Tom Morello, Crosby, Stills and Nash Fired Up for California
Prop. 32 would strip workers of their political power, they
By Steve Appleford
October 4, 2012
"What's past is past, but the future is unwritten," Tom
Morello declared last night at the Nokia Theater in Los
Angeles, opening a benefit concert to help defeat Proposition
32, a California ballot measure that opponents say will strip
the ability of unions to support candidates and influence
elections across the state.
As a presidential debate unfolded a thousand miles away in
Denver, Morello and headliners Crosby, Stills and Nash
performed for a largely union audience to battle another local
issue with national implications, not unlike last year's
Wisconsin law that curtailed collective bargaining for public
employees. Morello appeared at protests there as well, as he
did at various Occupy protests across the country.
During Morello's half-hour set Wednesday as the Nightwatchman,
CS&N joined him for a spirited reading of the uncensored
version of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," which
includes the questioning, rarely sung line, "As they stood
there hungry, I stood there asking/ Is this land made for you
and me?" Morello's 89-year-old mother, led by the hand to the
stage by Graham Nash, sung along with them by the microphone.
Backstage earlier, Morello told Rolling Stone that the
California ballot measure "is another of the brushfire wars in
this ongoing class warfare assault of the ruling class on
working families. Stopping Prop. 32 is a crucial fight to keep
dignity and justice in the workplace."
Morello, a member of Musicians Local 47 for more than two
decades, said he was invited to open the show by CS&N, and
hoped to help counteract "the subterfuge and the dust thrown
in the eyes through television commercials [that] is
He added, "My twin responsibilities these days are raising
babies and raising hell."
At the opening of his set, Morello stood alone onstage and
strummed through his "Union Song" with locomotive force,
stomping a defiant beat. On his guitar was scrawled, "Whatever
It Takes." Soon after came a troubled "Save the Hammer for the
Man," his collaboration with Ben Harper, with guitarist Carl
Restivo taking Harper's vocal parts, as Morello took a speedy,
Spanish guitar solo.
The set then shifted into a harder-rocking "The Road I Must
Travel" and Bruce Springsteen's "The Ghost of Tom Joad,"
introduced by Morello as "a song written by the only Boss
worth listening to." He picked up an electric guitar and
unfurled the spasms of melody and noise that have made the
song his own in recent years, colliding bits of Jimi Hendrix
and Public Enemy's Bomb Squad. The standing ovation that
followed was the least surprising part.
Closing the night, Crosby, Stills and Nash launched into
"Carry On," Stephen Stills stepping away from the band's
three-part harmonies to rip open the first of several searing
guitar windouts. Crosby stood alone in the spotlight to pluck
a cascading acoustic melody on "Déjà Vu," followed by a
harmonica solo from Nash and others from each member of the
five- piece backing band.
Stills led a stripped-down cover of "The Girl from the North
Country" by "old weird Bob" Dylan, and Crosby and Nash sang
the spectral love ballad "Guinnevere," with Crosby's son James
Raymond on keyboards.
The veteran folk-rock trio closed the night with a series of
songs tied to another era of protest, from a jazzy "Wooden
Ships" to Crosby's wailing freak anthem "Almost Cut My Hair."
The band's encore had Stills leading the band through his
Buffalo Springfield classic "For What It's Worth," as fans
rose to shout back the lyrics, before closing with a hopeful
"Teach Your Children," sending the union members home and
ready to fight another day.
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