The inaugural concert at the brand new LiveStrong Sporting Park brought about 20,000 people to the Legends area of Kansas City, Kansas. With an eclectic mix of artists on the bill, the crowd was indeed diverse, but all were there for the simple purpose of supporting family farms. All the artists donated their time for free to come play and encourage concert goers to buy local.
The new stadium looks fantastic. They built it multi-purpose, and I am convinced it will soon become the premiere outdoor concert venue in Kansas. It can fit 25,000 for concerts (18,000 for sporting events) and there is not a bad seat in the house. They are able to retract two sections of seats on the south end of the stadium to fit a stage. They still have some kinks to work out with the sound, but otherwise, the music fit very well here.
Robert Francis was the first artist for which I arrived, and he caught my ear with a superb cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.” Younger artists can really attract attention by covering good song’s such as these, and Francis has an exceptional voice and good guitar skills. I expect to see him make a breakthrough soon.
Jakob Dylan, a spitting image of his father Bob, only with a much better singing voice, performed his big Wallflowers hit “One Headlight,” which drew huge cheers and sing alongs from the crowd. It’s safe to say that Jakob has made a name for himself, and is not just surviving on the family name.
Jamey Johnson, whose 25-song album The Guitar Song, earned a top-5 album of the year nod from Rolling Stone magazine. The album may be worthy of such distinction, but his live act did not back it up. He was slow, dull, and at times downright listless. He has a lot to learn about putting on a good live show before he can truly become a superstar artist.
Jason Mraz brought only his drummer, Toca Rivera, for his show, which relied heavily on crowd inclusion. He sang a touching and somewhat humorous rendition of Mr. Rogers’ theme song, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” and did not disappoint every girl in the audience by singing “I’m Yours.”
Dave Matthews and fellow guitarist Tim Reynolds drew huge cheers as they took the stage. Starting with “Where Are You Going?” and gradually building the intensity of their show, “Crush” was the biggest crowd pleaser of their eight-song set. Reynolds solo skills demanded the audience’s attention, and the closer “Dancing Nancies” put the exclamation point on a concise show.
John Mellencamp took the stage with “The Authority Song,” and his band was very tight and well-rehearsed throughout. Each member was in tune with each other’s timing and intentions. “Walk Tall” and “Small Town” satisfied the crowd, and nobody seemed to mind that he didn’t play “Jack and Diane.”
Neil Young took a lot of time during his set to explain the importance of Farm Aid and how much support the family farms need. He played alone, yet brought a huge sound. “Sugar Mountain” and the closer “Heart of Gold” were certain highlights from his show.
Willie Nelson and his family band was the finale to Farm Aid, and most of the audience stuck around for it. Starting off with “Whiskey River” he kept his show light-hearted and fun throughout. He included the crowd pleasers “Goin’ to Kansas City” and “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys.” But the best song of his set, in my opinion, was the closer, a song which he described as a, “new gospel song I wrote,” and it was called “Roll Me Up (and Smoke Me When I Die).” The title says it all.
Farm Aid 26 was a success, and I suppose as long as natural disasters continue to occur, farms will always need support and donations, and so this noble cause will continue to occur as well. It is unfortunate to certain degree, but necessary as well. All in all it was great – and educational – at LiveStrong, and it was easy to see why this charity show has been so successful all these years.