Close your eyes. Imagine a days worth of music incorporating the top 10 bands from this generation and last. Pair that with unforgettable moments that couldn’t be scripted even if you tried, and you might have about half of the greatness that is the Bridge School Benefit concert. Sunday night On October 27th, Neil Young and his Wife put on the 27th rendition of this charity event and once again left a sold out crowd at the Shoreline Amphitheater speechless and in stunned as they walked to their cars.
With past performances from icons like Bob Dylan, The Who, and Bruce Springsteen, the 27th annual Bridge School Benefit had their work cut out for them. However
music’s greatest and newest darlings in the form of bands like Fun, My Morning Jacket, Elvis Costello and the incomparable Tom Waits was ready to carve out their own piece of the Bridge School benefit’s storied acoustic history.
Having heard reports of the show going till 1:30am on Sat, I was glad I choose to attend on Sunday due to the earlier 2pm start time. Even at 2pm there was enormous lines to get into the Shoreline, something that tends to never happen this early except for with Bridge School shows. Jenny Lewis did an honorable job at warming up the crowd with her soulful folk stylings, but the show really started up when Heart stepped on stage.
Playing a small collection of hits including ‘Even it Up’ and a cover of ‘War on Man’ which brought out Neil for his first of many Cameos, the Powerful vocals of Nancy Wilson matched with her sisters unforgettable guitar riffs got the crowd to their feet when they closed their 6 song set with ‘Crazy On You.’
Up next was Fun. Although the band’s loud boisterous music styles didn’t translate very well to the acoustic format they did pull off a quality performance to the Queen favorite ‘Somebody to Love.’ Slowing things down a bit was the jazz piano vocalist Diana Krall who sang 3 songs beautifully by herself, but then her husband Elvis Costello commandeered her set for the last few songs and then she was ushered off so he could perform his own set of songs. Although Elvis is an amazing performer in his own right, it would have been a nice change of pace to hear more from Diana.
The Bridge School Benefit is home to some of the most unforgettable moments in music and one of these came when My Morning Jacket was joined on stage with Neil Young, Elvis Costello and Jenny Lewis for a Lou Reed tribute of ‘Oh! Sweet Nothin.’ With an angelic voice from the likes of Jim James and a rocking guitar rhythm, My Morning Jacket was surely a fan favorite. How ever the man most people braving the 51 degree weather came to see was none other than the Sonoma County singer, songwriter, Tom Waits.
It has been over 5 years since Tom Waits had been back to live performances, but Tom produced the standout performance of the night. Coming on stage just as the sun had set and the light was gone, with his signature ‘derelict’ style hat crunched up on the back of his head, and accompanied on stage by a mini horn section. Tom wasted no time in getting right into it, Waits started off his set with ‘Raised Right Men’ and slipping down into the depths of ‘Singapore,’ taking time after to address the audience with his one of a kind irreverent commentary. Favorite quotes from the night included ‘I borrowed a lot of money from Neil in the 70s. I was trying to start a speciality restaurant that served eel, doughnuts and fried fish scales. I lost a lot of Neil's money back then, and I am paying him back by playing the Bridge School show.’ Additional remarks came with a sense of absurdity and playfulness that only Tom Waits could pull off. Eventually Tom’s set came to a close with ‘Come On Up to The House’ which incited a roar of applause.
Unfortunately for Queens of The Stone Age and CSNY, a large portion of the audience couldn’t handle the chilling winds and probably had to get up and work early, because most of them left after Waits. Fortunately for those audience members, the QOTSA and CSNY performances from Sat night can be seen on the Bridge School’s You Tube channel till Thursday.