All-Star Benefit Concert Honors Neal Casal At The Capitol Theatre

By Andy Kahn Sep 26, 2019 8:08 am PDT

Neal Casal was honored with an all-star tribute concert Wednesday night at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. The MusicCares benefit concert for Casal, who died in August at the age of 50, featured many of the guitarist’s former band mates, collaborators and admirers including Circles Around the Sun, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Beachwood Sparks and many more.

Casal’s longtime friend and manager Gary Waldman served as the evening’s emcee, often weaving in stories about Casal while introducing the musicians as they took the stage. The night featured performances of songs Casal wrote as well as covers of his favorite songs. A large screen behind the stage was used to show photos from throughout Casal’s life, as well as many of the photos taken by Casal who was an accomplished photographer. Director Justin Kreutzmann was involved in helping prepare some of the visuals.

Prior to the concert starting, a note from Casal was shown on the screen that instructed an “epic party” be thrown and that The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street be played, which it was over the PA as audience members filled The Cap. An empty chair adorned with Casal’s jacket was placed on stage next to Neal’s guitar.

The first set began Dori Freeman singing “Your Long Journey” and shaman Robbi Robb blessing the occasion. One of Casal’s musical mentors, guitarist Davis Jaynes, led a cover of Free’s “Oh I Wept.” Supporting Jaynes and appearing throughout the night were steel guitarist John Graboff, keyboardist John Ginty, bassist Dave Schools, drummer Dan Fadel and guitarist Jesse Aycock.

Pianist Leslie Mendelson was joined by others on Casal’s “Feel No Pain” and Jackson Browne’s “Rock Me On The Water.” Robbi Robb returned to front a song and Kenny Roby followed. Steve Earle came out solo for a rendition of Casal’s “Highway Butterfly“ that was written for Earle’s friend Townes Van Zandt.

Citizen Cope offered a solo rendition of his “Sideways” and Hazeldine reunited for Casal’s “Today I’m Gonna Bleed.” Railroad Earth/From Hood Home’s Todd Sheaffer offered covers of Casal’s “Real Country Dark” and “December.” RRE’s Tim Carbone followed with a solo fiddle performance of “Carrickfergus.” Mapache came out for takes on “The Last Thing on My Mind” and “Angel Band.” Casal’s former band Hazy Malaze, augmented by many of the other performers, closed the set with their “Thank You In Advance.”

Peter Shapiro announced at the start of setbreak that the stage in Garcia’s Forest at the annual Lockn’ Festival is now called the Neal Casal stage. Jason Crosby’s solo piano performance of “Pray Me Home” began the second half of the show. Casal’s recent collaborator Zephaniah Ohora took the stage for “Listening To The Music.”

Aycock and others including drummer Duane Trucks and guitarist Lauren Barth came together for Casal’s “The Losing End.” Casal’s former band Beachwood Sparks reassembled at The Cap for “Old Manatee,” “Leave That Light On,” “Talk About Lonesome” and “The Sun Surrounds Me.”

Next came a recording of Casal singing the Grateful Dead’s “Ship Of Fools” with many of the participating musicians playing along to the track. Then came guitarist Eric Krasno stepping into Casal’s role with Circles Around The Sun, joining drummer Mark Levy, bassist Dan Horne and keyboardist Adam MacDougall for a lengthy rendition of “On My Mind.” Drummer Joe Russo then joined CATS for a collaborative tune.

Metzger went solo acoustic for a cover of Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.” He was then joined by Russo, guitarist Tom Hamilton, bassist Dave Dreiwitz and MacDougall on keys for the Grateful Dead’s “Black Muddy River.” Joe Russo’s Almost Dead with MacDougall in place of Marco Benevento then covered “Playing In The Band” with Ryan Adams & The Cardinals’ “Let It Ride” performed within.

Chris Robinson, along with Chris Robinson Brotherhood drummer Tony Leone and bassist Jeff Hill, former CRB keyboardist MacDougall and guitarist Greg Loiacono then came out for a set that started with Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.” The group then worked through The Stones’ “Loving Cup,” as well as “Star Or Stone,” “A Smiling Epitaph” and a cover of “Mandolin Wind.”

Finally, the musicians came together for a finale of “Farther Along.” Robb wrapped the evening with a closing invocation in honor of Neal. Watch the entire concert via The Relix Channel below:
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