[LIVE REVIEW] School Bridge Benefit - Day #1 - 24 October

Bridge School Benefit review: Dixie Chicks, Sheryl Crow soar at Shoreline

By Jim Harrington
Contra Costa Times

The days grow shorter, the weather gets colder and Neil Young brings a bunch of talented artists to town.

Indeed, it just wouldn't seem like fall in the Bay Area without Young's Bridge School Benefit concerts, the annual all-star fundraiser at Shoreline Amphitheatre at Mountain View.

This fabulous fall classic returned on Saturday, with a well-stocked bill highlighted by the reunited Dixie Chicks, platinum-selling rocker Sheryl Crow and acclaimed singer-songwriter Ryan Adams. The all-acoustic lineup also featured Ben Harper, St. Vincent, Gary Clark Jr., Spoon, Nils Lofgren and, of course, Young, performing with the act Promise of the Real.

Those same acts, minus only Lofgren, were expected to perform again for fans on Sunday (Day Two).

The concerts support Hillsborough's Bridge School, a program for the communicative and educational development of children with severe speech and physical impairments.

Most of the performances on Saturday were good. A few were excellent. And none were terrible.

In comparison to past Bridge Benefits, this 29th annual event ranked somewhere in the middle of the pack.

Of course, that's not how many would-be ticket buyers saw it. The 2015 Bridge didn't prove all that popular at the box office, only bringing in roughly 14,000 fans to the 22,000-capacity Shoreline on Saturday. It was definitely one of the smallest crowds I've seen at a Saturday Bridge show, out of the 20-plus years I've attended the event. And an even smaller crowd was expected to show on Sunday.

Why the low turnout? Well, it likely had something to do with Young's bizarre decision to play his own headlining show (also with Promise of the Real) just one week prior at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. That certainly didn't help his drawing power for the Bridge.

Yet, an even bigger problem was the lineup, which was roasted by many -- somewhat unfairly -- for being subpar the moment it was released. That's what happens when you spoil an audience with a steady supply of such Rock and Roll Hall of Famers as Paul McCartney, R.E.M., David Bowie, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith and Metallica over the years.

The top attraction on this year's bill was the reunited Dixie Chicks, one of the biggest country acts of all time. The group -- vocalist Natalie Maines, guitarist Emily Robison Strayer and fiddle player Martie Maguire -- sounded terrific onstage, showcasing the wonderful harmonies and edgy country that resulted in multiple Grammy wins and over 30 million albums sold.

The Dixie Chicks opened their 35-minute set with "The Long Way Around" from "Taking the Long Way," the 2006 blockbuster that still stands as the band's most recent album.

The group mined its one catalog for such gems as "Sin Wagon" and "Not Ready to Make Nice," and even threw in a couple of cover songs. The first was expected — the Dixies' smash take on Fleetwood Mac's immortal "Landslide." The second offering was a complete surprise — a powerful play on Lana Del Rey's "Video Games."

Another highlight of the night was Ryan Adams' set. The folk-rocker was absolutely charming onstage, making up songs on the spot and otherwise goofing around with the crowd. Unfortunately, he didn't perform any material from "1989" -- Adams' inspired re-imagining of Taylor Swift's entire "1989" album -- but he did play his wonderful "New York, New York" as well as revisit his Whiskeytown days for "Jacksonville Skyline."

Sheryl Crow also did a fine job with her set, igniting smiles and singalongs during such fan favorites as "If It Makes You Happy" and "A Change Would Do You Good." The future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was definitely in the mood to collaborate, calling out the Dixie Chicks, blues-rocker Gary Clark Jr. and indie-pop fave St. Vincent to join her onstage.

St. Vincent and Clark also put on their own winning solo sets, while Ben Harper and Spoon definitely appealed to the crowd. Many fans had left by the time Young and Promise of the Real (with Nils Lofgren on piano) took the stage around midnight, kicking off the night's final set with "Human Highway."

SOURCE: Contra Costa Times



A Change Would Do You Good
(guitar, harmonica and piano)

Crazy Ain't Original

Strong Enough
(with Dixie Chicks on vocal and fiddle)

(with St. Vincent on guitar)

If It Makes You Happy

I Shall Believe
(with Gary Clark, Jr. on guitar)


Photo: Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group

Photo: Kingcrycry

Harmonica and Guitar on "A Change"
Photo: Marilyn Schlitz, PhD

Sheryl with St. Vincent (Annie Clark)
Photo: Marilyn Schlitz, PhD

Sheryl with St. Vincent (Annie Clark)
Photo: electricahab

Photo: Mark Agnello


Photo: Wifely Azewaldo


Photo: ❁Isabella of Castile




Photos: John Collins


Photo: Judy Sorensen

Photo: Judy Sorensen

Photo: Judy Sorensen

Photo: Judy Sorensen

Photo: Dianne Morton



Strong Enough
with the Dixie Chicks

A Change

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