FOO FIGHTERS, RYAN ADAMS, & THOM YORKE HIGHLIGHT BRIDGE SCHOOL BENEFIT
IN SAN FRANCISCO
To swear or not to swear? That was the question at the 16th Annual Bridge
School Benefit concert at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View,
Calif., on Saturday (Oct. 26).
Neil Young's annual all-acoustic soiree, which benefits children with
severe speech and physical impairments, presented a moral dilemma for some
of the more colorful lyricists
in attendance on the opening night of the two-night affair. With many of
the Bridge School children watching with their parents from the stage
itself, watching one's mouth became a theme of the evening.
Foo Fighter Dave Grohl opted to merely mouth the word "shit!" in
"Monkey Wrench," while Ryan Adams chose songs for his set with
"no cuss words." On the other hand, LeAnn Rimes had no trouble
belting out a new track, "Damn," at the top of her lungs and
Tenacious D's Jack Black was … well … less than sacred. Besides the
cause itself, these types of contrasts among artists consistently make the
Bridge School Benefit one of the year's top bills.
After an announced three-song set from Young and a spirited six-song set
from piano chanteuse Vanessa Carlton, the Foo Fighters turned in the first
of the evening's memorable performances. Although Grohl moaned throughout
the set that the Foos' music was not "conducive to the acoustical
style," he couldn't have been more wrong. While the dynamics of new
tracks like "Overdrive," "Tired of You," and
"Times Like These" may have been altered, the results -- twangy,
jamboree-like -- rivaled any act from the alt-country set.
Tenacious D ran through a typically hilarious set next, the highlights of
which were a cover of Neil Norman "Flash Gordon" and
actor-musician Jack Black's stand-up humor.
Adams followed with a gorgeous eight-song set that proved the evening's
most poignant. From "Oh My Sweet Carolina" to country staple
"Lovesick Blues," Adams won the mostly older crowd over. Gold 's
"When the Stars Go Blue" even silenced those in attendance with
portable radios, who had been collectively screaming out randomly each
time the San Francisco Giants scored a run in the World Series. Oblivious,
Adams was stunning.
Jack Johnson paled in comparison, although his set was nothing to be
ashamed of, and LeAnn Rimes followed, equally less palatable than Adams.
Although her voice, on new tracks "Love Is an Army" and
"Suddenly" and radio staple "How Do I Live," was
gorgeous, her between song epitaphs on her music proved distracting from
the cause and her stage presence nonexistent.
Radiohead's Thom Yorke's task at hand -- converting tracks from the band's
electronic opuses Kid A and Amnesiac into acoustic offerings -- proved the
most difficult of the lineup. But Yorke soared on the piano on
"Everything in Its Right Place" and "Spinning
Plates." New songs "Sail to the Moon" on saloon-style
piano and "There, There" on acoustic guitar showed promise of
good things to come. Yorke closed with a cover of Young's "After the
Gold Rush," a beautiful choice to cap an impressive set.
James Taylor followed with a predictable, hit-laden collection of tunes
that has been his staple for years now, and was joined by Young on the
latter's "Heart of Gold" to segue into the evening's finale.
Young slumped through his catalog of classics ("Don't Let It Bring
You Down," "Needle and the Damage Done") before inviting
the entire bill out for "Comes a Time." Yorke, Adams, Johnson,
Taylor, and Tenacious D's Kyle Gass all
accepted, and the evening's one spontaneous moment ensued. But where the
night lacked surprises, it made up for in musicianship. All in all, pretty