Concert Review: Farm Aid 26 / Livestrong Sporting Park / Kansas City, KS / 8/13/11
So the Farm Aid lineup for the Kansas City show was good. A lot of big names that demand high ticket prices all lumped together for a good cause. This was a good way for me to see several of these bands I haven’t seen and likely will never see again.
The concert was in the mostly very new Legends complex in Kansas City, Kansas. It is right around Kansas Speedway, The Great Wolf Lodge, Cabellas and the T-Bones baseball stadium. One of the new additions to the area is Livestrong Sporting Park where the concert was held. It is normally the home of the mens soccer team Sporting Kansas City.
Starting at the end; the headliner was Willie Nelson followed by Niel Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, Jason Mraz, Jamey Johnson, Jakob Dylan, Lucas Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver and a few others.
Robert Francis was the first act of the day I got to see. He was a standard solo acoustic performer for the day and threw in a cover of Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.” Billy Joe Shaver followed bringing some surprising stomp with his set. It was still very old style country but had a full backing band to give his set a lot of punch. He started with the delightful “Wacko From Waco” which proved to be the highlight of his set.
Will Daily & The Rivals would follow with a largely forgettable set. Lucas Nelson & Promise of the Real would follow with an entire set of music similar to Lucas’ father, Willie Nelson. Lucas is a great guitar player and would popup throughout the evening with various artists.
Former Wallflowers lead singer and writer Jakob Dylan followed. He surprisingly his the Wallflowers songs heavy as opposed to selections from his two solo discs. He started with “6th Avenue Heartache” from the Wallflowers debut album. He would select 4 of his 6 songs in his set from Wallflowers records. The only solo song performed was the excellent “Nothing But The Whole Wide World.” The Wallflowers piano player Rami Jaffee joined Dylan for the short set and Dylan gave the indication it was the first time they had played the sets highlight “One Headlight” in quite some time. This made me think it was the closest thing there has been to a Wallflowers show in years. “One Headlight” is driven by a strong baseline so it was interesting to hear the song with no bass at all. Dylan and Jaffee pulled it off quite well. Dylan closed with a nice cover of Elvis Costello’s (What’s So Funny Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.
The very talented Jamey Johnson took the stage next and started strong with “High Cost of Living” but proceeded to lose momentum in his set after that. He worked in a cover of Leadbelly’s “In The Pines” and George Strait’s “Give It Away”(a song Johnson actually wrote.) The set suffered from a lack of uptempo numbers and seemed to fail to translate well to the big venue.
Jason Mraz did some smooth, non-offensive acoustic rock after that that I’m sure his fans enjoyed but I found to be quite bland. He sang the Mr. Rodgers theme song if that gives you an indication of his set. Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds followed for the first of the big four acts. Matthews is a very good musician and at least kept the crowd interested and moving after the two snoozer sets that preceded him. Tim Reynolds seemed to steal the show from Matthews with his great guitar playing. The two worked very well together and got a great response from the crowd.
John Mellencamp took the stage with a full band afterward. He ripped into “The Authority Song” right away to start his up and down set. A long violin solo would be part of the set and not quite fitting right. The violin player was featured very prominently in Mellencamp’s music. The highlights from Mellencamp’s selections were the acoustic “Jackie Brown” and the full stomp of “Rain on the Scarecrow.” He would end his time on stage with a predicable great response to the sing-along favorite “Pink Houses.”
Neil Young would come out solo acoustic to the stage next. He would only perform six songs but would clearly steal the show in that time. “Comes A Time” started his set as he would move into the delightful “Sugar Mountain” and “Long May You Run.” A couple songs from his latest release Le Noise would follow in “Peaceful Valley Boulevard” and “Love and War,” The latter of the two probably being the most impressive song of his impressive set. He would close with the crowd favorite “Heart of Gold” but not before ranting a bit about the cause of Farm Aid. He was really to only performer to address this in any depth and explain how to help or why it is a good cause. He clearly was the shining star of the night.
Willie Nelson would start an erratic group of songs to close the evening. It almost seemed as if he didn’t want to perform many tracks as he had his son Lucas do a couple songs during his set along with one rasta-style song by someone from the crowd for all I know. He would also invite a musician from another band to perform a song during his set. He sang to gospel-tinged songs that I believe were both covers along with the four! songs he let other performers do during his time. His last three songs were even a big sing-along with several members of the other bands and even an indian in a full head-dress for some reason. Overall Nelson really only performed maybe 3-4 songs himself of his own material which was a bit disappointing.
The evening was a very intriguing show that was clearly owned by Neil Young and to a much lesser extent Jakob Dylan. For me traveling an hour to get the show was well worth it but if I would have came from another state or several hours away as many did I couldn’t have helped but be a little disappointed. Lucas Nelson and Jason Mraz could have lost some time from their sets to give other performers more time. The other performer I am speaking of is of course Neil Young who’s set was all too brief but still a sight to behold.