Live Review: Etown's DNC show with James Taylor, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Ani DiFranco, Tom Morello and Irma Thomas

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Etown DNC Show with James Taylor, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Ani DiFranco, Tom Morello and Irma Thomas Tuesday, August 26, 2008 Temple Buell Theater Etown founders Nick and Helen Forster have hosted some stellar shows throughout the radio program’s seventeen-year history, but the king of them all may have been last night’s DNC edition with James Taylor, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Ani DiFranco, Tom Morello and Irma Thomas.

New Orleans natives Thomas and Henry Butler (who moved to Denver after Hurricane Katrina) eased on into their set with a slow blues before doing John Fogerty’s “River is Waiting” with a full band, including Nick Forster on guitar and his wife Helen on backing vocals. Crosby, Nash and DiFranco joined the group for an outstanding version “Time is On My Side.”

Morello can be a fierce shredder in Rage Against the Machine, but his alter ego, the Nightwatchman, is more like a modern-day Woody Guthrie. He strapped on his nylon string guitar with “Whatever It Takes” written on it and sang “Midnight in the City of Destruction” before digging into the title cut of his forthcoming album, The Fabled City, which will be released near the end of September.

Following a speech by Governor Bill Ritter, Nick Forster presented Robert F. Kennedy Jr. with the show’s “e-chievement” award, which is awarded to individuals who make a positive impact on their community. Kennedy, who is the chief prosecuting attorney for Riverkeeper, spoke about his continuing efforts to protect New York’s Hudson River.

After DiFranco played her politically charged songs “Evolve” and her “Your Next Bold Move,” she spoke with Nick Forster about a cathedral in Buffalo, New York that she rescued from demolition and converted it into art gallery, live music venue and has plans to turn church’s crypt into a club. DiFranco also said her forthcoming album has some flavor of New Orleans, the city she’s been living in for the past five years.

Following the chat with Forster, DiFranco dedicated her song “Paradigm,” to all the people working on Barack Obama’s campaign. DiFranco sang about campaigning with her mother and ends with the lines, “I remember the feeling of community brewing/of democracy happening.”

After David Crosby and Graham Nash did a stellar take on “Déjà Vu,” Crosby said, “Don’t you think there should be some sort of law where you can’t have nuclear bombs unless you can pronounce ‘nuclear’?”

While Nash played guitar and sang his new song “In Your Name” about a dialog between a man and God, Crosby provided some wonderful background harmonies. “This is a song we wish we had written,” Nash said before the duo covered “This is My Country” written Joel Rafael, who Nash considered part of their group’s extended family. While Crosby harmonized, Nash played guitar and sang lines like, “It's time to stop them in their tracks/it's time to take our country back." After Crosby did a gorgeous take on “Guinevere,” the band came on to back Crosby and Nash on their classic “Teach Your Children.” The duo laid out for a verse and let the audience sing a verse before the crowd erupted in a roaring applause.

Accompanied by Nick Forster on mandolin, James Taylor opened his set with a rendition of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman,” which was made famous by Glen Campbell. Taylor recorded a version of song and eleven others for his Covers album, which is slated for a September 30 release. Taylor also did a Big Mama Thornton-inspired take of “Hound Dog” for the album, and last night with some help from Thomas, Crosby, Nash and the Forsters, Taylor and company a did a funky take on the tune while Butler sprinkled on some Professor Longhair-inspired New Orleans flavor. Taylor then sang a moving rendition of “You Can Close Your Eyes” with Crosby and Nash providing back up vocals.

For the show's finale, all the performers came back for a rousing sing-along of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land," which was a perfect way to close out a remarkable three-hour show.

--Jon Solomon

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