Donnelly: Farm Aid at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, August 13, 2011

It was the 26th Farm Aid but the first ever concert at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park

How did it go?  How did it sound?

How was the crowd?  How high was Willie?

Were there any kinks that need worked out before this weekend’s Buzz Beach Ball featuring Jane’s Addiction, Bush, and others?

Yeah, a few…

First off, the techs struggled with the sound all night. Up front, yeah, the sound was pretty good.  Not great, but pretty good. 

In the back, and the higher into the stands you got, the muddier the mix became. That’s to be expected a little bit, but not to the extent that it was. At times I couldn’t understand a single word John Mellencamp was saying when he was just talking to the crowd. Let alone singing! Just telling everyone how great it is to be in KC (I’m guessing).   

I thought the sound would be better in all areas of the venue, since the Sporting ownership group was so focused on the details when they built their baby. And it was constructed specifically with the idea of having concerts. 

That said, hey, first go around. There’s still time to make it right.  About 5 days, that is. 

Word is, this weekend for the Beach Ball the built-in south stage won’t be utilized, replaced instead by two stages, one at either end of the field. When one act ends, the crowd just turns around and goes to the other side, which should speed things along as well. 

Not that long breaks between the acts was an issue at Farm Aid on Saturday night. The stage crews actually did a killer job wheeling each act’s setup in and out so the time between sets was minimal. If you went to get a beer at the conclusion of one band, the next would be playing by the time you got back to your seat. 

As for the physical setup, there was plenty of space for everyone, even with attendance at, I’m guessing, 20,000 plus. The max for soccer games is 18 and change. 

The day started at around 12:30 or 1:00 with a bunch of acts I wasn’t all that familiar with. 

Standouts included Will Daily & the Rivals, Lukas Nelson (Willie’s son) & Promise of the Real, and KC’s own Hearts of Darkness, who seemed a bit out of place with their funk and r & b. (Still if you live in KC and haven’t seen the Hearts yet, go do it). 

Will Daily is a Boston kid that plays southern pop rock with a tinge of honky tonk thrown in for good measure.  His songs are a little more folksy in terms of the songwriting, a bit of a contrast to some of the other country artists that played earlier in the day.

Rght after Will, Lukas tore up his Strat ala Stevie Ray’s Texas blues.  And Lukas’ voice definitely bears a resemblance to his old man’s.   

Next was Jakob Dylan, looking crazy like Bob with a funny hat and stubbly beard, and taking the stage with just himself and a keyboardist.  He opened with his best song, "Fifth Avenue Heartache," and hit a couple more off "Bringing Down the Horse," "God Don’t Make Lonely Girls," and "One Headlight."  Then he ended with a cool version of Elvis Costello’s "(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding." 

Dylan’s set ended up being one of my favorites of the night. 

The last two before The Big Four were Jamey Johnson, who played a forgettable and muddy sounding set and Jason Mraz, who got one of the better reactions of the night with his poppy hit "I’m Yours," that made most of the ladies in the joint kinda tingly (informal poll).  He also played the Mr. Rogers theme song, which made me want to put on a cardigan and house slippers. 

Which is good. I mean, at least Mr. Rogers used his powers for good and not evil. Instead of brainwashing us all into being friendly neighbors, he easily could’ve turned us all against "urban youths," ya know?

Moving on to The Big Four.  First up was Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds.

Dave and Tim played an energetic set that included "Crush," "Dancing Nancies," "Where Are You Going," and a funky jamout that showed off Tim’s chops on the acoustic guitar.  Dave could have easily carried the attention of the audience for another hour or so, but he called it quits after 7 or 8 songs. 

By this point the crowd grew to its largest of the evening as John Mellencamp came out with "The Authority Song" blazing.  Last time I saw the Cougs at the Midland last year, his show was kinda disappointing. With all of his hits getting the medley treatment and taking a backseat to new material. This time around, though, things were different and Mellencamp delivered with real-er versions of "Small Town," "Rain on the Scarecrow," and "Little Pink Houses." 

I say "real-er" because, for whatever reason, he just seems to resent playing the old hits. I get it, he probably has nightmares about suckin’ down chili dogs outside the Tastee Freez. 

But if you’re gonna play ’em, at least put a little effort into it.  And he did, I’d say even more than a little bit. 

And his female fiddle player was tearing it up.

The grizzled old man known as Neil Young took it back down a notch.  He appeared solo with his trademark hat and harmonica brace and started out with "Comes a Time."  Neil definitely took time out to plug Farm Aid, instructing everyone to "stop by the side of the road and buy something" numerous times, and preaching a little bit about why big corporations are bad. 

As I took a long pull off my $9 Budweiser. 

Young sneered his way through his set and ended with the iconic "Heart of Gold."  And his voice sounded better than I expected, clear, confident, still the same high, warbly drone. 

Which is more than I can say for the elder statesman of this event, Willie Nelson. His set started off the only way I’ve ever seen him open a show – with "Whiskey River."  His son, Lukas sat in with the band and sang on a few tunes with his old man, highlighting how similar their voices are.  

About half way through Willie’s set, some rapper/reggae dude came on stage and started kind of rapping, with Willie providing backing vocals. Actually just kind of repeating what the rapper said. It was kind of bizarre, to say the least, and lost me a little. 

But it didn’t matter, it’s freaking Willie Nelson. He still has such a unique guitar technique and timing on his singing that it’s so entertaining. It’s like, you think he doesn’t know where to come in, or how to phrase a certain line, but then, by the end of it, it just fits in there perfectly. 

I love that.  I laughed out loud a few times at the musical jokes Willie was throwing around. He can’t be serious with that, right?             

With Willie’s set winding down, I thought for sure he would play "Georgia on My Mind" and "You Are Always on My Mind." Then there would be a big jam with Dave, Neil, Willie, and John.  Maybe "Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World" or something. 

Nope.  It just kinda ended and we all went home.

 **Photos by Katie Grogan, except for my far away shot of the field**
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13 Responses to Donnelly: Farm Aid at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, August 13, 2011

  1. Craig Glazer says:

    Good Report
    Man I really wanted to go to this one, but had Tommy Chong Saturday and couldn’t leave. He wanted to go over and get a photo with him and Willie lighten one up, hah. But Tommy also was too busy with shows at 745 and later, so didn’t happen. Nice crowd at LiveStrong. Unlike the one at NASCAR, our lots were over loaded with cars at Legends…nice to see all this traffic out there on a regular bases.

    Good cover, nice story. Glad it all worked out. Seems there is room for improvement, but there always is, huh. Great work.

  2. PB says:

    Elvis Costello?
    I’m sure Nick Lowe would be pleased to hear that his most famous composition once again gets credited to Elvis Costello. Nice work, Music Fan.

  3. Matt says:

    I bet he doesn’t mind…
    but you are correct, PB. Considering the millions he’s made off Elvis singing it (and tons of others), and the fact that he produced the Elvis version along with 4 or 5 other Elvis albums, I’m saying he’s all good. I read an interview where Lowe said he writes songs hoping that other artists can make them sound good, so that he can get a paycheck without ever leaving his couch. Funny guy…

  4. smartman says:

    Oh Oh?
    Father, Son, Holy Cow Matt PB caught you with your pants down on some basic Music 101 info.

    As for the review. Personal tastes and objectivity aside, compared to The Stars Finn+Brownlee review….YOU SUCK! BIBLICALLY!

    Hell, pull a little Jason Blair or something. Like it or not that’s your competition. Work like this does nothing to help establish YOUR credibility or reliability.

    You don’t even mention Ray Price! That old fucker is GOLDEN and you don’t even give him a nod.

    Also I sense that you might be banging or wanting to bang the photographer. DON’T dip your pen in the company INK…pun intended.

    You can do better. You’ve actually got some talent and potential. A Game Matt….A GAME

  5. harley says:

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….boring……please hearne..cut this
    guy off . Was at the farm aid concert….third row…loved it…its great….and this limp writer
    (i use that term carefully) write this babbling boring and horrible review. Listen to the music
    matt…we don’t care about your drinking and the price of beer (what stadium charges $3.00
    for a beer? not too many any more).. whats the problem this time matt?
    1. you thought you were going to a soccer game?
    2. you thought it was too big a lineup?
    3. you thought is was too loud…did you go to the back of the stadium to listen to
    the sound…or did you make that shit up? Wjhat the f*** is pretty good…the sound was
    pretty good? did you learn this is journalism school….pretty good? the speech was
    pretty good? the music was pretty good? Not professional description of a real top
    4. were you lost…were you looking for the $399 recliner sale at nebraska furntirue mart?
    what gives hearne. You take people with no talent and give them a byline on this site.
    who’s next….little johnny down the street.
    You did a great job with the plaza story…and it looked like things were turning around…
    but then you let these amaturs post on here and it all slips away.
    Hearne…you can do better and the readers realy want this site to be successful.
    Make it happen. also…when are you going to rreplace hall? Not having important stories
    of the sports world running really hurts your site. Frank boal…dave armstrong…someone with some
    sports knowledgggge….we can’t depend on glaze and his 3rd grade loevel stories to fill the void.
    I can’t believe i would say i miss greg hall…but he was at least knowledgeable and has some stats…
    we ho[pe you listen to our suggestions

  6. PB says:

    Fair Enough, Matt
    Obviously, Elvis made the song his own to which I’m sure Mr.Lowe is indeed forever grateful and didn’t mean to imply you were unaware, just know lots of folks are when it comes to these things and tagging someone else’s name to another’s work just furthers those misconceptions. Admittedly, I know I’m being anal about this, but I think it all dates back to my high school days with clueless classmates touting the new Van Halen “original”, You Really Got Me. Personally, I appreciate what you’re doing more than yet another Chiefs Suck or Blacks Are Evil thread. Carry on.

  7. Hearne Christopher says:

    I beg to differ, smartman. The Star review did not even begin to address the sound problems, the fact that Mellencamp (again) mailed it in and many other significant details that Matt reported on.

    Again, you may find it more to your liking to read what mid-50s writers with vested interests not to piss too many people off think. That’s fair.

    Shave 20 years off those dudes ages and dial in quite a bit more attitude (which frankly ain’t saying much) and you have Matt. There’s a ton more interesting details in the above story than in the Star’s compendium.

  8. Hearne Christopher says:

    Hey, from the third row, I’m sure everything was just hunky dory, H Man. But not everyone had that seat. They had to deal with shitty sound in the cheap seats.

    I thought the $9 beer line was excellent. Not written to whine about the price (although that would be legit), but in contrast to the hypocrisy of Neil Young railing against big corporations. Like the one who built Livestrong with taxpayer money that was bagging folks for $9 beers.

  9. smartman says:

    Tim Finn Said
    “The sound was generally good. The only glitch I noticed was some echo toward the north end, across from the stage, especially when the music got hard and electric, like during Lukas Nelson’s set”


    Old dudes or not the review in the Star by Finn+Brownlee was a more comprenensive overview of the event than what Matthew offered.

    He’ll go out 13 decimal places worth of detail on a SKC game and then give as some poo and one dingleberry on a concert.

    Did we run Rick Murphy off already?

  10. Duke says:

    Saw the concert/great!
    Watched on my big screen and sound system on-line streaming right here at home. I do believe it was better than being there. Camera work was fantastic. And it was FREE! Guy is right about 9 buck beers. No way.

  11. Hearne Christopher says:

    Come on, smartman. You’re better than this. Brian McTavish is the best. But he could care less about current day artists or print reviewing in general. Unless somebody floats a paycheck his way, three years after the fact.

    Who can blame him?

    Tim has his moments but usually he’s mailing it in with younger, hipper artists. For his age, he’s well beyond most of his contemporaries. But biology is biology. Read McT’s review on KCC of Gaslight Anthem, one of Lazlo’s faves. Then read Tim’s, a tap dance.

    Brian had the nads to call out the band for its shortcomings. Tim was afraid of getting tagged for being a 50-something dude that didn’t get it. His review could have been written w/o him even going to the show.

    Bottom line: Everybody knows people in their 50s tend not to like music by people in their 20s. It’s the human condition. Tim is battling obsolescence. He knows if he dismisses hip, younger bands, people will say he’s just too old and doesn’t get it.

    That’s his paycheck, dogg.

    Matt may not have all the journalistic chops of McT or Finn. But he has the 30-something passion and music knowlege. And he’s no slouch. He’s a lawyer and a truly hip dude.

    He’s got a great pair of ears and the passion to match.

    The reason Tim didn’t hear the bad sound at Livestrong – Matt didn’t make that up – was because he was comfortably ensconced in the prime seating. Not floating around in Nose-bleed-land like Matt.

    Look, you can go with the effusive geezer takes if you like. That’s understandable. But the guy with his ear to the ground was Matt. And the reason I’m standing up for him – and passionately – is because I know how the game is played. And trust me, Matt is an up-and-coming player.

  12. harley says:

    sorry hearne….matt is not
    an up and comer….if he’s an up and comer then I”m signing a 7.5 million dollar deal
    with the royals….
    this was a poor review. don’t know the guy but it s the same old same old…
    what reviewer with any experience would say a movie was “pretty good”..what
    does that mean.
    Even the guy with bad german accent had bette r reviews…but if you say so
    then i take your word for it…yourethe journalism pro…you know good style…
    you know an expert at his craft….if so then why are you letting glaze write all the
    columns here…bring in some experts with intelligent voices….

  13. Hearne Christopher says:

    $7.5 million with the Royals, huh? Maybe that explains your early season irrational exuberance over their prospects for this season.

    But back to Matt….

    His style is more informal and plain spoken, to be sure. But he captures far more flavor and significant details that Tim Finn and others miss. Who else told you that Eminem and Mellencamp were basically choking out medleys rather than full versions of their songs? That the sound sucked at Livestrong? That while Neil Young railed on big corporations, the big corporation that built Livestrong was sticking it to Fat Cats like you with $9 beers?

    Are you looking for information or high prose? Matt doesn’t have to fake it either when reviewing 20-something bands. Granted he might in 20-plus years when he catches up to the Star reviewers in age.

    You know who likes Matt and has been very complimentary of him? Brian “Big Dick” McTavish, that’s who. And he’s a real person who uses his real name.

    Go figure…

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