"The Bridge Bash" - Springsteen, Neil Young -- born to be sensational

San Francisco Examiner, 1995-10-30, by: Craig Marine
In a very special evening of music stretching across more than five hours, Neil Young's Bridge School benefit concert at the Shoreline Amphitheatre Saturday night provided highlight after artistic highlight.

With the usual array of eclectic talent, from the sublime - Emmylou Harris with Daniel Lanois - - to the surreal -- to the just plain sensational -- Bruce Springsteen and Young himself -- the bridge concert has become one of the most anticipated concerts of the season.

But the evening's real highlight came with Springsteen's inspired performance. Taking the stage in the middle of the bill, just after the Lanois, Harris country-Cajun set -- it sounds like a new salad dressing but is awfully easy on the ears -- Springsteen was mesmerizing. No other performer can hold an audience at such rapt attention as he merely tunes his guitar. when he sings his songs, which take so well to acoustic stylings, the entire place was listening intently.

Springsteen, performing for the first time in the Bay Area in several years, performed seven songs, including two from his upcoming new album, 'The Ghost of Tom Joad,' to be released in late November. Beginning with 'Seeds,' Springsteen did a marvelous reworking of 'Adam Raised a Cain' before going into his first new song, 'Sinaloa Cowboys' a tale of two Mexican brothers and what befalls them as they try for a better life in the north. Springsteen then did a version of 'Point Blank' that was stunning in its stark clarity, followed that with the humorous 'Hard Army Life,' went into 'This Hard Land' from his greatest hits album and finished with the moving title track to his new record, which he dedicated to 'the Gingrich Mob' in Washington, D.C. He was called back for an encore, joining Young for a riveting duet on 'Down By the River,' after the evening's host joked that 'Bruce says he doesn't have any more songs so we're gonna do one of mine.'

If Springsteen's set was the performance of the night, Young's offerings weren't far behind. The Bard of Woodside opened the show with three beautiful numbers, 'Comes a Time,' his own 'Needle and the Damage Done' and 'Heart of Gold,' a song he performs only on special occasions these days. Then, to close the show, he was joined by his long-time back-up band, Crazy Horse, for exceptional versions of 'Pocahontas,' 'Look Out for My Love,' 'Cortez the Killer,' 'Powderfinger,' 'Tonight's the Night' and a group rendition of 'Keep on Rockin' in the Free World' that brought Bruce, the Blowfish and even Aerosmith's Steven Tyler out of the wings to join in on the choruses.

Young has reached a point in his career where in his career where he can shape his songs -- even songs he may have performed hundreds of times -- to whatever mood he may be in in a given moment, playing with the phrasings, altering the guitar lines, using his incredible power as a musician to transcend the song's normal boundaries and reach right into the soul of the songs.

When he is joined by someone like Springsteen, who possesses equal power, the results are nothing short of remarkable. It would be wonderful to see these great talents -- both of whom were nominated last year for Academy Awards for their work on the 'Streets of Philadelphia' soundtrack - join together on an extended project. They both seemed to be enjoying themselves enough Saturday night to make this seem not as far-fetched as it might seem at first consideration."

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