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Bridge Benefit XIII (Oct. 30 & 31, 1999)

........The lineup for Neil Young's annual Bridge School benefit spans theNeil Young generations of rock stars with Pearl Jam, The Who, Sheryl Crow, Green Day, Billy Corgan & James Iha (of Smashing Pumpkins) (Jimmy Chamberlain played, too!) Tom Waits (Saturday Only) Emmylou Harris (Sunday Only) Lucinda Williams Brian Wilson. While Young always invites some of the biggest names in rock to play the show, this year's lineup was likely the strongest ever. ``We're so lucky to have this going every year,'' said Young during his own set at the Shoreline Amphitheater. ``We don't know how it got this good, but more power to it.'' Neil Young opened the show with ``I Am a Child,'' ``Good to See You'' and ``Heart of Gold.'' He came back later almost absent-mindedly sipping a beer and selecting from an array of guitars surrounding him. Besides new songs from the recent Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young release, he did a strong pipe organ ``Long May You Run'' with Willie Nelson harmonica player Mickey Raphael, and ``Old Man,'' which turned into an unprompted audience sing-along.

..Sheryl Crow......There were plenty of other highlights at this year's benefit, which, on Saturday, started at 5:15 p.m. and stretched to 1:30 a.m. and Sunday's show started at 2:15 p.m. and stretched to 11:30 p.m . This time, it seemed clear that Brian Wilson's songs from the Beach Boys, stood out the best of being remembered and sung into the 22nd century. Propped up by a nine-person band and a TelePrompTer, Wilson walked through a 40-minute set that included ``California Girls,'' ``In My Room,'' ``Little Surfer Girl,'' ``God Only Knows,'' ``Help Me Rhonda'' and ``Good Vibrations,'' as well as a couple of songs from his latest solo album. Brian Wilson can still make the audience feel great with that Beach Boy magic. ``Now, everybody stand up,'' he said, not noticing that about 20,000 people already were on their feet prior to what he called his best-known song, ``Good Vibrations.''

......When Tom Waits came on stage nobody left their seats for this guy. Such a intriguing performer in his trademark hobo style hat, did his usual eccentric act: lurching around the stage .He sang bent over with a frog-croak voice, sounding like the famous Louis Armstrong of yesteryears. His bizarre set included: ``Gun Street Girl,'' ``Jockey Full of Bourbon,'' ``Hold On,'' ``Chocolate Jesus,'' ``16 Shells From A Thirty-Ought Six,'' ``Tango Till They're Soar,'' and ``Tom Traubert's Blues.'' playing both piano and guitar, singing in a Bigfoot growl. Especially charming were "Innocent When You Dream" and "Waltzing Matilda." But this junkyard poet, yelling through a megaphone at times, was like a cartoon character come to life.

........Green Day Wearing sweatshirts, jeans and natural hair color, the members of Billy Joe of GreendayGreen Day were in true form. Playing their first Bridge benefit (and maybe their last, if some cussing' gets them in hot water) the East Bay's Green Day - now all "veterans" in their mid-20s - stormed the stage with all the thrashing and howling of typical punk manor. The songs held up as surprisingly tight pop tunes. Billie Joe Armstrong strummed at center stage, backed on guitar by a friend identified only as Jason, through ``Geek Stink Breath,'' ``Hitching' a Ride,'' ``Welcome to Paradise,'' ``She,'' ``When I Come Around,'' ``King for a Day,'' the new ``Warning'' and ``Good Riddance,'' a ballad that has been picked up as a background to countless TV shows.

Smashing Pumpkins' Smashing Pumpkins' James Iha and Billy Corgan were sloppier than they were the last time they played the Bridge show two years ago, but they mixed strange covers -- U2's ``Stay'' and Tom Waits' ``Ol' 55'' -- with material from a forthcoming album. Corgan introduced former drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, who has returned to the band after a lengthy battle with drugs. Despite admirable guitar-playing and Corgan's patented braying-on-pitch, they seemed aloof from the crowd. The Who

......The Who was the evening's second highest moment. Taking the stage at nearly 1 a.m, the first night then settle for 3p.m on Sunday, the English quartet (with late drummer Keith Moon replaced by Zack Starkey, Ringo's son). This most electric of rock bands played unplugged, as is the custom at the Bridge benefit. Guitarist Pete Townshend even pulled up a chair to play his clattering solo on ``Who Are You.'' They may look like old bankers, but the Who's members played like time stood still for them. It was utterly magnificent -- a towering close to an epic concert Tearing into "Substitute," Roger Daltrey, the former heartthrob who still looks mighty good, proved time hasn't diminished his powerful bellow of a voice. And guitar hero Pete Townshend managed to make his acoustic guitar on "Pinball Wizard" sound like a full orchestra, pounding the strings with a ferocity that would fill the evening's young upstarts with envy. "Behind Blue Eyes" was angry and haunting - a reminder why intense young rock stars like Eddie Vedder point to the Who as their icons.

....... Pearl Jam - now veterans of several Bridge Benefits - were also excellent, performing emotion-charged songs, including the intimate, beautiful "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town," as well as their new (and somewhat inexplicable) hit, the cover of "Last Kiss." And they played some just-written songs, for an album currently being recorded, because, as Vedder put it: "It's like when you get new shoes or a new coat you can't wait to try them out." All the other sets were memorable, once again Neil and Pegi Young Triumphs.

By Randy Cohen

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