Peace Concert Draws Smaller, Sadder Crowd

The second antiwar concert at Nashville’s Belcourt Theater drew a considerably smaller and visibly more disconsolate crowd Wednesday night (April 9) than the hopeful throng that gathered there on March 12, just days before the American and British invasion of Iraq. Only about half the seats in the theater’s main auditorium were filled by the time the music started. Performers for the latest show — which lasted three and a half hours –included the Fairfield Four, Rodney Crowell , Beth Nielsen Chapman, John David Souther, Tim O’Brien and the new group, Wise Child. Both events were held to raise funds for the Nashville Peace & Justice Center.

“I think we have even more to do now,” said O’Brien, who organized the shows. “More than ever, we are not just citizens of the United States but citizens of the world. And we need to be loyal to both.”

Some of the performers reflected the gloom of war by speaking of personal tragedies they had endured. O’Brien told of losing a brother in Vietnam and Chapman of her husband who died of cancer.

Spirits began to lift with the entrance of the first act, the Fairfield Four. The durable a cappella gospel quintet opened with “Noah,” creating a palette of layered sounds as colorful as the story it told. Leaving the stage after its second number, “Four and Twenty Elders,” the group was brought back by a sustained standing ovation and encored with the broadly whimsical “These Bones Are Gonna Rise Again.”

Jim Miller and Tara Nevins of the band, Donna the Buffalo, followed with a three-song set. They were backed by an impromptu band that included the prodigiously gifted songwriter and instrumentalist, Dirk Powell. Between songs, he spoke out on behalf of the embattled Dixie Chicks, noting that they remain a top-selling and enormously popular act. He also asserted that pre-orders for antiwar activist Michael Moore’s latest documentary, the Academy Award-winning Bowling for Columbine, exceeded those of any of his previous works. Like the Chicks ’ lead singer, Natalie Maines, who created a firestorm of disapproval with her antiwar remarks in England, Moore came under withering criticism for assailing President Bush at the recent Academy Awards ceremony.

Chapman, who sang at the earlier peace concert, also performed with an ad hoc band whose members included her friend and songwriting partner, Annie Roboff, and songwriter Darrell Scott. She sang five of her own songs (among them the hit for Martina McBride , “Happy Girl”) and concluded with an audience-involving cover of the O’Jays’ “Love Train.”

A last-minute addition to the lineup was Jedd Hughes, lead guitarist for Patty Loveless. He performed one of his own compositions, “If I Had a Dollar,” and remained on stage to back Crowell and John David Souther. Alluding to feeling down about the war, Crowell responded with two doleful songs from his album The Houston Kid, “I Wish It Would Rain” and “Wandering Boy.” The mood picked up when Souther joined him onstage to sing their joint composition, “Occupation Blues (Call Me Bob),” a wry look at the minor drawbacks of fame.

Souther closed his section of the show with Bob Dylan’s ironic and despairing “With God on Our Side.” “There’s one thing you can do,” he told the audience as he prepared to exit. “It works for everybody. Just vote.”

O’Brien surrounded himself with an all-star band made up of Powell on bass, Kenny Malone on drums, John Doyle on guitar and Casey Driessen on fiddle. Most of his songs had an antiwar theme. O’Brien sang lead on “John Riley,” “Mick Ryan’s Lament” and “For the Fallen,” while Doyle took the lead on “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.”

Wise Child, a band whose instrumental prowess and risk-taking are sure to spark comparisons to Nickel Creek, wrapped up the show with three original compositions and a jazzy, fiddle-to-fiddle jam of the gospel chestnut, “Working on a Building.” The members are Driessen on fiddle, Luke Bulla on guitar and fiddle, Matt Mangano on bass and Pasi Leppikanges on drums.

Set List

Fairfield Four
“Four and Twenty Elders”
“These Bones Gonna Rise Again”

Jim Miller & Tara Nevins
“Let’s Go Down”
“Family Picture”
“Down to the River”

Beth Nielsen Chapman
“Angels by My Side”
“All Comes Down to Love”
“Sand and Water”
“Dancer to the Drum”
“Happy Girl”
“Love Train”

Jedd Hughes
“If I Had a Dollar”

Rodney Crowell, Jedd Hughes
“I Wish It Would Rain”
“Wandering Boy”

Rodney Crowell, John David Souther, Jedd Hughes
“Occupation Blues (Call Me Bob)”

John David Souther
“Maybe It Will Rain”
“With God on Our Side”

Tim O’Brien
“Apple Press”
“John Riley”
“Mick Ryan’s Lament”
“The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”
“For the Fallen”
“The Holy Well”

Wise Child
“The Perfect Day”
“Working on a Building”
“The Beauty and the Mess”

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to