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CAPITAL FOR CAPITAL CREATIVES: part four of our five-piece Paul Simon special


By Norman Warwick

Sidetracks & Detours fully explored the incredibly devastating effect Covid 19, and the subsequent lockdown it caused, had on the finances of the city in our article ´South By South West Suffering´ still available in our archives. Within days an emergency concert was mooted with plenty of star names promising to take part and with Willie Nelson and Paul Simon named as the presenting partners. Then, within hours of the concert closing a comprehensive, positive and grateful review was posted in The Austin Chronicle by Kevin Curtin.

He opened his review with a look at the audience,…or lack thereof !

Paul Simon

 ´Thank you… no one’s here,´ clowned Paul Simon on Wednesday night, arms outstretched to soak in silent cheers after singing Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard. Later, ATX’s Gary Clark Jr. similarly enjoyed a one-person ovation while playing from the stage of an empty Antone’s. ´Thanks for clapping,´ he said. ´I been all by myself playing.”

´Virtual concert, A Night For Austin´ saw 30 remotely recorded performances, from famous townies´, said Curton, ´and tangentially connected national acts drumming up funds for the city’s creative community.´

A ticker on the bottom of the screen, broadcast via a regional CBS livestream and an ACL Radio simulcast, saw donations climb past a half million dollars during the two-hour show. Those monies were banked into a fund managed by Austin Community Foundation to be dispersed to six beneficiaries including the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, the Red River Cultural District, and Six Square, a non-profit organisation benefitting artists and entrepreneurs of colour who’ve lost income as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Lukas Nelson (photo by Doug Freeman)

The sequence of home-recorded songs made for a night of great music, and regardless of the whole thing being by way of a good deed, the concert stood on its own two feet and roared. The highlights were plentiful. Lukas Nelson, (Willie´s son now established as a fine artist in his own right) unwittingly duetted with a loquacious bird while performing Just Outside Of Austin, while a stuffed crow flanked the typically mystical piano sage Terry Allen, playing his profound Sailin’ On Through. My own band Lendanear used to play Terry´s Gimme A Ride To Heaven Boy back in the eighties, but hey, he can´t be held responsible for that !

The Black Pumas performing on A Night For Austin
(photo by Doug Freeman)

Black Pumas core duo Eric Burton and Adrian Quesada were anthemic and uplifting with a powerful, stripped-down version of Colors. They contrasted the old-guard line up along with fellow up-and-comers Kalu & the Electric Joint and David Ramirez, who both shoneo brightlt on their segments. Meanwhile, one of the great veterans of Texas music, Flaco Jiménez, turned in a great performance of Ay te Dejo en San Antonio backed by Los Texmaniacs, who also supported his Texas Tornados band-mate Augie Meyers doing the immortal Hey Baby Que Paso.

Charlie Sexton, a ubiquitous figure round these parts, was the event’s musical director and he linked with his onetime Arc Angels band-mate Doyle Bramhall II for the night’s best socially distanced mingling of guitars – a blues song advising us to ´roll with what you got´.

Edie and Paul (photo by Doug Freeman)

Co-host Paul Simon and his Texan better-half, Edie Brickell, served as the connective tissue to some of the event’s bigger stars, including James Taylor, who delivered a pitch perfect never-heard-before cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s America. One of the telecast’s best moments came when Brickell led Simon in a light-hearted cover of the Bobbettes’ 1957 single “Mr. Lee,” the former nailing the track’s quirky slide-downs on her Collings guitar.

Those local luthiers got a lot of love on A Night For Austin, which interspersed music sets with a roll call of Austin businesses like Sam’s BBQ, Waterloo Records, and the Austin Motel, plus guest host segments from actors. Woody Harrelson called Austin ´a city I will one day move to” and Ethan Hawke, who described his greying beard as ´a north Texas grey squirrel invited to live on my face,´ duetted with young daughter Indiana on a lovely version of Willie Nelson’s Too Sick To Pray.

Willie Nelson at A Night For Austin
(photo by Doug Freeman)

Willie, the paterfamilias, whose relatives´ promotion company Luck Presents facilitated the concert, closed the show with a solid rendition of On The Road Again.

´Thank you for joining us in the mission of getting the city back on its feet´, he said at the song’s conclusion. ´We all need each other and we all need music´.

That was made more than evident by a guest list that included Bonnie Raitt, John Hiatt, Norah Jones, Lyle Lovett, Ray Benson & Asleep At The Wheel, Shawn Colvin and Vince Gill. The thespian world was well represented, too, by Ethan Hawke, Owen Wilson, Renee Zellweger and Woody Harrelson.

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