Neil Young and co. put together a solid lineup of classic rock icons, chart-toppers and a jazz singer for this year’s Bridge School Benefit concert, which took place this weekend in Mountainview, Calif. As usual, the artists on the bill all seemed enthused to be sharing the stage with Young, and judging by his on-stage visits, the feeling was mutual.
The main event was Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young‘s headlining performance; the group hasn’t toured together since 2006, but there’s no word as to whether this is a one-off or if it will lead to another tour. The setlist reflected the fact that CSNY is as much a collective of songwriters as it is a band: of the nine songs they played, only two were actually from CSNY catalog.
Opening with Nash’s CSN hit “Just A Song Before I Go,” they also played Young’s “Human Highway,” “Don’t Want Lies” (from Stills’ other band, the Rides), the Young rarity “Singer Without A Song,” and Crosby’s solo “What Are Their Names,” before getting into an actual CSNY song, “Deja Vu.” The set also featured the Stills-Young Band’s “Long May You Run,” CSN’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” and CSNY’s “Teach Your Children,” on which they were joined by Jack Johnson, Jenny Lewis, and members of My Morning Jacket and Arcade Fire.
Young’s presence was felt more than usual throughout the day. He’s usually thanked by the other performers, but this year, his songs and the man himself popped up on stage often. He kicked off the day with a brief solo acoustic opening set, starting with his cover of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” (which is also how he started his recent solo set at Farm Aid). He also played “Heart Of Gold” from 1972’s Harvest, and “Comes A Time” from his 1978 album of the same name. But it was Harvest and its 1992 “sequel,” Harvest Moon, that seemed to be on the minds of many of the artists on the bill: Diana Krall covered “A Man Needs a Maid,” while Young joined Johnson for a take on “Out on the Weekend.”
My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James told a story about seeing Young perform “Harvest Moon” on Saturday Night Live with his mother, who went to get the album for him the next day. Instead, she accidentally picked up Harvest, which turned out to be a game-changer for him. But in tribute to that original TV performance, though, Young joined MMJ for “Harvest Moon.”
Arcade Fire got some quality time with Neil as well. Frontman Win Butler announced that he’d written a new song called “I Dreamed A Neil Young Song” in his sleep, on which Young sang harmony and played guitar and harmonica. It sounded like an After the Goldrush outtake.
As for the benefit’s second day, Tom Waits stole the show, along with his band that included Primus‘ Les Claypool on bass and Los Lobos’ David Hildago on guitar and accordion. As Waits has rarely performed live since the close of his 2008 tour, the performance was something of an event. As far as the setlist goes, however, it was mostly focused on his 2011 album, Bad As Me, with a few older songs thrown in, including rarity “Lucinda” and “Tom Traubert’s Blues.”
Also on the second night, Young joined Heart on stage for their cover of his “War of Man.” And, paying tribute to Lou Reed, Young and Elvis Costello joined My Morning Jacket for a run through the Velvet Underground classic, “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’.”
Below: Watch the entire eight-and-a-half-hour webcast of the Bridge School Benefit’s first day (day two wasn’t webcast) — which also featured fun. and Queens of the Stone Age — until 11 p.m. PT October 30.
The annual concert benefits the Bridge School, a private school located in Hillsborough, California, which educates children with severe speech and physical impairments. The school was co-founded by Young’s wife, Pegi Young, and since 1986, Young has headlined the annual concert.