Neil Young turned up in Los Angeles on Wednesday night at a hilltop mansion in Silver Lake that hosted the annual benefit concert for the Silverlake Conservatory music school, the event spearheaded by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, singer Anthony Kiedis and which also featured a performance by the Chili Peppers.
An audience of about 600 paid a minimum of $2,000 apiece to be in on the intimate performance and take part in a silent auction of donated works of art by luminaries who included Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, Shepard Fairey, Raymond Pettibon, filmmaker Gus Van Sant, musician-actor John Lurie and several others.
Young included a couple of lesser-known songs in a 35-minute solo acoustic set and praised the Chili Peppers for their participation over the years in his annual Bridge School benefit shows in Northern California.
He tipped his dark fedora to several fellow singer-songwriters and their works, including Bob Dylan (“Blowin’ in the Wind”), Phil Ochs (“Changes”) and fellow Canadian Gordon Lightfoot (“Early Morning Rain”), as well as performing a few of his own staples: “Comes a Time,” “Harvest Moon” and “Heart of Gold.”
Reaching beyond the cornerstone tunes, he hunched over his battered upright piano to open with “Someday” from 1989’s “Freedom” album and inserted an unreleased number, “Singer Without a Song,” that he’s been doing recently in concert about a woman struggling for her music to be heard.
The Chili Peppers warmed up the crowd, seated at tables spread across an expanse of temporary floor set up across the lawn of the historic Paramour Mansion, owned since 1998 by philanthropist Dana Hollister. Kiedis ricocheted around the stage as he and his mates zipped through a quick 30-minute set that included “The Adventure of Raindance Maggie,” “Can’t Stop,” “Around the World” and an homage to the night’s headliner with their version of Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.”
Kiedis also asked the crowd to join him in “a moment of noise,” rather than the conventional moment of silence, to recognize the recent death of Lou Reed.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti toasted the conservatory for its program of music instruction to the children of Los Angeles regardless of their financial situation and said he and his wife have been supporting it privately for several years and that some of their foster children have studied there.
Michael “Flea” Balzary offered a toast to “thank everyone for helping to bring music education to the children of Los Angeles.” He unconsciously let fly an F-bomb, then apologized: “Forgive my language -- this is a children’s school. But,” he added quickly with a devilish smile, “they’re not here tonight.”
He told The Times earlier in the evening that the conservatory, for which he and Kiedis are board members, is looking to buy a permanent facility rather than continuing to pay $1 million a year to operate the facility it is using now at Sunset and Sanborn streets near Sunset Junction.
That, he said, would require a piggy bank of some $5 million to $6 million to buy one of a couple of pieces of property in the vicinity that school officials are considering. He also said they’re hoping to expand the school’s scholarship program, which assists families in need with reduced cost or free instruments and lessons.
Among the celebrity guests: actor Val Kilmer, actor and would-be rock god Jack Black and his musician wife, Tanya Haden, Van Sant, Rancid’s Tim Armstrong, billionaire businessman Ron Burkle, Bad Religion founding member Brett Gurewitz, actresses Rosanna Arquette and Christina Applegate, director Roland Emmerich and Shepard Fairey.
At the end of Young’s set, the veteran rocker said with his twisted smile, “Thanks. If you like me, give money to the school. That’ll make me happy.”
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