Saturday, January 30, 2010

Elton at Neil Young Tribute

In 20 previous editions, the pre-Grammy concert benefiting MusiCares has had some spectacular honorees and events, including Elton John, James Taylor, Sting, Bono and 2009 recipient Neil Diamond. But with all of those star-studded affairs it would be hard to find one that engendered more love and respect than Friday night's dinner honoring Neil Young. From the moment the night was announced it promised to be special.

Host Jack Black, who got so caught up in the spirit of raising money for the night he auctioned off his shoes, tie and eventually pants during the evening, noted in his opening remarks, "Neil Young has influenced four decades of music." That was felt in the remarkable lineup that brought together peers like Crosby, Stills and Nash, Jackson Browne and Emmylou Harris, who performed the title track to 'Comes A Time' with Lucinda Williams and Patty Griffin, as well as other disciples and admirers such as Wilco, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Dave Matthews.

Wilco delivered one of the high points of the night with a mesmerizing 'Broken Arrow,' while Matthews performed a poignant 'Needle And The Damage Done.' For them, being there was obvious. "Well, it's about time we paid him back," Wilco's Jeff Tweedy told Spinner beforehand. "I certainly can't think of anyone who's been more influential on a band like Wilco."

And for Matthews, who is still blown away by calling Young his friend, it was a chance to pay his respects. "Since I was a kid I've been a crazy fan," he told Spinner. "And it's a different thing to be able to go out there and say thank you to him as a fan, rather than as a friend."

The night brought out some special collaborations, including Jason Mraz and Shawn Colvin's 'A Lotta Love,' Stephen Stills and Sheryl Crow's lovely 'Long May You Run,' and Keith Urban, John Fogerty and Booker T shaking the Convention Center halls with 'Rockin' In The Free World.' The night also featured a Grammy-worthy tribute by Elton John, Neko Case, Leon Russell, Shawn Colvin and T-Bone Burnett on 'Helpless.'

But the individual performances offered just as many highlights, including John Mellencamp's opening 'Down By The River,' Ben Harper's stirring 'Ohio,' Elvis Costello's 'The Losing End' and Ozomatli's funked up 'Mr. Soul.' One of the most anticipated moments of the night was the Red Hot Chili Peppers' first public appearance with new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, and the band did not disappoint, going "soft, hard, and then soft again" with a psychedelic version of ' A Man Needs A Maid.'

Young sat in the audience taking in all the admiration and love, but he did not speak. That didn't surprise Matthews, who knows his friend well. "I know he's so embarrassed by the whole thing. He's probably like, 'I can't take it, f--- this. I'm not playing, f--- you,'" Matthews said laughing. "That's not a direct quote, but it's the kind of person he is. But it's great to get up there and embarrass him like that because he's like nobody else."


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