Review of concert from 2002-01-13: with Emmylou Harris, Steve
Earle, Nanci Griffith; Belfast, Waterfront Hall: Landmine Free World
Belfast Telegraph, 2002-01-14
- Neil McKay
By Neil McKay
CHARITY concerts have an often
well deserved reputation for naffness.
But this show last night got just about everything right.
First up was the remarkable cast of musicians - Emmylou Harris, Nanci
Griffith, Steve Earle, Elvis Costello and John Prine, with help on keyboards
from James Hooker.
Then there was the cause, a truly global charity that makes a real difference
to some of the poorest, most disadvantaged people in the world.
But it was the tone of the evening that was most impressive.
Sober and restrained, but never stuffy, there was no cheap sloganeering
from the stars.
There was a 'silent auction' for the scarf Emmylou Harris wore, but
the only 'hard sell' came from campaign founder Bobby Muller just before
the half-time intermission.
Muller, a US soldier who was paralysed in the Vietnam war, spoke movingly
about the evils of landmines, and the continuing threat they pose to
innocent civilians in countries like Cambodia and Afghanistan.
He was the meat in a musical sandwich of some often sublime performances.
The five performers shared the stage from start to finish, taking it
in turns to play their songs.
It was a neat mix of the familiar and the surprising, with Costello
earning a spontaneous round of applause when he dedicated an angry version
of U2's 'Please' to "teachers and postmen".
Prine lightened the atmosphere with some humour, wryly observing before
his first song that he was in the Waterfront just last month and had
got the same dressing room, same hotel room, and same clothes.
Most of the highlights came in the second half, with Harris and Earle
duetting on Earle's 'Goodbye', "one of the saddest songs ever written"
said Harris, an excellent new song from Costello, and an encore of Griffith's
'It's A Hard Life', a song originally written in, and about Northern
Ireland, but with a resonance far beyond these shores.
- Neil McKay