Boston Herald: All Star's Concert For T Bone Is Well Done
10.18.2010 - Boston Herald By Jim Sullivan
I first saw T Bone Burnett in 1975 when he was 27 and one of the less-known
musicians on Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue tour. A sterling cast of stars
The idea took hold.
Saturday at a nearly sold-out Wang Theatre, Burnett - who’s risen to fame over
the past three decades as a producer for a slew of artists - was surrounded by
another crop of stars: Elton John, Elvis Costello, John Mellencamp, Gregg Allman
and many more. They’re all artists he’s produced. They and more than 20 other
musicians made up the Speaking Clock Revue, a modern day jamboree that made its
debut in Boston. (There’s another gig in New York on Wednesday.)
It was a two-set show, with a mix of country, blues, bluegrass, gospel and
roots-rock. Many folks played songs Burnett had produced. There were no real
“hits,” unless you count Allman’s “Midnight Rider.” That wasn’t the idea. This
was all about sharing - and subtly promoting a cause. Burnett said he’d been
inspired by the documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman,’ ” and the money raised was
to fund music education in schools.
Costello began the night with “Brilliant Mistake.” Throughout, he and Burnett
traded the role of the nattily attired witty emcee, with Costello calling
Burnett his “older, taller, smarter brother.” Burnett, a beaming presence,
played only a bit of guitar and sang backup.
The three-hour show was sharply paced and star-powered, but there was no
star-tripping. Stellar moments came from 83-year-old country singer Ralph
Stanley, New Pornographers’ singer Neko Case and bluegrass quintet the Punch
Guitar ace Marc Ribot helmed the multi-piece backing band and drummer Jim
Keltner anchored it.
There were highlights scattered everywhere, but certainly Mellencamp’s four new
songs were up there. The heartland rocker has stripped away the fist-pumping
arena rock and roughened up his sound, almost like Tom Waits. He got the night’s
first standing ovation for “Save Some Time to Dream,” a call-out to a younger
generation. Dream, but realize sorrow and failure come to us all.
Actor Jeff Bridges stepped into his Bad Blake “Crazy Heart” role with two
country-rock tunes. Allman, the gracious recent recipient of a liver transplant,
thanked his donor and sang three gritty blues rockers from an upcoming CD, “Low
The climax came at the end when two grand pianos were wheeled on for John and
Leon Russell, the two having recorded a new CD, “The Union“ (out Tuesday). John
called bearded, white-haired, sunglassed Russell - who used a cane and never
spoke or looked at the crowd - his idol. The two swapped vocal and piano leads
on six songs that hit rock-gospel-soul heights. One of the best was a poignant
Civil War song, “Gone to Shiloh,” with Allman joining on vocals. John and
Russell closed the evening with genuine grit and fire.