Dave Matthews at Farm Aid 2021 (Photo: Rick Farrell)

Saturday, September 25th saw the triumphant return of the annual Farm Aid concert, this year held in nearby Hartford, CT. The sold-out event was a major success, for the artists who played it as well as for the organization it benefits.

Founded in 1985, the longest-running live concert benefit was missing one of its founders this year as Neil Young opted to skip the Hartford show due to Covid concerns. Young’s presence was felt, however, as several artists covered his music. Micah Nelson’s band Particle Kid did a nice take on “After the Gold Rush,” and Margo Price, sporting a Neil Young t-shirt, rocked through the classic “Homegrown,” with help from Micah and Lukas Nelson.

Additional highlights were everywhere. Newcomer Alison Russell played an inspiring set, centered around the theme of how she overcame the odds and escaped childhood abuse. Margo Price made a clear statement covering Leslie Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me,” Ian Mellencamp and his band covered a sweet version of “Shallow,” and Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real tore through a set of rock and roll, undoubtedly inspired by Young, who the band backed on previous tours.

Among the more recognized artists, Bettye Lavette played a soulful set of mostly covers, re-imagining songs like Ringo Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy,” Dylan’s “Things Have Changed” and The Beatles’ “Blackbird.” Nathanial Rateliff and the Night Sweats shook things up with favorites like “S.O.B.” and “Hey Mama.” And John Mellencamp worked through a crowd-pleasing set of hits including “Small Town,” “Rain on the Scarecrow” and his closer “Pink Houses.”

Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds went acoustic, re-interpreting some of their classics included “Bartender,” “Save Me,” and “Ants Marching.” The closing act was the legendary Willie Nelson, who, at age 88, played a longer set than anyone else at the Festival! Accompanied by his sons Micah and Lukas, Nelson worked through numerous classics including “You Were Always on My Mind,” “On the Road Again,” and “Georgia On My Mind.” Quite a treat for those present.

What’s Up Newp was there and shares some great photos from Rick Farrell.

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