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Concert for a Landmine Free World
Member Name: lynn_bex
Concert for a Landmine Free World
Date: 27/01/02, updated on 11/05/02 (396 review reads)
Advantages: WORTHY CAUSE, We don't want to kill or maim..., And so say all of us...
Disadvantages: None. Unless you want to do harm..., Cannot donate dooyoo earnings - Our Charity of Choice must be a UK Charity
CONCERT FOR A LANDMINE FREE WORLD
Hammersmith Apollo, London - 17 January 2002
The idea of these charity “Concerts for a Landmine Free World” was conceived by country music star Emmylou Harris, who became actively involved with the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) when she visited Cambodia and Vietnam and saw at first hand the rehabilitation clinics run by the VVAF.
The first show was in Washington DC in 1998 when Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle performed a benefit under the title of “Concerts for a Landmine Free World” to raise awareness for the public education efforts of VVAF’s CAMPAIGN FOR A LANDMINE FREE WORLD.
Regular Concerts have continued to take place in various parts of America since 1998 but we Europeans had to wait until 2002 for the first of our shows, which took in Belfast, Dublin, Glasgow, London, Stockholm and Oslo between 13th and 20th January.
I booked seats for the London show as soon as it was advertised, but the tickets must have sold like hot cakes, as the best available seats turned out to be some way back in the stalls. This being the case, my companion and I were not quite close enough to experience the advertised “intimate” acoustic evening, though, the Apollo being PACKED, I suppose we were quite intimate with our neighbours, -and it could have been worse, as “standing tickets” had been sold for places at the rear of the theatre!
First on was the lady who instigated these concerts, Emmylou Harris, who explained a little of the concept before introducing her fellow performers, who each took their seats on the stage and remained seated throughout the performance.
Interestingly, many in the audience were clearly there to see their particular favourite and you could recognise “who loved who” by the whoops and cheers, but I also sensed that many “co
rporate bookings” may have been made for this “gig of the year”.
[Unfortunately, this resulted in a lot of coming-and-going as the show progressed, with one woman in the centre of our row leaving her seat some five or six times during the course of the evening. Other members of the audience appeared to swap seats, possibly with others holding standing tickets. None of this actually spoilt the show, but it was very irritating, given that our tickets were not cheap at £27.50 each]
For such a star studded evening, I was rather like “Gertrude the Groupie” (in the Dr Hook song written by Shel Silverstein), and “…in love with them all” – but rather smug when my special favourite, Nanci Griffith, was first to be introduced, along with the brilliant keyboard player from her Blue Moon Orchestra, James Hooker. Next on was Elvis Costello, then Steve Earle and finally John Prine
Emmylou was poised, graceful and beautiful as she sang the opening song and thereafter the artists took turns to sing, sometimes just to their own guitar, often quietly backing each other, and occasionally backed by James Hooker on keyboard.
The songs were a mixture of old and new. Happy songs, sad songs, love songs and, naturally, given the purpose of this concert and the people sitting up there on stage, there were a number of quiet protest and anti-war songs from the American contingent. Elvis Costello’s vocal protests were rather more obvious [and I suspect that his views were shared by the liberal Americans on stage with him] but then, he was an Englishman in London.
“Of course,” said the bear like Steve Earle, “no one is FOR land mines… Put your hand up if you are FOR land mines [eyes scanning the audience] because I want to see where you ****ers are.”
On introducing Steve Earle, Emmylou had expressed everyone’s pleasure that “he i
s still with us,” this presumably being a reference to his past drug history. Having served time in prison for drug offences, Earle was released in 1994 and has since been living clean and sober, rebuilding his own life, and trying to right many of the wrongs in this world. He has been quoted as saying, “Anger and violence breeds more anger and violence,” referring to both the penal system and current world conflict. As well as giving his support to the “Landmine Free World” project from the outset, he is totally opposed to the death penalty, and actively supports relatives of those on death row in the US, as well as helping the prisoners where possible. What is more, he was one of the few US country acts NOT [along with Nanci Griffith] to cancel his UK shows at the end of last year, following the tragedy of 11 September 2001. This man is DEFINITELY a hero of mine so I will forgive his bad language!
It was Earle’s birthday on 17th January and after the interval a cake, complete with candles, was produced – much to the delight of the audience and the genuine surprise of Steve. [I was too far away to count the candles but, by my reckoning, there should have been 47 this year!]
During the course of the evening, the Birthday Boy sang several songs with the usual guitar accompaniment, but then produced a mandolin and performed the foot-tapping “Galway Girl” [the kind of tune Terry Wogan calls “diddly-dee music”] and this reminded me of just how compulsive is some of Earle’s music, and what a great singer/songwriter he is. …
My favourite, the wonderful Nanci Griffith, opened with “Travelling Through This Part of You”, (the song about the Vietnam war, and its aftermath, from her magnificent “Clock Without Hands” album, which I reviewed a few months back.) On this occasion, she dedicated the song to Bobby Muller, President of the VVAF, w
ho is honoured in the liner notes to the “Clock Without Hands” album and was present throughout this show.
Anyone who read my earlier reviews will know that I was deeply affected by Nanci’s album and its promotional tour, and thereafter pledged the first £50.00-worth of my dooyoo-earnings to Bobby Muller’s VVAF cause, so it was an honour to be in the presence of Mr Muller.
Later, Nanci gave personal thanks to her favourite DJ, Johnnie Walker, (with a special mention also to Terry Wogan,) for being so supportive over the past three years whenever she has visited the UK to push for support for the humanitarian work of the VVAF in aiding the victims of landmines, as well as working to ban and clear them. Having thanked the DJs she dedicated her song “Listen to the Radio” to those two gentlemen.
For me, one of the highlights of the evening was when Nanci sang John Prine’s song “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness,” with the man himself singing along in a quiet and un-remarked duet.
John Prine is something else, and something rather wonderful… The last to be introduced by Emmylou, he had the shortest walk to his “on stage position,” but it did not seem to be an easy walk.
Later, he told of his Hip-Replacement Operation [I think he said this took place last year] and how, whilst recovering at home, he wrote a song from the viewpoint of a confined, but would-be-wandering husband, in like circumstances. The fictional husband did not have a lot of money, so his “leaving” only took him to the other side of town – and the “leaving” was only in his mind…
In the song, the husband is half-listening to his wife’s grievances, but his mind wanders and he is mentally living it up, somewhere else in town, until:
“… You… …think I’m here listening to your shopping list
hen I’m …in a bar across town…
“…Leaning on the Juke Box, half-way… …THERE”
[This brought the house down, the audience having anticipated a word to rhyme with “list” !]
John Prine also mentioned having been approached by Billy Bob Thornton a few years ago, with an invitation to play his brother in a film [a film so successful that it has yet to be released!] and to write a song for the movie. “Well,” said Prine, “I COULD write a song, but I wondered what KIND of song,” – the point being that such songs frequently have nothing whatsoever to do with the storyline- and, he continued, “[you see the movie and] think WHERE THE HELL DID THAT COME FROM?”
He DID write the song, “In Spite of Ourselves”, which was thereafter recorded with Iris DeMent (a little number that she can apparently use to torment her mother.)
-This appears on John Prine’s magnificent “In Spite of Ourselves” album.
[Released in 1999, “In Spite of Ourselves” is highly recommended by Lynn_Bex, this being a collection of what Prine calls Country “meetin’, cheatin’ and retreatin’ songs” performed as duets with some of his favourite girl singers]
On this occasion he performed the duet “In Spite of Ourselves” as a solo, explaining:
“She don’t like her eggs all runny/She thinks crossin’ her legs is funny/…She gets it on like the Easter Bunny…”
Then SHE SAYS,
“He ain’t got laid in a month of Sundays/I caught him once sniffin’ my undies/He ain’t real sharp but he gets things done/He drinks his beer like it’s oxygen…”
<br><br>Then THEY sing the CHORUS,
“In spite of ourselves/We’ll end up sittin’ on a rainbow/Against al
l odds/Honey, we’re the big door prize/We’re gonna spite the noses right off our faces/There won’t be nothin’ but big old hearts/Dancing in our eyes”
Wonderful! -Lynn_Bex considers this song alone, performed live by the master storyteller, to be well worth the price of her ticket!
Elvis Costello opened with a touch of humour when he said, looking around at his co-performers, “I feel like a member of the audience who’s been promoted…”.
Then, later, “You realise, that somewhere in the White House, a CIA agent is testing a pretzel for anthrax?”
I had not realised that Costello was quite so political, or angry. But he was forthright in his condemnation of politicians (and countries) who wage retaliatory wars, or perhaps have ulterior motives. In the post-11 September world, and during the on-going campaign in Afghanistan, I thought it was very brave of him to express such views.
Costello performed a number of songs from his back catalogue, including “Indoor Fireworks” and a Gram Parsons love song, which tonight he performed as a duet with Emmylou Harris. He then gave us “Alibi”, a new song from his soon-to-be-released album, which is pretty powerful stuff. “Alibi” begins with the kind of excuses that are regularly trotted-out for bad behaviour: nobody understands you, or you were misunderstood/you didn’t have a pony/Jesus wants you for a sunbeam etc, etc.
In the introduction to “Alibi”, Costello told the audience that he had thought it was complete but then realised that, actually, there was quite a lot still to say, presumably including the line “There are soldiers who will kill but refuse to die”.
This was a very brave and honest performance, in today’s climate.
Shortly before the interval, Emmylou Harris announced that, as we could all see, she a
nd Nanci Griffith were wearing shawls. She explained that these are produced by some of the victims of land mines, women who had, with the practical assistance of the VVAF, formed self-help groups; they now raise silk worms and go on to produce these beautiful silk shawls and scarves.
“Nanci’s shawl is her own,” said Emmylou, “but mine is only on loan.”
It was intended, she told us, that the shawl would be auctioned, for sealed bids, to raise money for the VVAF Campaign for a Landmine Free World.
“You can have mine for a price,” called the ever-generous Nanci, so there were in fact two shawls to be auctioned.
Both shawls ultimately went for £8,000.00.
(I was unsure whether this was the total sum raised, or if they fetched £8,000.00 each. – Well beyond my price range either way!)
Before the artists left for the intermission, Bobby Muller, President and Co-Founder of the VVAF, propelled himself onto the stage in his wheelchair.
Having thanked the audience for their support, he went on to explain a little about landmines, which he describes as a humanitarian disaster, and of the VVAF’s efforts to un-do some of the harm caused by those weapons.
“Landmines,” says Muller, “are the single biggest employer of people in Afghanistan. The UN landmine clearing campaign employs more locals than any other industry in that country.”
Appallingly, Muller told us that the newest and biggest landmine field today is along the India/Pakistan border... – An indirect result of what we might call “the troubles of Afghanistan.”
To my astonishment, programmes for this concert were free, (though you could, of course, choose to make a donation.) I can only think that the VVAF Campaigners consider it worthwhile to make the information contained within the programmes readily available, for example:-
22 minutes, someone around the world is killed or maimed by a landmine.
Landmines are designed not to kill but to inflict injury, pain and suffering. Victims who survive the massive bleeding inflicted by this weapon require amputations, rehabilitation and reconstruction of their lives.
The US State Department estimates that 60 to 75 million landmines remain unexploded in the ground worldwide.
ONE-THIRD of the world’s countries are littered with landmines, which, each year, kill or injure 26,000 men, women and children, nearly 90 percent of whom are civilians.
Afghanistan is still believed to be one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, along with Angola and Cambodia.
In Afghanistan, 88 people are hurt or killed by landmines and unexploded ordnance every month.
The Cambodian government reports, on average, 85 new landmine victims each month; more than 30 percent of these victims are children.
In Angola, there are more than 2,600 known minefields, which killed or injured 842 people last year.
A LANDMINE CAN LAST A CENTURY IN THE GROUND until it is removed or an unsuspecting person, such as a child or farmer, steps on it.
The cost to remove one landmine – produced for as little as three dollars – can be as much as one thousand dollars
There is a “Concerts for a Landmine Free World” CD, recording earlier shows, but, so far as I can recall, the only constant is Nanci’s Griffith, performing “It’s a Hard Life”. [As I’ve said on dooyoo before, it is inconceivable that Nanci would appear anywhere without singing “It’s a Hard Life”.]
<br><br>It IS a hard world, but this was a wonderfully enjoyable evening and I hope that the funds raised will make many lives a little easier.
As Steve Earle said, “Nobody is FOR landmines”.
Perhaps we dooyooers can pla
y our part in getting rid of them?
PS - If anyone wonders why there is no mention of Rocky, my companion of choice:
She’s been in Spain on a field trip. (Looking at rocks, I expect. That’s what geologists do!) She would have preferred to be looking at Nanci, Emmylou, Elvis, Steve, and John – but that wouldn’t count towards her degree!
PPS I’m trying to write quicker… Being less than half-way to the dooyoo earnings I’ve promised to this cause!
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