Photo: Paul Natkin/Photo Reserve Inc. 2009.
Maryland Heights, MO’s Verizon Wireless Amphitheater hosted the 24th annual Farm Aid concert this past Sunday. In addition to Farm Aid board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews, this year’s event featured performances by Wilco, Jason Mraz, Jamey Johnson, Gretchen Wilson, Phosphorescent, Billy Joe Shaver, Will Dailey, The Isley Brothers’ Ernie Isley & the Jam Band, Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses, The Blackwood Quartet and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. As expected, a number of musicians shared the stage throughout the event, beginning with Nelson’s appearance with Phosphorescent on a cover of Merle Haggard’s “Reasons to Quit.”
Nelson, who serves as the President of Farm Aid’s Board of Directors, closed out the day with a performance by his Family Band that at times included his son Lukas on guitar. As is custom, Nelson also invited many of the evening’s players—as well as a group of Native Americans—onstage for “I’ll Fly Away,” “Amazing Grace” and “I Saw The Light.” In addition, Nelson offered some of his best known songs like “Whiskey River” and “On The Road Again.” Nelson’s longtime harmonica player Mickey Raphael performed with the country legend during his show and also augmented Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses.
Likewise, Young—who wore a “Stop Factory Farms” shirt—offered a number of classics throughout his eight-song set. The guitarist performed with a backing band that featured Ben Keith, Rick Rosas, Karl Himmel, Spooner Oldham and his wife Pegi, as well as Nelson on the American Stars ‘N Bars song “Homegrown.” Beginning his set with the Rust Never Sleeps favorite “Sail Away,” Young rewarded fans with the like of “Long May You Run,” “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” and “Comes a Time.”
Dave Matthews arrived at Farm Aid after headlining Austin City Limits a night early for a performance with longtime collaborator Tim Reynolds. The guitarists offered a seven-song set that doubled as the final night of Matthews’ massive 2009 Summer Tour. The spot opened with Matthews’ recent single “Funny the Way It Is” and came to a close with the Under the Table and Dreaming classic “Dancing Nancies.” Matthews also played a few songs from his 2003 solo album Some Devil like “Stay of Leave” and “Gravedigger,” the latter of which featured a guest appearance from Nelson.
Other highlights include a hit-heavy set from Mellencamp that opened with “Pink Houses” and included the sing-along “Small Town,” as well as a six-song show by hometown hero Jeff Tweedy and Wilco. The band opened its performance with the new song “Bull Black Nova” and offered “Impossible Germany,” “Hate It Here,” the area-specific “Heavy Metal Drummer,” “Casino Queen” and “Hoodoo Voodoo.”