Farm Aid, Germain Amphitheatre, Columbus, Ohio (USA) - Sep 7th, 2003
by David McPherson

Politics and music collided this past weekend in rural Columbus, Ohio where Canadians Neil Young and Daniel Lanois joined a dozen diverse musicians to perform and wax political about the plight of the American farmer during the 16th annual Farm Aid concert.

Since its founding in 1985, Farm Aid has raised more than $24 million for America's family farmers. In Ohio for the first time, the annual benefit brought together 20,000 hippies, farmers and music fans for a memorable day of music.

At the 11 a.m. press conference, a bedraggled Young yawned and said, "It's a little early this morning for some reason." While Young was physically drained, his mind was as sharp as always, speaking passionately about the day's cause. Eleven hours later, he was wide awake when he hit the stage with Crazy Horse.

The concert began under an oppressive Ohio sun shortly after 2 p.m. with Titty Bingo ? a garage-rock band who only play together about four times per year. Willie Nelson joined them, making a rare appearance playing electric guitar.

Early in the afternoon, Hootie And The Blowfish returned for the fourth time to Farm Aid appearance with an energetic 20-minute set. Frontman Darius Rucker was all smiles as he led the band through their hits and a few new songs.

Bluegrass queen Emmylou Harris ? whose sweet, soaring vocals make your heart ache - played a few songs from her upcoming new album, Stumble Into Grace. Harris also tackled the Townes Van Zant classic, "Pancho And Lefty."

Earlier, Harris performed several duets during Lanois' earthy set. The polished producer lingered through several haunting, atmospheric songs. The highlight was "The Maker" ? a song he wrote for Harris.

Four-time country music entertainers of the year Brooks And Dunn were a definite Farm Aid fan favourite, getting the crowd on its feet for the first time of the day. The band rocked the crowd with old and new songs as country fans waved their Stetsons to the beat.

They finished with "Only In America," as red, white and blue confetti fired from cannons throughout the lower levels, showering the crowd.

Sheryl Crow, dressed in black leather pants and a Pittsburgh Steelers shirt, shone in the late afternoon sun. The family farmer's fight is close to Crow's heart since the songstress grew up in rural Missouri on a cotton farm. As the sun slowly set, Crow played all her hits, plus an interesting cover of Nick Lowe's song, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?"

Dave Matthews followed with a stark set of DMB classics for the crowd's younger, hipper demographic. Matthews admitted that he "felt a little lonely without his band," and thanked the crowd for "backing [him] up."

Those in the crowd expecting a John Mellencamp greatest hits showcase left disappointed and some even booed his awesome, but unexpected set of blues songs from his most recent disc Trouble No More.

The grey-haired Young proved that it was worth the drive from Toronto for a couple toting a Canadian flag, sporting the message, "Canada loves Neil Young." Shortly after 10 p.m., he opened with the scorching "Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)." The 57-year-old looked like he was 20 the way he wailed on his guitar and jammed with Crazy Horse for the next 50 minutes.

After this opener, Young beckoned his good buddy Willie to join him, joking, "It's a long song," before launching into "Down By The River." Nelson headed the call and grabbed "Trigger" ? his trademark battled-scarred guitar. For the remainder of this jam, Trigger tried to keep pace with Neil's weapon, Old Black. Young's finale was the environmental song "Be The Rain," performed while Native American dancers grooved with Young in a tribal rain dance.

The septuagenarian Nelson closed the show, playing on and on until the house lights came on around midnight. For an hour, the Farm Aid founder played hits like "Whisky River" and "Hey Good Lookin'."

Many of the crowd had left by the time the finale occurred when a number of the day's performers returned to the stage to sing "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" with Grandpa Willie.

Nelson's display of endurance and stamina punctuated his passion and commitment to the music, to the cause and to his profession ? leaving Farm Aid fans dreaming of next year's show.


Source :