If this all-star benefit concert had simply been about raising money and generating good cheer, it might not have been as moving as it was.
However, many unforgettable moments gave the show richness that defied genre or era. Only the worst cynic could have remained unaffected by the compassionate vibe.
Proceeds will benefit the Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding, established by the family of Ron Barber, the district director for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and administrated by the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona. Barber was one of those injured during the calamitous violence of Jan. 8; he and his family were among the speakers at the concert.
The show offered 15 musical acts, mostly veterans with decades of experience, in a fast 4 1/2 hours. The production ran smoothly and was briskly paced, with most of the artists playing just two or three tunes. About 4,500 people gathered to share the messages of resilience, kindness and solidarity—as well as the inspiring music.
David Crosby and Graham Nash rocked seriously through "Long Time Coming," with Nils Lofgren on lead guitar. Crosby and Nash also joined bluesman Keb' Mo' for a song they knew well: the Buffalo Springfield chestnut "For What It's Worth." Jennifer Warnes and Sam Moore sang beautifully during their brief respective appearances. Ozomatli suspended their boycott of Arizona to play a handful of scintillating funky Latin jazz and hip hop.
The wonderful, underrated singer/songwriter Dar Williams played "The Christians and the Pagans," an ideal choice, and then was joined by Jackson Browne for her gorgeous paean to healing and perseverance, "Mercy of the Fallen." Browne leaned on rejuvenating gospel during his terrific set (featuring "Doctor My Eyes") and joined Tucson's Calexico and Mariachi Luz de Luna for "Linda Paloma."
The evening's MVPs were the members of Jackson Browne's band, who backed up most of the acts, even Alice Cooper. One of the show's co-hosts (with promoter Danny Zelisko), Cooper performed "Under My Wheels," "I'm Eighteen" and "School's Out" without makeup, costumes or theatrics, proving the timeless appeal of those classics.
Finally, all the performers assembled together to sing Nash's "Teach Your Children," which never has sounded less treacly or didactic.