Neil Young - vocals, guitar, harmonica; Nils Lofgren- guitar; Spooner Oldham - piano; Ben Keith- steel guitar, dobro; Tim Drummond - bass; Kenny Buttrey - drums; Nicolette Larson - vocals
The annual Bridge School Benefit has become a highlight of the Bay Area's concert schedule since in began in 1986. Founded by Pegi Young (married to Neil Young), Jim Forderer, and Marilyn Bozolich, the Bridge School developed educational programs to service the special needs of Bay Area children with severe speech disabilities and physical impairments and has been serving the community for well over two decades now. The annual fundraiser concert has gained support from many of the biggest names in the music industry, with artists performing special acoustic-based sets in the outdoor setting of the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California.
The fifth annual Bridge School Benefit took place on November 2, 1991 and featured performances by Larry Keegan, John Lee Hooker, Don Henley, Nils Lofgren, Tracy Chapman, Sonic Youth, Willie Nelson, and of course, Neil Young. On this night, Young would perform with a reunited Stray Gators, the musicians who played on his blockbuster Harvest album and would soon be featured again on his forthcoming album, Harvest Moon. It was an emotional time in general for the Bay Area, as the legendary concert promoter Bill Graham had recently been killed in a helicopter accident and his public memorial service and concert was to be held the following afternoon in Golden Gate Park.
So it was, when Neil Young, accompanied by singer Nicollette Larson and the Stray Gators, took the stage to close the fifth annual Bridge School Benefit. The set begins in humorous form with Young experiencing feedback problems on his wireless acoustic guitar, causing a false start on the opening number. However, this is quickly remedied and the group begin a sweet sounding "take two" of "Long May You Run." Young next dips way back in his catalogue with "Birds," a rarely played song from his 1970 album, After The Gold Rush. Unlike the piano-based studio recording, here Young performs it on his Martin D45 acoustic and with the Stray Gators support, he delivers a lovely rendition that many attendees considered the musical highlight of the entire event.
Next up, Young unveils two new songs in their debut performances. First up is the lovely title track to his forthcoming album at the time, Harvest Moon, followed by a reading of "From Hank To Hendrix," giving listeners a sneak preview of these not-yet-released songs. Bringing the night toward a close, Young and friends next perform, "Comes A Time." All three of these songs receive tasteful accompaniment from the Stray Gators, and Nicollette Larson provides lovely harmony vocals throughout the set.
For the final song of the night, Young invites everyone back out to the stage. With Willie Nelson, Tracy Chapman, and Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo (among others) joining in, Young leads everyone through a touching take of Bob Dylan's "Forever Young," a song he would perform with the Grateful Dead on the following day to close the Bill Graham Memorial concert.