Concert for a Land Mine Free World Hammersmith Apollo, London, W6
By: Burhan Wazir
Costello brings some doubt to the benefit http:/www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4338901,00.html
Sunday January 20, 2002
Singer-songwriters, one seems to forget, play their guitars in differing ways. No two are the same. Some, like Nanci Griffith, merrily and lightly pluck away. Elvis Costello brandishes his guitar like a young Turk, occasionally holding it aloft in defiance. Steve Earle, meanwhile, strums away at a mandolin. Earle has the contented appearance of a man who has become wedged into his lounge room chair. Emmylou Harris, in comparison, has all the poise of a Fifties matinee idol. And next to her, John Prine crouches over his acoustic guitar, looking as if his survival depends on it.
Last Thursday at the Hammersmith Apollo, against the backdrop of the most sombre of causes, this powerful quintet politely re-tell their own war stories. 'I like to write a love song every once in a while,' smiles Earle. 'It keeps down that quotient of my fanbase that has big beards.' He eases himself into 'Valentine's Day', a mournful ballad of ignored love.
Land mine clearing - indeed, all charity work - is undoubtedly a noble cause. Some benefit shows, however, use the bombastic co-ordination of a military campaign, flying in acts to perform in front of crowds of 60,000. Live Aid in 1985, and the 1992 Freddie Mercury tribute at Wembley stadium are cases in point.
This concert provides a more fulfilling blueprint for such shows. Griffith, Costello, Earle, Harris and Prine are songwriters who have been lauded for reinventing country music, in part, through offering political instruction to their usually conservative audiences. But at heart, they remain old-fashioned country romantics: rarely allowing their politics to get in the way of quixotic love songs.
Shortly before an intermission, Bobby Muller, the co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines, makes a speech on the charity's behalf. 'Land mines,' he says, simply, 'are the single biggest employer of people in Afghanistan. The UN landmine clearing campaign employs more locals than any other industry in that country'. It's a sobering thought, and one at odds with the jingoism of some post-11 September tributes.
Harris announces she will auction off two scarves during the interval. Both are eventually sold for £8,000.
While most of the songwriters prefer to play faithful renditions of their earlier material - Griffith does a resoundingly open-hearted version of 'Speed of the Sound of Loneliness' and Earle offers a typically languid version of 'Fort Worth Blues' - Prine offers a welcome moment of humour. 'I was once asked by Billy Bob Thornton to star in a film,' he tells the audience. 'And since I'm already such an accomplished actor, I thought I'd give it a go. The result was so great they haven't released it in four years.'
He rambles into a song written for the aborted movie, 'In Spite of Ourselves' - a duet he later recorded with Iris DeMent: 'She don't like her eggs all runny/ She thinks crossin' her legs is funny/ She looks down her nose at money/ She gets it on like the Easter Bunny/ She's my baby I'm her honey/ I'm never gonna let her go.'
The most uncomfortable moment of the evening, surprisingly, is provided by Elvis Costello singing 'Alibi', a track from his forthcoming When I Was Cruel album. On record, the song remains grounded beneath a plodding bass line but stripped of its instrumentation, Costello breathes a rare poignancy into the lyrics.
'There are soldiers who will kill but refuse to die/ If I've done something wrong there's no ifs and buts/ 'Cos I love just as much as I hate your guts'. In tonight's context, 'Alibi' is a prickly condemnation of war, and Costello's brave performance receives a muted, if somewhat confused, ripple of applause.
Costello's denunciation of politicians who wage war out of wounded pride or malice and with ulterior motives grates with the audience, who gasp quietly. It's a defining moment, this open and honest criticism of the current allied campaign.
As such it shows an unexpected and fresh renewal in Costello's lyrical talents. Even his accompanists look spellbound.
By: Sue Keogh - January 2002
Concert For A Landmine Free World
Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, Nanci Griffith, John Prine, Steve Earle
"I feel like a member of the audience who got promoted", beamed Elvis Costello, who spent a lot of last night's concert just looking really excited to be there. Truth be told so was I. This morning I looked back through the usual mess of notes scribbled in the dark to discover that at one point I had been, "very excited indeed". Such eloquent prose. But it summed up how awestruck I felt the sight of Nanci Griffith, Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris and John Prine all sat on stage together.
Emmylou Harris played an elegant and gracious hostess. Sat there draped in her silk scarf woven by a Vietnamese women's collective, she introduced her colleagues with great pride, lent her tender backing vocals to their songs and when she took the spotlight herself to play recent material like Michelangelo, Red Dirt Girl and Hour Of Gold, I got a tingle right down to my toes which still hasn't gone.
Nanci Griffith treated us to some old favourites, like Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness and It's A Hard Life, which Emmylou introduced by saying, "This song melts my butter". From her newer material she chose Travelling Through This Part of You, which she wrote after her visit to Vietnam, and dedicated it to the head of the anti-landmine campaign, Vietnam veteran Bobby Muller.
Muller came onstage to explain the issues behind the campaign and talk about the support he had received from the artists. The audience were right behind him. When Emmylou said that her silk scarf would be auctioned off in the interval to raise money for the women that wove it, I thought her suggested starting bid of £200 was a bit presumptuous. But later she announced that it had raised a massive £8000, so I was wrong to underestimate how important the cause was in the minds of the audience.
However, the artists wisely chose performing over preaching and the evening was anything but sombre. Indeed it was John Prine who received some of the biggest cheers of the night, for his more humorous songs like In Spite Of Ourselves. But the most support went to the only Britisher in the line-up, Elvis Costello. Although this is not the first time he has dipped his toe in country waters (check out his Billy Sherrill produced album Almost Blue) he is not from the same country mould as his stage companions. For me this gave the evening a deliciously unpredictable dimension and as such his inclusion was a masterstroke. Costello was the most emotive of them all, really attacking his instrument; at times shouting, at times quiet, and you could see the respect in the eyes of his stage companions. The crowd called for Alison, but instead got Shipbuilding, Indoor Fireworks, and a newer song, Alibi, and wasn't disappointed.
Steve Earle, who said he wanted to do something about his audience becoming older and more hirsute as the years wore on, played "chick songs" like Valentine's Day and the haunting Goodbye. He occasionally accompanied his friends on mandolin, but was the only one who didn't join in on backing vocals, preferring to sit in the middle with his arms folded like a big stubborn schoolboy.or was it that he was just taking it all in? And, well, you would, wouldn't you?
For A Landmine Free World
Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow, UK
Date: Jan 15 2002
By: Tom Doig, of Scotland & New Mexico ©2002
are bloody nasty things. Shame on the USA for failing to join the 142
countries that have signed the Ottawa Convention banning them. Their
reluctance is also holding back countries like Russia and China from
The Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) is an organization that, amongst other things, lobbies and campaigns for the eradication of
this evil from our planet.
Emmylou Harris became involved in the campaign and has recruited fellow
singer/songwriters to participate in concert tours to spread the word and
gain some funds along the way.
I have many albums by Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Nanci Griffith, and
John Prine. I started drooling heavily when I learned that they were all
included in the line-up for the Glasgow leg of the "Concerts for a
Landmine Free World" tour. The inclusion of British singer Elvis
Costello struck me as a bit incongruous amongst this august company.
However, I know he has been trying to gain recognition in country music
circles. For example "A Good year For The Roses" wasn't a bad
attempt at the genre. So I went along with an open mind wanting to like
his contribution as much as the others.
The format of the concert was as follows. On stage, left to right was
James Hooker (Nanci Griffith's keyboard player), Nancy Griffith herself,
Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, and John Prine. This was
announced as an informal, largely unrehearsed evening of plain singing and
for the most part it was a series of one singer and his/her guitar. The
rest of the ensemble sat in their semi-circle and listened whilst the solo
performances went on. It struck me was that there was an awful lot of
talent sitting here on idle most of the time. True, Emmylou chipped in
with harmonies a lot, as did Nanci, Steve and Elvis to a lesser extent.
John also participated in this once or twice. There was no backing group
at all but Steve Earle did whip out his mandolin and harmonica from time
to time to great effect. I was puzzled at one time, however, when I could
hear a harmonica and I couldn't see anyone playing it. Maybe a minor
contribution from the wings.
The overall result was a purity of sound that really was a joy to
listen to, and they all had a chance to show their skills as their own
accompaniment. The only two true duets were Emmylou and Steve singing
Steve's "Goodbye" (hardly surprising since Emmylou has included
it on her latest album) and Elvis and Emmylou singing Gram Parsons'
"Sleepless Nights". The latter was Elvis's best contribution to
the evening and I came to the conclusion that I would decline from signing
up as the newest convert to Costello. He sang his own compositions
"Indoor Fireworks" "Shipbuilding" "American
without Tears" He is undoubtedly very clever lyrically and musically
but maybe too clever. There is an art in leaving out the words, chords and
notes that don't really need to be there. This was underlined for me when
John Prine sang his new song "The Other Side Of Town" low key
and mellow and funny and on-the-nail observant. "My body's in this
room with you just catchin' hell While my soul is drinking beer down the
road a spell." Wonderful stuff, achieved without any whoopin and
hollerin'. I don't think Steve Earle minded that the title has been used
previously by Mr. Earle for another song.
Meanwhile, Emmylou, Nanci and Steve did not disappoint. They are all
fantastic live and really a great joy to hear in such an acoustically pure setting. There were echoes from Sept 11th and the Vietnam war in some
of their preambles, which I guess was inevitable given the origin of the
Steve Earle uses the American Civil War as the backdrop for his stories
of humans in armed conflict. I wondered whether his remark "Remember
over a million Vietnamese also died in the Vietnam War" was a dig at
the VVAF, but I don't know enough about the VVAF's other activities to be
sure. Steve's Civil War story for the night was "Dixieland",
about an Irishman who found himself in the 20th Maine Volunteers. A treat
for Earle fans, and a taster for his own Glasgow concert in less than a
Before the interval, Bobby Muller, the wheelchair-bound president of
the VVAF reminded us all why we were there. What came to me was the irony
that it took such a hellish abomination to trigger off the opportunity to
view this unique event. There were previous tours in the States over the
last year where the line-up was slightly different and our American
cousins were treated to the likes of Guy Clark and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
That would have been even more wonderful, but what an achievement of
Emmylou Harris to get this show together and over to Europe.
Emmylou Harris Red Dirt Girl
Steve Earle South Nashville Blues
Elvis Costello Indoor Fireworks
Nanci Griffith Traveling Through This Part of You
John Prine All The Best
Emmylou Harris The Pearl
Steve Earle Devil's Right Hand
Elvis Costello Shipbuilding
Nanci Griffith Goodnight New York
John Prine The Other Side of Town
Emmylou Harris Hour of Gold
John Prine Angel From Montgomery
Nanci Griffith I Wish It Would Rain
Elvis Costello American Without Tears
Steve Earle & Emmylou Harris Goodbye
Elvis Costello & Emmylou Harris Take These Sleepless Nights
John Prine Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone
Nanci Griffith There's a Light Beyond These Woods (Mary Margaret)
Elvis Costello Alibi
Steve Earle Dixieland
Nanci Griffith It's a Hard Life Wherever You Go
John Prine Paradise
©2002 Tom Doig, of Scotland and New Mexico
- Support the Landmine Free World
By: Elisabeth Mahoney Guardian Unlimited
Every 22 minutes someone is killed or maimed by a landmine. This equates to eight people losing limbs or their life over the course of this charity concert. However impressive the line-up (Nanci Griffith, John Prine, Elvis Costello, Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris), and however sweet the music, these cruel statistics hung in the air as sombrely as the only bit of stage decoration, a forlorn-looking homemade banner. "Our smoke machine broke, and our dancers got waylaid at some airport," was the explanation offered by Harris, the evening's self-declared "hostess".
The show had all the visual impact of a 1960s political meeting in a draughty church hall. The musicians sat in a row throughout, taking it in turn to play their songs. Harris was quite the busiest, pausing from singing only to auction off the Cambodian silk scarf she was wearing. She and Costello sang Indoor Fireworks together, slowing the chorus down to a troubling, drowsy pace. For most of the slightly stilted first set, though, one person sang while the others looked as if they didn't quite know what to do with themselves. Prine stared off into the middle-distance, Costello bent himself in half and nodded slowly, and Earle rested his guitar on his stomach, looking not unlike Jim Royle.
At the end of the first half, Bobby Muller (co-founder of the international campaign to ban landmines) came on to speak about the issue that had ostensibly brought us together. Judging by the amount of coughing in the audience as he spoke, a fair number were only here for the line-up. One of those even shouted "No politics" as Costello introduced an especially bruising rendition of Shipbuilding.
It was in the second set that the show, and its quiet stars, began to relax. Much more collaborative in nature, this set had a fluidity and engaging quality that the first - despite some real highlights - lacked. Personalities began to shine through: Prine has a humour so dry it's brittle, while Griffith is a sentimental chatterbox. The musicians also competed to sing the most heartbreakingly poignant song (Earle won, with Goodbye). For a final, rousing encore, they joined together to sing Prine's Daddy Won't You Take Me Back to Muhlenberg County, a song about a real place called Paradise that is under threat. We may not live in paradise, but the song still made a searing kind of sense on the night.
I'd heard of John Prine, but I'd never listened to him, apart from the odd track which turned up on a "various artists" cd.
I went along to the Concert For A Landmine Free World last night to see Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello and Steve Earle - 3 of my all-time favourite artistes playing together! They were great, and Nanci Griffith was enjoyable enough (I'm not too keen on her voice, especially in the higher registers), but John Prine was a revelation!
He was fantastic - dry, witty, soulful. I'm not too sure of the names of the songs - one about Sabu
(Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone), Angel from Montgomery, and one
(a new song?) about a guy who switches off mentally when his wife's nagging (she's going on and on and he's in a bar on the other side off town - in his
head) and a couple of others.
I found this site today to learn a bit more about him before I head off to buy some cds. Anyone care to suggest where I should start?
Waterfront Hall, Belfast
Mon, Jan 13, 2002
By: Neil McKay
CHARITY concerts have an often well deserved reputation for naffness.
But this show last night got just about everything right.
First up was the remarkable cast of musicians - Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, Steve Earle, Elvis Costello and John Prine, with help on keyboards from James Hooker.
Then there was the cause, a truly global charity that makes a real difference to some of the poorest, most disadvantaged people in the world.
But it was the tone of the evening that was most impressive.
Sober and restrained, but never stuffy, there was no cheap sloganeering from the stars.
There was a 'silent auction' for the scarf Emmylou Harris wore, but the only 'hard sell' came from campaign founder Bobby Muller just before the half-time intermission.
Muller, a US soldier who was paralysed in the Vietnam war, spoke movingly about the evils of landmines, and the continuing threat they pose to innocent civilians in countries like Cambodia and Afghanistan.
He was the meat in a musical sandwich of some often sublime performances.
The five performers shared the stage from start to finish, taking it in turns to play their songs.
It was a neat mix of the familiar and the surprising, with Costello earning a spontaneous round of applause when he dedicated an angry version of U2's 'Please' to "teachers and postmen".
Prine lightened the atmosphere with some humour, wryly observing before his first song that he was in the Waterfront just last month and had got the same dressing room, same hotel room, and same clothes.
Most of the highlights came in the second half, with Harris and Earle duetting on Earle's 'Goodbye', "one of the saddest songs ever written" said Harris, an excellent new song from Costello, and an encore of Griffith's 'It's A Hard Life', a song originally written in, and about Northern Ireland, but with a resonance far beyond these shores.
Venue: Orpheum theatre,
Date: in 2000
Okay... I'm a little slow... forgive me.. I'm 16 years old, and I'm one of the BIGGEST John Prine fans my age!!!! I went to a concert a couple years ago with my dad and my sister. WE had the worst seats but it was ALL worth it!! He's an amazing musician, and he's soooo funny!!! Anyway, some people wonder why a girl my age loves John Prine so much. I basically answer "Don't bash it til u heard it!" I would much rather go see John Prine again than ANY OTHER musician! I grew up listening to him. On old records my dad has, tapes he's gotten , or cds that we find. I know almost all his songs! My peers wonder why I like this music, and how the concert was. I just tell them it's totally
different than what people expect! I love it!!!
Cambridge Folk Festival, Cherry Hinton Hall Grounds,
Cambridge, England, UK
August 3, 2002
Before this evening's show a member of the Radio 2 production team asked him for a set list. "I ain't doing no goddam set list", he replied. "I'm just gonna get up there and jam!" And as Lake Marie built up and up in intensity to bring his performance to a close, he jammed so hard he snapped a guitar string.