The annual Bridge School Benefit has featured special acoustic sets by everybody from David Bowie and Paul McCartney to Metallica and Phish. But for the 24th edition, on October 23rd and 24th, organizer Neil Young unveiled a stunning finale: the first set since 1968 by his old band Buffalo Springfield. "From my perspective, we just picked up where we left off many, many years ago," says singer Richie Furay. "It was almost like going back in time."
Over two chilly, wet days at the Shoreline Amphitheater near San Francisco, baby boomers and local dotcorn kids gathered for a remarkable, eclectic lineup: Jackson Browne and David Lindley tackled Bruce Springsteen's 1983 "Brothers Under the Bridge"; Kris Kristofferson broke out "Me and Bobby McGee"; Billy Idol revved up the crowd with a singalong on "Rebel Yell"; and Pearl Jam blasted through their eighth appearance at the benefit. At the end of their set, which included "Black" and "Better Man," Young joined them on his new tune "Walk With Me." We played it for him backstage, and he said, 'That's basically it, but let me show you what you aren't playing,'" says Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard. "We've never had an interaction with him that wasn't a lesson in the sheer, raw love of rock."
The Bridge School was founded in 1986 to educate Neil and Pegi Young's son Ben, who suffers from cerebral palsy. It has grown into one of the premier schools in the country for students with severe speech and physical disorders. The concerts provide most of the school's operating costs — this year's raised more than $1 million. We keep it very comfortable for the artists," says Pegi. "They can come out of their dressing rooms, intermingle and not be photographed every five minutes."
Young sat in with several acts — reprising his vocal cameo on Elton John and Leon Russell's "Gone to Shiloh," covering the Everly Brothers' "Brand New Heartache" with Elvis Costello and Emmylou Harris. During Buffalo Springfield's set, Young mostly played guitar while Furay and Stephen Stills handled the vocals. After 12 songs — including "For What It's Worth" and "Bluebird" — the show wrapped with an all-star jam on "Rockin' in the Free World." So will there be more Springfield shows? "I'm never going to say never again," says Furay. We have to let a couple of weeks go by and see how everybody feels. We certainly know now we can do it if we want."