Pearl Jam Politicize, Incubus Harmonize, Willie Satisfies At Bridge School Benefit

CSNY-led event also features Wilco, Dashboard Confessional, Indigo

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California -- Neil Young's 17th annual

Bridge School benefit celebrated the best of human possibility on

Saturday with homespun rock philanthropy, but as it coincided with a

day of national protests against the U.S. occupation of Iraq, political

discontent simmered beneath the event's finest moments.

The two-day, all-acoustic concert at the Shoreline Amphitheater raised

funds for the Bridge School -- which prepares students with severe

physical or speech impediments for mainstream education -- and

offered music for every age and calling, from Dashboard Confessional

and Incubus to the Indigo Girls and Willie Nelson. (The lineup returned

for a second show on Sunday afternoon.)

The tone of Saturday's show was subdued -- as reflective as it was


With the school's students and their families seated onstage behind

him, Neil Young opened the evening with "Sugar Mountain." Joined by

Willie Nelson's harmonica player, Mickey Rafael, he played pump organ

for the eco-hymnal "Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)." The song's somber

plaint and call to action set the mood for many of the night's most

potent performances.

"Oh Mother Earth/ With your fields of green/ Once more laid down by the

hungry hand/ How long can you give and not receive/ And feed this world

ruled by greed," Young sang. "Oh, freedom land/ Can you let this go/

Down to the streets/ Where the numbers grow?"

Dashboard Confessional took the stage next, strumming and drumming

through angsty tunes such as "Screaming Infidelities." Singer Chris

Carrabba started the upbeat love ode "Hands Down" with a whisper while

drummer Mike Marsh chattered on the cymbals.

Wilco eased the crowd into a country vibe. Frontman Jeff Tweedy

introduced a new song, "Company in My Back," which opened with the

guitars picking a ringing melody over a laid-back groove. The band

stomped through Woody Guthrie's "Christ for President," with Tweedy

calling for "the Carpenter" to replace "the money-changers" in the

White House.

"Every year we waste enough/ To feed the ones who starve/ We build our

civilization up/ And we shoot it down with wars/ But with the Carpenter

on the seat/ Way up in the capitol town/ The U.S.A. be on the way/

Prosperity bound."

With black dreadlocks piled high atop his head, a meaty-looking Adam

Duritz led Counting Crows through the brooding "Rain King" and "All My

Love (Richard Manuel Is Dead)," before dedicating a dirge-slow take on

the Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil" to the Dead themselves.

Indigo Girls Amy Ray and Emily Saliers got their 1989 hit "Closer to

Fine" out of the way early, switching from guitars to banjo and

mandolin for the old-timey folk "Get Out the Map." But they hit their

stride on the angry, political call-to-arms "Go." Saliers strummed

fast, while Ray pulled a cutting rock riff, singing, "So feed the fire

and fan the flame/ I know the kids can stand the rain/ I know the kids

are still upsetters/ 'Cause rock is cool but the struggle is better."

For many veteran Bridge-goers, the night's biggest surprise was a

strong performance by Incubus. Stripped down to unplugged chops (though

still with a DJ), the band's sound was fresh and nuanced.

Afroed guitarist Mike Einziger, ex-Roots bassist Ben Kenney, and

drummer José Pasillas laid down a spare, easy groove on "Drive,"

while DJ Kilmore scratched deep behind them. Another tune, freshly

penned, bubbled with syncopated bass and guitar runs. Singer Brandon

Boyd crooned powerfully, with Einziger and Kenney adding backing


But the crowd didn't really get going until Pearl Jam showed up.

Frontman Eddie Vedder, who drew fire six months ago (at the height of

the Iraq war) by stomping a George W. Bush mask onstage, wasted no time

in launching into Bob Dylan's bilious "Masters of War."

"Like Judas of old/ You lie and deceive/ A world war can be won/ You

want me to believe ... You hide in your mansion/ As young people's

blood/ Flows out of their bodies/ And is buried in the mud."

The crowd greeted Pearl Jam by rising to its feet through the rest of

the high-energy set, which included a new tune, "Man of the Hour," and

covers of the Ramones' "Believe in Miracles" and Shel Silverstein's "25

Minutes to Go," which was recorded by Johnny Cash. Vedder dedicated

Wayne Cochran's "Last Kiss" to an ebullient Bridge school alumna, now a

third-year student at the University of California, who was seated


Country legend Willie Nelson took the stage in a black T-shirt and

cowboy hat, his beat-up old guitar hanging from his trademark red,

white and blue strap, singing his classics "On the Road Again" and

"Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys." But the lonesome

sound of Nelson's unique country-jazz picking style with Mickey

Rafael's mournful harmonica was better suited to the slow stuff, like

the regretful "Night Life" and the lovesick ballad "Crazy." On the

darkly pretty "The Great Divide," Nelson sang each line, answering

himself with Spanish-style fingerpicking and parlor jazz chordage.

In the closing spot, the four horsemen of folk rock, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, warmed up as they worked through "Helplessly Hoping," Young's "Harvest Moon," and "Our House." They hit it on "Déjà Vu," with Stephen Stills, Young, and Graham Nash picking while David Crosby scatted the intro. After the first vocal parts, the band dropped into an instrumental scrum, with Stills soloing, then Young, then Nash on harmonica.

CSNY's political contribution was Buffalo Springfield's Vietnam War-era protest anthem "For What It's Worth." Stills strummed the song as a gospel blues, underscored by his heavy vocal growl.

Most of the musicians returned for the grand finale, "Teach Your Children," which came way too soon -- CSNY could have played for another hour. But most fans were satisfied.

"You see stuff here you don't see anywhere else," said Chuck Roeder, 46, who drove down from Reno, Nevada, for his sixth Bridge Concert. "I never leave here feelin' bad."

For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.