"Hello... We're Wilco. And we're here for the party as well."
Farm Aid was worth every precious penny, even with the astronomical service fee charged by Live Nation. Phosphorescent played to glowing reviews. Lukas Nelson (yes, Willie's son) absolutely blew everyone away with his searing Strat work. Jason Mraz managed mass audience participation in broad daylight. Gretchen, well, she was there for the party. Then there was Wilco.
Yeah, I'm a rabid Wilco fan, so my views are tainted. It was far from the best performance ever; it's hard to get a vibe goin' when you only have time for a few songs. But they definitely played to the St. Louis fans. Jeff actually claimed his local Belleville heritage, even though a bit tongue-in-cheek. (Not much difference than the rest of us.) "Heavy Metal Drummer" is like a polaroid from my, and many in the crowd's, past. And even though he's not a redneck as a gambling song might imply, Tweedy and friends rocked local fave "Casino Queen". "Hoodoo Voodoo" was a fitting ending, considering Woody Guthrie's lifelong crusade for the common man, and who is the backbone of these, if not the family farmer? Perfect choice.
Dave (does he even need a last name any more?) and Tim did their duet thing. Tim always mesmerizing on his D-35, Dave always.... the head of the cult-of-Dave. No one likes Dave Matthews a little. You either don't get him, or you're a follower. Plenty of followers in the house. Many left after his set. Their loss.
John Mellencamp probably had the best set of the evening. It had been years since I'd seen him and he doesn't seem to have changed all that much. High energy, belting it out, Miriam Sturm's amazing fiddle, and that weird song ending air punch thing. The audience sang on all the old songs, especially closer "The Authority Song". It was a crowd that's been with him since this Cougar days, and they love him still.
Uncle Neil was our conscience. He ripped off his Stop Factory Farms shirt (a wardrobe malfunction) to reveal a Go Family Farms one. "We need our farms back!" He shouted. Willie joined him for "Homegrown" and the haze began to rise from the crowd. But as much as Neil Young was the conscience, he was also the beauty. The man has written some of the most simple and gorgeous melodies and heartfelt lyrics in rock history as evidenced by his set ending number, "Comes A Time." More than one tear did fall.
It wouldn't be Farm Aid without the Willie Nelson wrap up. 76 and gliding through those wacky jazz runs and inverted chords like a monster. I stood loose-jawed, staring at the jumbo screen. His face may be craggy, but his eyes are always a-sparkle, his hands move like flowing water, and the hits just keep on coming. It's a patchwork crazy quilt kind of thing, one song begets another and another, bumping into the next in disjointed yet oddly coherent fashion. Not quite a medley, more of a stream of consciousness set, but it's Willie and so it works. By the end of it all, the stage was full of any and everyone "still left" on site for the feel-good gospel & Hank Williams sing-a-long. Sadly, Neil and Hank's D-28 couldn't make the finale. Even so, all in all, and all day long, it was one hell of a show.