Set List Bonus: From Hollywood With Love Benefit For The Midnight Mission
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By Crystal Larsen
When Ryan Navales, public affairs representative for the Midnight Mission, took the stage at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, Calif., on Jan. 11 to share his story of a drug and alcohol addiction that nearly left him at death's doorstep, something occurred to me that I already knew: Music really can save lives.
That sense of hope brought a stellar cast of musicians together for From Hollywood With Love — a benefit concert presented by legendary L.A. vintage guitar store Norman's Rare Guitars to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Midnight Mission — the downtown Los Angeles-based organization that gave Navales his life back nearly three years ago.
Hosted by comedian Kevin Nealon, who at one point during the evening showed off his banjo playing skills (an interesting approach that featured barely audible picking), the evening featured a lineup filled with guitar greats, including current GRAMMY nominee Joe Bonamassa, Del Casher (better known as one of the inventors of the wah-wah pedal), GRAMMY nominee Robben Ford, Grant Geissman, and GRAMMY winners John Jorgenson and Richie Sambora, who was joined by Australian guitarist Orianthi.
When Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band (of "Conan" show fame) took the stage for the opening set, Vivino alluded to the loud, music-filled night the crowd was in for, saying, "Look at all these amps," pointing to the stacks of vintage and modern amps that filled the stage. Two songs into his set, Vivino brought singer/songwriter Tony Galla to the stage for a performance of the James Brown/Luciano Pavarotti version of the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame-inducted "It's A Man's Man's Man's World." Galla nailed both Brown's part and Pavarotti's part … in Italian. And that was just the beginning of the evening.
By the time Sambora took the stage at approximately 10 p.m., the crowd had been treated to a "warm-up" performance from Casher, whose guitar mastery led Vivino to say, "Take that, Sambora"; Geissman, who shared a beautiful arrangement of the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"; and Jorgenson, who, strapped with a sparkly black and gold Fender Stratocaster, also paid tribute to the Beatles with the George Harrison-penned "Love You To."
As a musician who has suffered from substance abuse, Sambora is one of the mission's biggest champions. Orianthi joined him for a five-song set that featured his solo numbers "Taking A Chance On The Wind," "Seven Years Gone" and "Stranger In This Town," Bon Jovi hits "Wanted Dead Or Alive" and "Livin' On A Prayer," and an emotionally charged cover of the Bill Withers classic "Lean On Me," which showed off the guitarist's seemingly unfaltering vocal range. Sambora likely chose to perform the latter song as the lyrics align so well with that of the purpose of the Midnight Mission: "You just call on me brother/When you need a hand/We all need somebody to lean on."
Lending their hands to close the evening were Bonamassa, who was joined by vocalist/guitarist Kirk Fletcher for a blues-drenched set that earned Bonamassa hoots and hollers from the crowd; and Ford, who, joined by two Musicians Institute alumni, effortlessly displayed why he is considered one of the premier electric guitarists of today.
As the evening concluded and flocks of guests flooded Sambora (who sat in the crowd to watch Bonamassa and Ford) for a photo, I was a little deaf and very thankful. Thankful for a music industry that, despite various ups and downs, continues to use its power to benefit those less fortunate through organizations such as the Midnight Mission and The Recording Academy's MusiCares Foundation. Because, sometimes in our lives, we all need somebody to lean on.