Everlast, Mike Ness, Willie Nelson Soothe Nerves With Early Sunday Sets

Coming after Saturday night’s aggressive audience craziness, few could have predicted that day three of Woodstock ’99 in Rome, New York would end with another disturbingly reckless and destructive display by concert-goers. The morning group of performances on Sunday certainly didn’t hint at such a possibility, as most artists kept their shows low-key for the recovery period.

Willie Nelson, the only country artist to grace either of the Woodstock ’99 main stages, may have seemed like on odd choice to open up the last day of the concert event, but his wizened croon on “You Were Always on My Mind” and “On the Road Again” seemed particularly soothing and affecting.

Wearing his familiar red, white, and blue bandana, Nelson lightly plucked an old beat-up guitar, serenading the frayed audience’s nerves with several old country and western standards, including “Whiskey River” and “Working Man Blues.” Nelson later called out Supersuckers vocalist Eddie Spaghetti to back him on the appropriately-timed
“Amazing Grace.”

Out on stage west, Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness — outfitted in a black vest, sunglasses and black cowboy hat — traded in the acoustic guitar he employed for the majority of his new solo LP, “Cheating at Solitaire,” for electrified readings of his album cuts, “The Devil in Miss Jones” and “Misery Loves Company.”

Always the reverential rocker, Ness paid homage to Bob Dylan and the original man in black, Johnny Cash, with searing covers of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right)” and “Ring of Fire,” respectively. As the crowd grooved on Ness’ throwback vibe, he tipped his hat to his own Social D background with a raucously rendition of “Ball and Chain.”

A bespectacled Everlast brought his unique brand of blues, rock, and hip-hop to the scaled-down crowds that filtered into the east stage, a group he complimented for being such die-hards. “I know y’all are in it to win it. Y’all are the troopers.” Playing both ends of the rock and roll court, Everlast went
from the plaintive blues growl of “Ends” to a punk rock reinvigoration of “Jump Around” from his former group, House of Pain, with surprising ease.

Despite including several numbers in which he got to resume his MC trappings of old, Everlast actually seemed more comfortable in his more somber guise as the new rock folkie behind his moody set-closer, “What It’s Like.”

British New Wave singer-songwriter Elvis Costello went for the stripped-down approach for his set, which featured him front and center with an acoustic guitar and backed only by a piano accompanist for the likes of “Veronica,” and “Every Day I Write the Book.”

After a brilliant send-up of the Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” and a brief detour through Van Morrison’s “Jackie Wilson Said, Elvis ended his acoustic set with “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding,” a song that would take on a terribly pertinent meaning by the end of the day.

When an airline misplaced all of Costello’s
music gear, the singer was forced to borrow an electric guitar from friend Brian Setzer, who rolled through several big band hits and the Stray Cats’ “Stray Cat Strut” and “Rock This Town ” earlier that day. Adding some guitar propulsiveness to one of his earliest fits, “Alison,” Costello also delivered the pounding rhythm core ddor for “Pump It Up,” a song which drew an enthusiastic response from a crowd that was ready to kick out the jams once again.