Lee Ann Womack
Review by Jason Squires and Stevie StylesWhat do movie stars, rock stars, and a bunch of farmers all have in common? No, they aren't recording Down on the Farm, Volume XI. Unfortunately...Instead, they are just a few that have donated their time and efforts for the 15th annual Farm Aid benefit concert. Many of you may remember that Farm Aid was started in 1985 by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp with the mission to raise money and awareness to fight the evils of factory farming and to save America's family owned farms. In 2001, Dave Matthews was added as a permanent fixture to Farm Aid when he joined their Board of Directors. Actor Matthew McConaughey landed the gig of emcee for the sold-out Farm Aid 2002 concert, which took place just outside Pittsburgh, PA at the Post-Gazette Pavilion in Burgettstown on September 21.
Photos by Jason Squires
As with previous shows well-known and up and coming musicians contributed their time to make this worthy cause another success. The musical acts kicked off around 2pm with country singer sensation Lee Ann Womack, looking as beautiful as she ever does in her videos. As part of tradition, Willie Nelson himself joined her on stage for a couple of songs. Quickly following with a short set by country great Toby Keith--whose set included his timely wartime ballad "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue." Later in the day, Kenny Wayne Shepherd arrived with Stevie Ray Vaughan's legendary's backing band, Double Trouble, for an electrifying 30-minute set. Together, they showed the cheering crowd he may in fact have the spirit of both Hendrix and SRV pulsating through his veins.
Kid Rock had to be the surprise addition to this year's festival. If there was any question whether he would tone down his set all changed the minute he swooped onto the stage. He proved from the very first note that he was there to perform a balls-out approach to getting the message across to every American home and trailer park across the country. He did slow it down occasionally to show his diversity by singing covers from the likes of Waylon Jennings, The Allman Brothers and even Bob Seger. Mid-way through his set, the Detroit badass surprised everyone by singing a quiet duet with Allison Moorer called "Come Back Home" off of his new cd, "Cocky".
Of course many were here for the new board member, Dave Matthews, who began his set with the usual unintelligible banter and mumbling, with the likes of "Eat good food . . . and drink good wine. Make good love...all the time. Thank you to all the farmers." Matthews, in a rare solo appearance, put on a quiet 40 minute set, culminating in an energetic rendition of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower."
Riding the energy from Matthews' set, John Mellencamp kept it going with a hits package that included "Pink Houses" and "Crumblin' Down" mid-set. Mellencamp told the crowd that "You can make a difference in this world. If you want to live in a better world, it starts with each of us, each of you..." The crowd was then treated to a slow and very peaceful acoustic version of "Small Town." "Attention Shoppers, buy organic food" was the message Neil Young repeated several times throughout his set. Young appeared solo this year, unlike previous times when he has backed up by of all bands Phish and of course Crazy Horse. Neil's set included favorites such as "Harvest Moon" and "Comes a Time." Plus, had a very surprised appearance by Willie Nelson on his final tune, "Sugar Mountain."
To end the evening and well, CMT's live coverage, Willie Nelson put on a short set with his band before being joined by the rest of the day's performers for a huge finale. During the finale, Matthew McConaughey appeared to be doing a drunken rendition of the funky chicken. Watching in awe was Neil Young, until eventually deciding to move to the other side of the stage to sing along with Willie and the rest of the gang. Between the Native Americans doing ceremonial dances, McConaughey dancing uncontrollably, and a slew of other folks on stage, Willie was still the focus doing his traditional TV coverage close out with "This land is your land."
And with that Farm Aid 2002 came to an end. Everyone that joined Willie for the finale left the stage, TV cameras were shut off and Willie was finished singing... right? Wait. "Let's do one more song before we go". With that Willie became a man on a mission and there was no stopping him. Song after song, Willie continued to play with no sign of letting up. Many already began to head for the exits and the concert traffic was already beginning to escalate. Yet, there was still a glow from the stage. Willie and the boys were there to play like it could be their last days on Earth. Who knows, they may still be up there doing what they do best-entertaining with a purpose.
Kenny Wayne Sheperd
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