Bridge benefit: Gavin Rossdale, Wolfmother, Fleet Foxes go unplugged
An unplugged setting like Neil Young's annual Bridge School Benefit presents musicians who usually rely on megawatts of amplified music the opportunity -- and the challenge -- to find alternate means of channeling their music.
Bush front man Gavin Rossdale chose a nugget from the Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks songbook, "Landslide," in his reverential 25-minute set. Bush's "Comedown" lent itself nicely to the intimacy of Rossdale's spare trio -- two acoustic guitars and piano.
Wolfmother, however, struggled to find its footing without the electric instruments that constitute its core Zeppelin-inspired sound. "Woman" worked well enough; its bluesy shuffle connecting more clearly with its rootsy underpinning. But a guitar solo by lead singer-guitarist Andrew Stockdale lacked the same bite he mustered in his Robert Plant-like vocals.
Overheard: "They're a little understated," a fan behind me stated rather accurately.
Seattle's Fleet Foxes, however, took to the format like orcas to water. Their Crosby, Stills & Nash-influenced harmonies brought a touch of old-school flavor to the bill, which was admirably heavy on acts that have surfaced this decade. That came as no surprise given their strong classic-rock influences. But the stripped-down musical framework emphasized just how gorgeously this quintet's members can sing.
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Photo credit: Randi Lynn Beach / For The Times