Neil Young (and his team) put together a solid lineup of classic rock icons, indie rockers, chart toppers and a jazz singer for this years’s Bridge School Benefit concert. The artists on bill all seemed enthused to be sharing the stage with Young, and judging by his on-stage visits, the feeling was mutual.

The annual, acoustic (or mostly acoustic) concert benefits the Bridge School, a private school located in Hillsborough, California, which educates children with severe speech and physical impairments. The school was co-founded by Young’s wife, Pegi Young, with Jim Forderer, also a parent of a disabled child, in 1985 because they were unsatisfied with the schools that were available to their children. Along with Dr.Marilyn Buzolich, a speech and language pathologist, they created the Bridge School, whose mission is working with children with complex communication needs.

And since 1986, Young has headlined the annual concert to help raise funds for the school: Paul McCartney, Metallica, Pearl Jam, Guns N Roses, No Doubt, Tony Bennett and Bruce Springsteen have all played stripped down sets at the concerts over the years. You can learn more about the Bridge School, and donate to it, at their official website.

The concert also keeps Young in touch with younger artists: recent years have seen Foster The People, Gary Clark Jr., Ray LaMontagne, Mumford & Sons, Modest Mouse, Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes, Band Of Horses and Death Cab For Cutie on the bill. But it’s rare that Young jams with as many of his guests as he did this year. The love of Young was a big theme at day one (Saturday, October 26) of this year’s event, which featured Young performing solo acoustic and also with Crosby Stills Nash and Young. Queens Of The Stone Age, Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket, Jack Johnson, Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, fun., Heart and Jenny Lewis were on the bill as well. On day two, Johnson and Arcade Fire aren’t on the bill, but Tom Waits is. (The Killers were originally scheduled, but had to cancel.)

Here are some of this year’s highlights:

Young opened the show with a brief solo acoustic set, starting with his cover of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” (he opened his recent set at Farm Aid the same way). He also played “Heart Of Gold,” not the first time we’d be hearing from his classic Harvest album (or it’s sequel, Harvest Moon), during the night.

Heart, who have been in a Led Zeppelin state of mind for the past year – having covered “Stairway To Heaven” at the Kennedy Center Honors, and toured with Jason Bonham, performing a few Zep songs each night – again returned to that well, covering “The Rain Song” with their keyboardist Debbie Shair playing along with the band on Young’s pipe organ (most of the artists performing used Young’s organ and piano instead of bringing their own, presumably to make transitions between performances quicker).

Pianist/singer Diana Krall played a short set accompanied by upright bassist Dennis Crouch, highlighted by her cover of Young’s “A Man Needs A Maid” from Harvest. She was soon joined by her husband Elvis Costello, and they duetted on the day’s second Bob Dylan cover, “Wallflower.” Soon, Krall left, and Costello performed his own set with Crouch, which included his hits “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” and “Alison,” as well as a medley of his own song, “New Amsterdam” with the Beatles’ “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.” He was joined by Graham Nash for a cover of the Hollies’ “King Midas In Reverse.”

Crosby Stills Nash and Young were the headliners, and drew from all phases of their career for their set. Opening with Nash’s CSN hit “Just A Song Before I Go,” they also played Young’s “Human Highway,” “Don’t Want Lies” (from Stills’ other band, the Rides), the Young rarity “Singer Without A Song,” and Crosby’s solo “What Are Their Names,” before getting into an actual CSNY song, the Crosby-penned “Deja Vu.” The set also featured the Stills-Young Band’s “Long May You Run,” CSN’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” and then another CSNY number, the Nash-written “Teach Your Children,” joined by several of the other performers, including Jack Johnson, Jenny Lewis and members of My Morning Jacket and Arcade Fire.

Other notable moments:

  • Opening act, singer/songwriter Jenny Lewis covered Young’s “Buffalo Springfield Again” (from his 2000 album Silver And Gold), his ode to his former band.
  • GRAMMY winning trio fun. covered the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Singer Nate Ruess noted that his father is a big CSNY fan, and felt that this concert was the coolest event that fun. has been a part of thus far.
  • Neil Young joined Jack Johnson onstage for “Out On The Weekend,” from Harvest
  • My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James told a story about seeing Young perform “Harvest Moon” (from the 1992 album of the same name) on Saturday Night Live with his mother, who went to get the album for him the next day. Instead, she accidentally picked up Harvest, which was a game changer for him. In tribute to that original TV performance, though, Young joined them for “Harvest Moon.”
  • Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler announced that he’d written a new song called “I Dreamed A Neil Young Song,” which the man himself joined the red-hot Canadian band for. 

You can watch the entire eight and a half hour webcast, which will be live until 11 pm PT October 30, below.


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