The annual Light Up the Blues autism benefit concert spearheaded by rocker Stephen Stills and his wife Kristen takes another step forward this year with the participation of Stills’ old pal Neil Young, who tops Saturday’s bill at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood.
Joining Young for the show will be Shawn Colvin, Steve Earle, the White Buffalo, Stills’ son Chris Stills and Stills himself, as well as three musicians with autism. Actor-musician Jack Black will emcee.
For the first two years of the benefit's run, Stills enlisted band mates David Crosby and Graham Nash to have Crosby, Stills & Nash as the main draw. The inaugural show in 2013 raised about $250,000, and last year the take reached $320,000.
Young's induction into Stills' lineup is a natural fit on a couple of fronts. Their longtime friendship first developed in the early 1960s, even before they formed Buffalo Springfield with Richie Furay, Dewey Martin and Bruce Palmer in Los Angeles. The pair have also collaborated on and off over the intervening half-century in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Stills-Young Band and other projects.
Additionally, Stills has said previously that he took a page from Young’s playbook in getting Light Up the Blues off the ground, motivated by his own 18-year-old son Henry’s Asperger's syndrome, an autism-spectrum disorder. He and his wife looked at the annual Bridge School benefit in Northern California that Young and his ex-wife Pegi Young have been staging for the last quarter-century as a model for how to execute a benefit show.
“The Bridge School event is probably the best one," Stills told The Times in 2013. "They took everything they learned from other people's benefits and perfected it. This stuff gets complicated when you're dealing with road managers and production managers. But once we decided to do it, people just kept showing up saying they wanted to be involved. That's when you know you've got a winner."
In addition to CSN, the two previous Light Up the Blues shows have featured John Mayer, Lucinda Williams, former Eagles guitarist Don Felder, Brandi Carlile and Rickie Lee Jones. A documentary of the first year’s event, “Light Up the Blues,” spent time near the top of the iTunes concert films ranking when it was released last year.