Beck 'Pretty Passionate' About 'Farm Thing'

Hip-hop-folk-rocker performed bluegrass and hobo songs at Farm Aid '97.

It's almost 11 p. m. The 10th Farm Aid concert is winding down its eight-hour

run. And Neil Young, dressed in an engineer's cap with a "Stop Factory Farms"

sticker and a red t-shirt bearing the same slogan, is on stage talking about hog crap again. Feces is a

dominant theme at Farm Aid '97. Farmers are tired of taking it from

conglomerate Factory Farms, and with the help of the $600,000 raised from

ticket sales alone, they're looking to dish some right back.

That's the cause: helping bring down the polluting factory farms and

strengthen the farms run by individual families. So if Farm Aid founders

Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp have to keep throwing big

concerts to do it... Well, none of the 30,000 rock and country fans that gathered Saturday for the

sold-out show at the World Music Theater (in Tinley Park, Ill., outside of Chicago) have a problem with that.

The lineup for this show included the founders, plus rockers John

Fogerty and the Allman Brothers, the Dave Matthews band and Beck for the

younger crowd, and country artists like Billy Ray Cyrus ("Achy Breaky Heart") to help round out

the bill, which was moved abruptly just two weeks ago from a proposed venue in Dallas when corporate sponsorship couldn't be found.

For most of the performers, Farm Aid was a chance to relax and have a

change of pace from a day-to-day tour. Some artists re-worked their older

material. Mellencamp, for instance, had his keyboardist rap during a bridge

in the 15-year-old hit "Jack and Diane."

Beck took liberty with his entire set. While some younger fans were

expecting some of his bigger hits, he began with a bluegrass tune, "Light

My Fire," went into a hobo song called "Waiting for the Train," and didn't

get to "Jackass" until his final song. Willie Nelson joined him midway

through his set, as the TNN telecast kicked off, for Jimmie Rodgers' "Peach

Pickin' Time Down in Georgia," which they'd played together on the Jay Leno

show earlier in the week. Turns out Beck is quite a yodeler. He then let

loose with the harmonica on the bluesy "One foot in the Grave." His solo

swing at this Sonny Terry song brought the crowd to their feet for the

first time.

Fogerty delivered the strongest set of the night. He rocked the crowd

through Creedence classics like "Green River" and "Fortunate Son," racing through "Susie-Q" in a record 90 seconds. He picked up a baseball

bat-shaped guitar for "Center Field," and threw in a cut off his new album too. The entire audience seemed to help him belt out "Proud Mary" with

even the folks in the sky boxes leaning out and singing what proved to be the high point of a set filled with high points.

Billy Ran Cyrus, the Dave Matthews Band and the Allman Brothers delivered predicable, if unexceptional performances, although the appearance of Gregg Allman -- the Allman's set included "Blue Sky," "Midnight Rider," and "Nobody to

Run With" -- got a rise out of the crowd.

Young lectured the crowd and

the TV audience about the evils of factory farms for much of his set. In

between he played a subtle version of "Mother Earth" on a small but

beautiful pipe organ. He also offered to-die-for versions of "Helpless" and "Long May You Run," with Nelson's

harmonica player Mickey Raphael adding sweet, rolling harmonies.

Nelson himself, with help from Leon Russell, played a set that included a pair of Jimmy Cliff reggae songs.

The close of the show found Nelson joined by Neil Young, Steve Earl

and Mary Cutrufello (who had performed solid rock sets earlier in the day,)

and several Native Americans for a finale that included "Amazing Grace,"

and the closer, Nelson's classic "On the Road Again."

Nelson said he hoped the younger artists such as

Beck and the Dave Matthews Band would inspired younger members of the audience to

educate themselves about the Farm Aid issues.

Speaking to reporters after his set, Beck likely caught the attitude of many of his

generation when he said, as if he just-woke-up-from-a-nap, "I'm pretty passionate about the whole state of the farm

thing." [Mon., Oct. 6, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]