Playing Their Hearts Out (Godfather Records GR 588)
Bridge School Benefit, Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA, October 23, 2010.
Introduction / On The Way Home / Rock & Roll Woman / A Child’s Claim To Fame / Do I Have To Come Right Out & Say It / Go And Say Goodbye / I Am A Child / Kind Woman / Burned / For What It’s Worth / Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing / Bluebird / Mr. Soul / Rockin’ In The Free World / Intro / Sugar Mountain / Comes A Time. [ 71:54 ]
The reunion of Buffalo Springfield had been a long time in coming. Neil Young, whom the reunion had rested upon, had first extended the olive branch back in 2000 on his “Black & Gold” album with the track “Buffalo Springfield Again” but the full reunion wouldn’t see finality until 2010, a full 42 years later, when the group, or the members that were left – Both Bruce Palmer & Dewey Martin having passed away in 2004 & 2009 respectivley, came together for Neil’s annual Bridge School Benefit the non-profit concert for the Bridge School who take care care of children with severe physical impairments.
A cause close to Neil & Pegi’s hearts as their son suffers from cerebral palsy. To find their feet for playing together again The band spent a few days, catching up and rehearsing at the Annex Studios in Menlo Park not to far from the venue of the benefit.
Richie Furay said of the reunion : “We’re going to play for 35-40 minutes ..the setlist will probably be composed of the three albums, though probably more of the first album with a few of the second album and maybe ‘On The Way Home’ from the last one. I really have no idea, though. I’m just going to show up and have a good time.”
It’s usually notable for Neil to play at the concerts having begun in 1986 with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at the inaugural benefit he has mostly played alone or has collaborated with other artist on the bill ( This year He would play with Buffalo Springfield, with Pearl Jam & would also appear on his own. )
The Godfather has used an excellent source for this recording – A wonderful audience recording thats almost FM Broadcast good but one thats in the epicenter of it all. Both instruments & vocals are clear & the audience are close but not too loud to give you the feeling of actually being there.
The only failing might be that after years of abuse & touring that the voices of the band may not be quite so smooth as the harmonies that first greeted the listening public back in late 1966 but it’s small detail really. The excitement of being together on stage 40 years later blows a few cobwebs & dust from the shelves away.
The set begins with a breezy “On The Way Home” sung by Neil. The harmonies are very good, the musicianship glorious but Neil’s attempt at retuning his voice back to his 21 year old self sounds odd, like a gentle pastiche a it’s hight even by neil’s own standards. It’s none too off putting though & the track brims with the excitement that one would expect from a band who have taken longer than the gestation period of Brian Wilson’s “SMiLE” album took to flower.
“Rock & Roll Woman” sung by Stephen Stills is much more thrusting & brings the crowd out a little more – The appreciation is shown right from the opening chords. The swell of the ‘Ba – ba’ harmonies stamping the energy of the song that strides between the 60’s & the Noughties – It sounds like it could have been written yesterday by a Springfield worshiping band from this era.
Stephen’s voice is cracked & rough but in the best possible sense – He almost takes on the timbre of Eddie Vedder who’s band Pearl Jam would be joined by Neil tonight on a version of his track “Walk With Me” from his new album – The fluid solos are acoustically driven & sound just as exciting for it.
Richie Furay takes the lead for a country tinged “A Child’s Claim To Fame” from ‘Buffalo Springfield Again’. An Eagles sounding AM swing that is just as famous for it’s appearance in the Wonderboys film as it is from coming from this supergroup.
Neil returns to center for a sunny version of “I Am A Child” where his voice has settled back to his current tones. It’s a brilliant, lazy, downhome strum that could have been straight from his acoustic catalogue. It’s typical for tonight that he’s chosen the song & not just because of the fact that the song is from the reconvened group – The track deals with lyrics from a world wise child & the suggestion that those than can’t specifically speak for themselves & the joy that one forgets of when reaching past the throes of childhood.
“Burned” the Young track from the first album is a short prelude in to Neil’s archives having not enjoyed many airings since the Springfield days. The lyrics are, as ever, sunken in to the feeling of rebuke that Neil used to pin point well despite his early age. The instrumentation upbeat & optimistic standing firm against the rebuttal.
This leaves some of the cream of the bands output still to be performed. The audience haven’t just arrived to hear these but the baby boomers may leave a little disappointed of they wern’t performed. One of the bands biggest songs follows with a paced down but glimmering version “For What It’s Worth” was one of Stephen’s early vehicles & was one of the first hits for the band quickly replacing “Baby, Don’t Scold Me” on re-issues of the LP in 1967.
Still’s finally lets loose his voice & really begins to try to let things flow with a back of the throat howl that eventually gets him so far in to the song he begins to improvise & scat the final coda.
Richie stays front to the fold sharing chorus’ with a plaintive “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing” allegedly written by Neil about a schoolboy friend who suffered with MS. Neil’s harp quivers behind softly while Joe Vitale & Rick Rosas keep the heart beat of percussion running.
Richie’s final song is “Bluebird” – Here an acoustic version of the usually gargantuan version that would span over 10 minutes & soon became one of the expected highlights to the set. Tonight doesn’t see the band fly that far but does span to the six minutes mark. A amalgamation of delicate soloing between the trio of guitar players.
“Mr. Soul” caps the Buffalo Springfield era portion of the set & is instantly recognisable from the swaggering & dangerous loop of it’s riff. The song has been a routine pull at Neil’s concerts sporadically since the mid 1970’s but here is presented with full band on acoustic guitars although it’s fury is not diminished having left the scuzz & scurl of electricity behind – its majestic power is a bright as ever.
The band are finally joined by other artists from the benefit such as Pegi Young, Eddie Vedder, Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne and more. More routinely Neil has launched this as the show stopper of his concerts. The message obviously a peaceful one to the audience or listening public while the media repeats the same stories around the world of terrorism & violent struggles.
This is his “Masters Of War”, his “War”, his “We Shall Overcome”, his own stretched arm of peace that clutches the olive branch. Neil spits out the lyrics making this a hand clapping, fist pumping, rousing sing along. No matter that this is a bare production it still has it’s power & the force can be heard shuddering around the room.
As bonus tracks the Godfather has chosen to include solo Neil tracks from the short set that he also performed that same day where he was joined by Pegi & a trio of native Indian friends by way of thanks from Neil. This section is from a different audience tape from that used for the Buffalo Springfield section & is a little more distant although it’s not bad by any means it’s not quite as clear.
Neil is introduced by Pegi to the stage & declares a brief introduction to “Bridge 24” as he has titled the event. His duo of songs begins with “Sugar Mountain” – His own reminiscence of his childhood & a song that holds greater meaning for him as he nears his later years. He adds to this rendition a smattering of harp & also includes the popular accapella ending that the crowd, a little too shy to sing along, clap along too and he ends with “Comes A Time” from the 1978 album of the same title.
A song that stretches towards another era as ‘Sugar Mountain’ looked back to an earlier age from an early age then ‘Comes A Time’ seemed to look forward to a time of end when Neil was far from hanging up his guitar. Pegi aids on harmony vocals throughout ‘Comes A Time’ & percussion comes from a native Indian musician on shake stick.
The Packaging is the usual Godfather trifold sleeve adorned with several photos from the actual event both onstage & backstage that also includes the collective from “Rockin’ In The Free World”. This is also topped off with a solid, descriptive review on one of the panels describing the event. An awesome package & a great memento of a rare event.
Excellent review Stu! This was one of the latest Godfather releases that I was really looking forward to hearing and although it’s 42 years later for the surviving members of this band, I’m really impressed with the performance and really wish I could have been there. Thanks to the taper for the excellent AUD source and thanks to Godfather for adding this release to their large series of titles.