Letter from the Lawn: Bridge School Benefit

Oct. 24, 2012, 11:56 p.m.

What’s the best way to enjoy Neil Young’s annual Bridge School Benefit Concert? Bring a blanket, a burrito, some friends and hang out on the lawn!


The Bridge School Benefit Concert, an annual event organized by Neil Young and his wife, Pegi, ran Saturday and Sunday at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View. Both days featured the same lineup of artists, including Guns N’ Roses, Jack White, the Flaming Lips, Foster the People and Neil Young himself.


The lineup order was not published and Saturday’s show received reviews that were mediocre at best (one critic called it “a year to forget”), so we took our time getting to the show on Sunday.


Contrary to what reviewers predicted, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves on the lawn by the time we got there. Parents and kids danced around together as Ray LaMontagne welcomed us with a solid performance. The crowd as a whole rode low-key and laid-back vibes.


Next up, the Flaming Lips entertained the masses with guest artist Reggie Watts in a sweet jacket reminiscent of Sgt Pepper. Not being much of a Lips fan myself, I lay back on the grass and watched the moon and clouds as the tunes wafted over. The set wrapped up with a questionable rendition of “A Day in the Life.” As other reviewers had noted at Saturday’s show, Reggie Watts was definitely reading the lyrics from an iPhone … seriously, guys? A pretty bold choice to conclude an overall lackluster set.


The Bridge School is a Bay Area organization dedicated to educating children with severe speech and physical impairments, founded by Neil and Pegi in 1986. The show featured photos and videos from the school, reminding concertgoers of the cause behind Young’s annual show.


After the Flaming Lips’ flop, Jack White delivered a stoke to the audience right when it was needed most. With an eclectic crew of musicians at his side and some pretty wild hair, White was able to bring the energy back and delivered one of the best performances of the evening.


Guns N Roses, one of the final acts of the night, managed to put on a respectable show despite some discordant moments. What they lacked in youthful energy and coordination they made up for with enthusiasm and allusions to earlier, less wrinkled times. Jams like “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Sweet Child O Mine” got the crowd up and dancing, young and old alike.


Neil Young wrapped up the nine-hour event with a heartfelt set that rewarded the audience for their patience late into the crisp evening. At 66, he performed with all the skill and energy of his younger self, and his performance was the highlight of the event.
The large sloping lawn at shoreline is the best way to enjoy this type of casual, long event. Even if this year’s lineup didn’t wow you, with a blanket, burrito and some friends, it’d be hard not to have a good time.

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