The Good Earth

Honor the Earth - Chicago

Indigo Girls - Jackson Browne - David Crosby

Chicago Theatre

October 17, 2000

First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2000, Volume 7, #12

Written by John Metzger


Music has been used seemingly forever to give a voice to the voiceless. From Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit to Bob Dylan's The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol, the words and music of many disparate artists have shed light on a variety of social and political issues, rallying the public around their causes. The folk revival and subsequent activism of the '60s generation further bound this relationship together, while bringing it to the mainstream.

As time has gone by, benefit concerts have become increasingly frequent in occurrence. While one might question the integrity of some artists who always seem to hop on board just as they are about to embark on a major publicity push for a new product, that most definitely can not be said of the Indigo Girls, Jackson Browne, and David Crosby. For them, the cause comes first. It always has.

Their latest campaign is for the Honor the Earth organization, which serves native communities in their environmental efforts to protect our precious planet. Part of the group's charter is to utilize music, the media, and the arts to accomplish its goals, and recently, it organized its fourth benefit tour, which on October 17 brought Browne, Crosby, the Indigo Girls, and Annie Humphrey to the Chicago Theatre. (Bonnie Raitt and Joan Baez also performed at several of these events, though not in Chicago).

Rather than take a heavy-handed approach by preaching to the already converted audience, the musicians occasionally veered away from the central theme for the evening. Crosby applied his golden-hued voice to the tender strains of Guinevere, Browne reflected on a broken relationship during Late for the Sky, and the Indigo Girls' Chickenman descended over the theater like a hallucination.

In the end, however, these distractions proved only to make the artists' statements all the more powerful. Humphrey infused a spiritual presence into the concert via her entire opening set; On Dream for Him, Crosby struck a balance between his venomous outrage at politics as usual and the gentle caress of a child; Browne transformed World in Motion into a biting blues motif; and the Indigo Girls' Nuevas Senoritas reflected upon one of Honor the Earth's past causes.

Most artists tend to find some freedom for their music at benefit concerts, becoming liberated from the trappings of their normal routines. This particular Honor the Earth benefit was no exception. Both Browne and Crosby performed in a solo acoustic format -- an all too rare experience these days -- which permitted each to return his songs to their roots-oriented beginnings. Even the Indigo Girls delivered a stripped-down set, augmented only by the keyboard playing of Carol Isaacs.

Musicians also tend to turn in interesting cover selections at special events such as this. Here, Crosby beautifully tackled Joni Mitchell's For Free, allowing his shimmering, jazz-inflected vocals to shine, while the Indigo Girls deftly embraced Bob Marley's Redemption Song.

In addition, whenever artists combine their talents for a concert, unique and different collaborations tend to take place. At this event, the Indigo Girls' Emily Saliers joined Crosby for a heavenly rendition of Déjà Vu; Browne invited Crosby on stage to reprise his appearance on a spine-tingling Jamaica Say You Will; and in turn, Browne replicated his own guest appearance on the Indigo Girls' Galileo. Naturally, the evening ended with the obligatory jam session. However, this one fared better than most as the entourage passionately tore through Buffy Sainte-Marie's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, reminding everyone of the true reason for this event.

Not that anyone should have forgotten. Midway through the concert, a short video was shown. This documentary outlined the Honor the Earth program by displaying some rather disturbing images of bison being slaughtered, the devastating effects of pollution, and the scourge of nuclear waste. These are but a few of the many atrocities facing the world, and Honor the Earth is simply one group that is fighting back against the corporations and governments that are perpetrating these crimes.

Frankly put: If you are not outraged, you simply are not paying attention. So, sign the petitions, write your congresspersons, and vote in the next election. Your voice could be the one that makes a difference.


For more information on the Honor the Earth
organization, please visit their web site.


The Indigo Girls' Retrospective is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

Jackson Browne's The Next Voice You Hear available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

David Crosby/CPR's Live at the Wiltern is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!


Copyright © 2000 The Music Box