diamond - The Chanukah Song [originally by Adam Sandler]
If you thought a Bob Dylan Christmas album was weird, how about Neil Diamond covering Adam Sandler on his latest disc of Christmas tunes, A Cherry Cherry Christmas?
Armed with just a piano, Chris Martin proved that sometimes less can be more with an impressive set of stripped down Coldplay songs and a couple covers. Oblivious to the fact that he even played the piano at all, I was quite impressed with his dangling particularly on his rendition of the Maple Leaf Rag, which led into Viva La Vida.
After a couple solo songs, he was joined by violinist Davide Rossi for the rest of his set. Coverwise, he did a rendition of Bruce Springsteen's My Love Will Not Let You Down and led the audience in a singalong version of his "favourite song from his favourite film", Earth Angel, played at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance in Back to the Future.
Red Hot Chilli Pipers - Clocks [originally by Coldplay]
If you like instrumental bagpipe covers, this one's for you. Also, check out Weezer's recent cover of Viva La Vida.
As the penultimate act of each night, No Doubt delivered a pair of fantastic sets filled with rare acoustic renditions of their hit songs. When they were first introduced, Gwen Stefani spent 90% of the first song Spiderwebs singing directly to the Bridge School kids at the back, a touching moment. The group was joined by a string quartet for the latter half of the set including Don't Speak and their cover of Talk Talk's It's My Life.
Lea Delaria - Just a Girl [originally by No Doubt]
In the Bridge School preview post, I shared a jazz rendition of this song by Shannon Butcher. Well, here's another jazz take by Lea Delaria. I wasn't kidding about it being a modern standard! No Doubt's acoustic rendition at the concert was a particular highlight of their set with just Gwen and guitarist Tom Dumont performing before the rest of the band, who had left stage, joined in one by one.
And, of course, Neil Young. Unlike the previous time I saw him for an austere solo set at Ambleside Park, here he was joined by a full band for most of the set with Sheryl Crow joining Pegi Young on back-up vocals (interestingly, I read Crow's first big break was as a back-up singer for Michael Jackson on tour!). For me, the highlight of his set and possibly the whole weekend was his performance of Harvest Moon complete with an old man "playing" the broom. Swish, swish.
Ben Kweller - From Hank to Hendrix [originally by Neil Young]
This cover is from Ben Kweller's visit to the Dermot O'Leary show last year.
Jean Jacques Milteau - Heart Of Gold [originally by Neil Young]
Neil didn't play this either night, but I couldn't resist posting this bluesy cover of his classic song.
I'll be back someday... maybe in 2011 for the 25th anniversary. Thanks for the music, Bridge School!