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Rock Report: Eddie Vedder Surprise Guest At Bridge School Benefit

(Samir Hussein/Getty Images)

Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder made a brief surprise appearance at the first day of Neil Young’s 26th Bridge School Benefit at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California on Saturday. Other than that, things went pretty much according to schedule, the only exception being an unexplained switch in running order, with Guns N’ Roses following Jack White’s set and Vedder’s guest shot — thereby taking the final slot before Young and Crazy Horse closed the evening out.

As he traditionally does, Young opened the show with a couple of acoustic numbers — this year, “Sugar Mountain” and, aided by wife Pegi and a troupe of Native American dancers, “Comes a Time.” Gary Clark, Jr. followed with three song set. K.D. Lang and the Siss Boom Bang began with a pair of songs from the 2011 album Sing It Loud and finished with Constant Craving and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Steve Martin told the crowd, “It’s been a dream of mine for a long time to play Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit — today I am one step closer to fulfilling that dream,” before launching into his bluegrass set with the Steep Canyon Rangers.

Lucinda Williams closed her four-song set with Jimi Hendrix’s “Angel.” Lucinda was one of two artists making their third Bridge School Benefit appearance, the other being Sarah McLachlan, who also closed her set with “Angel,” though it was her own song, not Hendrix’s.

Foster the People’s Mark Foster remarked on how daunting it was to have deliver an acoustic set, when your band relies on electronics as much as his does, but concluded that it was “really cool to work a set differently.” In the course of their performance of songs from their debut album, the frontman moved from guitar to marimba and chimes to piano and back to guitar. Possibly because they were sharing the stage with children from The Bridge School, they chose not to perform their best known song, “Pumped Up Kicks,” which is about a school shooter.

Ray Lamontagne, accompanied by just upright bass, did five cuts from his most recent album, God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise, plus the song that launched his career eight years ago, “Trouble.” The Flaming Lips added human beat box Reggie Watts to their lineup for their entire set, which ended with The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.”

Jack White had his five-piece, all-female band The Peacocks accompany him Saturday. His set included four songs from his Blunderbuss album, Hank Williams’ “You Know That I Know,” countrified versions of his Raconteurs song “Top Yourself” and The White Stripes’ “Hotel Yorba,” plus the latter band’s “We Are Gonna Be Friends.”

When Eddie Vedder was announced as an un-billed guest performer, some figured that meant that Guns N’ Roses might be a no- show, but after he performed “Last Kiss” and “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town,” Axl Rose and company immediately took the stage. Their set consisted of six songs from the band’s first two studio releases — “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and “Paradise City” from Appetite for Destruction and “Patience,” “You’re Crazy” and “Used to Love Her” from G N’ R Lies. The band seemed to struggle at times sonically with the all-acoustic format, but at least they made it on stage relatively close to their scheduled time.

Young’s nine-song closing set with Crazy Horse featured three substantial versions of old favorites — “”Love and Only Love,” “Powderfinger” and “Like a Hurricane” — a solo performance of “The Needle and the Damage Done,” three from his upcoming Psychedelic Pill album — “Born in Ontario,” “Twisted Road” and “Ramada Inn” — the unreleased “Singer Without a Song” and an ensemble finale of “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

The show was streamed on the internet for the first time, at BridgeSchoolBenefit.org. The Bridge School Benefit raises money for the Hillsborough, California school co-founded by Pegi Young for children with severe physical impairments and complex communication needs. The same lineup was scheduled to perform again on Sunday.

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