All for one

Light of Day concerts bring together dozens of artists for good cause

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

BY JAY LUSTIG

The bad news was that Bruce Springsteen didn't show up. The good news was everything else. The Light of Day 6 concerts that took place Friday at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park and Saturday and Sunday at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville raised approximately $150,000 for the Parkinson's Disease Foundation and the ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) Association's greater Philadelphia chapter. Dozens of artists, ranging from national acts to local heroes, donated their time, and on Sunday, the series presented its first all-acoustic songwriter-circle show, with memorable results. There have been one to three Light of Day shows each year since 2000, at the Tradewinds in Sea Bright or the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. Organized by Bob Benjamin of Highland Park, who manages musicians and has Parkinson's disease, they raised more than $400,000 for the PDF and other charities. In addition to this weekend's shows, there will be two more in '05: Nov. 22 in Rome and Dec. 12 in West Hollywood, Calif.

In the past, the Boss has made an unbilled appearance at one Light of Day show every year. His presence looms large, even when he's not there. Participants this year included many of his friends and musical collaborators, such as Southside Johnny, Joe Grushecky, Gary U.S. Bonds, Richie "La Bamba" Rosenberg, Soozie Tyrell, Jesse Malin, Garland Jeffreys and Willie Nile.

The Pony show featured longtime Jersey shore favorites like Bonds, La Bamba and Southside, and stretched well past the club's usual closing time. The two Starland Ballroom shows had distinctly different flavors. Saturday's show was an old-fashioned rock 'n' roll blowout. Sunday was an evening of acoustic music and conversation, presented in conjunction with the "Writers In the Raw" series, which has mounted similar shows at the Starland and other clubs.

Jeffreys, who performed second-to-last, ranged from reggae ("We the People") and garage-rock ("96 Tears"), while Malin and Pete Yorn, in separate sets, combined singer-songwriter introspection with punk-rock combustibility. Grushecky was everywhere, guesting with Willie Nile on the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" and with Boccigalupe & the Bad Boys on Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" and Van Morrison's "Domino."

Grushecky, Malin and Yorn all returned for Sunday's show, comprised of two separate sets, each showcasing five artists. Other participants included Jeffrey Gaines, John Eddie and Jess Klein.

Pat Guadagno explained that he has never appeared at such an event before, since he doesn't write his own songs. But he threatened to steal the show anyway with his gruffly soulful vocals on gems like Steven Van Zandt's "All I Needed Was You" and Warren Zevon's "Don't Let Us Get Sick."

Artists sat on stools, and casually joined each other on guitar, harmonica or backing vocals, whenever they felt inspired. Malin told uproarious tales and delivered his "Almost Grown" with a fragile, Neil Young-like lilt. Gaines sang movingly of "war's futility" in his protest song, "A Simple Prayer." Yorn brought the evening to a peak with a hard-strummed, howling "For Nancy ('Cos It Already Is)."

Everyone was asked to play covers, as well as originals, and these tunes provided some of the show's biggest revelations. Eddie offered a slow, mesmerizing version of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," while Klein put a torchy spin on Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love." Gaines made Tom Petty's "The Waiting" seem like a deeply personal statement.

Encores included impromptu group versions of songs like the Beatles' "Eight Days A Week" and Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" (both with Gaines on lead vocals), Springsteen's "Hungry Heart" (featuring Malin at his most tender) and the Beach Boys' "Surfer Girl" (led by Yorn, who tackled the melody in a deep, Jim Morrisonesque croon).