Saturday, November 14, 2009

Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit a Success‏

by Brent Warnken

Each year, veteran rocker Neil Young and his wife Pegi host the Bridge School Benefit, an annual concert that raises funds for the Northern California school, and this year Coldplay's Chris Martin and No Doubt were on hand to participate in the festivities.

Held on Sunday, Oct. 25 at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, Calif., the 23rd Bridge School Benefit also featured performances by Fleet Foxes and Wolfmother. Young's wife Pegi founded the Bridge School for children with serious speech and physical impairments, and each year an impressive array of artists turn up to perform for the good cause.

After a pre-show performance by the Dennis Alley Wisdom Dancers, No Doubt got the seven-and-a-half-hour show started with a set list that paid tribute to lead singer Gwen Stefani's husband Gavin Rossdale's band Bush, and the set also featured covers of Prince's "Sometimes It Snows in April" and Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide." Next up, the newly-reconfigured Australian rock band Wolfmother took the stage, followed by Fleet Foxes and My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James' supergroup Monsters of Folk, which also features Mike Mogis, M. Ward and Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst.

Sheryl Crow took the stage later on in the day, ending her set with a rollicking rendition of "Soak Up the Sun," and then comedian Adam Sandler performed comedic songs like "Listenin' to The Radio," "My Little Chicken" and the inevitable "The Chanukah Song" with a full band in tow.

Coldplay's Chris Martin performed a solo set featuring hits from his band's repertoire like "Clocks," "Lost?" and "Viva La Vida" and earned rave reviews from Rolling Stone, with the music magazine claiming Gwyneth Paltrow's husband "knocked out what was arguably the finest 30 minutes of the night." Not to mention Young's concert-closing performance, which ended with the song "Comes a Time."

Now one of the biggest names in rock music, Neil Young embarked upon his solo career after fleeing California folk-rock band Buffalo Springfield in 1968. The Toronto native got his start making the coffeehouse rounds while growing up in Winnipeg and eventually drifted south to California, where he formed Buffalo Springfield. After the band broke up, Young signed a solo contract with Reprise Records and released his self-titled debut album the following year. Around that time, Young recruited his now-famous supporting band Crazy Horse, which appeared on his sophomore solo album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. The album secured gold status due to hits like "Cinnamon Girl" and "Down by the River."

Young joined Crosby, Stills and Nash after churning out two more solo albums, and thus expanded the group's name to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. While with the band, he continued to release solo albums like 1970's After the Gold Rush, which spawned the hit single "Only Love Can Break Your Heart." Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young splintered in 1971, after which point Young released Harvest, his first album to top the charts and his first to feature a number one single, "Heart of Gold" (surprisingly Young's only number one single). The successful album was followed by the poorly received film Journey through the Past and signaled a dark period for Young, highlighted by the deaths of two friends due to drug overdose.

In 1975, Young returned to form with Tonight's the Night and then recorded Zuma with Crazy Horse. After dabbling in country music and abruptly cancelling a tour mid-way through, Young released his so-called comeback album, Rust Never Sleeps, in 1979. The live film of the same name and the double album Live Rust followed, and after a string of confused releases Young jumped labels to Geffen Records. Geffen promised to grant Young complete artistic freedom, and he took their word for it with Trans, an electronic-leaning album that arrived way ahead of its time in 1982. More experimental releases followed, until 1988's This Note's for You saw him returning to his roots.

The 1990s saw a resurgence of interest in the folk-rock of artists like Neil Young, and in 1992 Harvest Moon, the sequel to his 1972 breakthrough album, became Young's biggest hit in recent years. Young upped his cool factor by recording Mirror Ball with grunge band Pearl Jam and steadily released solo albums into the new millennium. Although he was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening brain aneurysm in 2005, Young released the concert film Heart of Gold in 2006, followed by a stream of albums, most recently 2009's Dreamin' Man. Check out Neil Young tickets to see him live.

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