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Benefit for The Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding

A Review

By Mariah Fleming
Images by R. A. Bowen

Concert finale - Click for the full image

If you weren't old enough (or lucky enough) to attend Woodstock in 1969 you'd have glimpsed into that nascent world of peace, love and understanding if you were at the March 10th benefit for the victims of the Gabriel Giffords shooting in Tucson. The five hour show featured some of the most iconic names in music, led by veteran stars including Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Graham Nash, 2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Alice Cooper, Sam Moore, Keb' Mo', Dar Williams, Jerry Riopelle, Jennifer Warnes, Ozomatli, Calexico and many more musical acts.

The concert benefited The Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding. Ron Barber, Gabrielle Gifford's District Director, launched the project. Barber was very seriously wounded in the shooting. Jackson Browne, the key organizer of the event along with Alice Cooper, described the event as supporting individuals and families affected by the shooting and promoting civility and respect in public discourse, schools and the community. The thank you list of concert volunteers and donors was so long, concert hosts Danny Zelisko and Cooper read them over three breaks.


Civility, respect and awe flowed throughout the evening at the concert. The feeling in the house was pure joy and communality. "All of Arizona came out to wish us well and we are so grateful. We were surrounded by love from the state and nationally the good will has been phenomenal. It has helped the victims tremendously." said Barber. Fifty two hundred tickets were sold for the concert that was put together in less than a month's time.

The one of a kind concert opened with a healing Native American prayer led by Quiltman. A hush fell on the audience as his prayer set the tone for the evening. Each performance was crafted with songs that brought poignant meaning to the night. Musicians returned to the stage often to join one another for a song. First up was Arizona's wildly popular Roger Clyne. Joel Rafael did a powerful acoustic set of original material. David Crosby and Graham Nash joined in together on "America Come Home."

Jennifer Warnes

Dar Williams sang about fathers, sons, brothers and family estrangement. Jennifer Warnes sang a cappella, with a soul healing rendition of "Amazing Grace," mesmerizing the audience with her stunning vocals and powerful presence. The legendary Sam Moore sang a spine tingling "You'll Never Walk Alone" and "America the Beautiful" in his rich and storied voice, bringing the whole audience to its feet in song. Jennifer Warnes and Sam Moore sang a gorgeous duet. Nils Lofgren hypnotized the audience with hope through his wondrous guitar and beautiful songs. "Last fall Nils Lofgren did a concert at the Fox Theater and it was one third full. I couldn't understand it." Ron Barber said. "He is one of the most outstanding musicians around!" Calexico, a Tucson favorite, brought the house down when they were joined by Mariachi band Luz de Luna, intoning, "Let the sum of your words equal your deeds."

Throughout the night, the music was seamlessly interspersed with speakers, many who were victims of the January 8th shooting. Ron Barber slowly made his way to the stage with his family to thank the "Citizen heroes who came to the aid of the wounded." Speaking of that tragic January day, he said: "What happened afterwards is who we are. What happened before was an aberration." Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup asked the audience to reflect, saying "Have we shown enough kindness to the people in our lives?" President Obama called the Mayor from the White House to extend his blessings for the event.

Daniel Hernandez

Gabe Zimmerman, the Giffords' aide who was killed, was honored as his mother spoke about him. "Gabe believed that at our best Tucson is a caring and compassionate community that acts on that compassion." Asking everyone to support the Fund for Civility, she explained, "Gabe believed that we need to reach out to people who need to change their lives." Daniel Hernandez, who heroically aided Gabrielle Giffords before thinking of his own safety, also spoke.

The mother of Christina Taylor Greene, the 9-year-old child who was killed in the melee, was there. Her little girl's spirit seemed to fill the room. Christina, born on September 11, 2001, was part of the Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11 project. Her entry reads: "I hope you know all the words to the Star Spangled Banner and sing it with your hand over your heart. I hope you jump in rain puddles."

After the intermission, Ozomatli, reinvigorated the audience, greeting the crowd in many languages, enveloping the house in the joyous sounds of their music. Arizona favorite Jerry Riopelle introduced a song by saying "This is the prettiest song I know" and sang a spellbinding "Follow Your Dreams" written by Dan Flynn. Keb' Mo' intoned the crowd to "Wake up, everybody," testifying: "The world won't get no better if we just let it be." David Crosby and Graham Nash joined Keb' Mo' for a spectacular version of "For What It's Worth."

Graham Nash introduced a song saying "It's a small prayer really, no matter which God you pray to," and he implored God to "Stop all this killing in your name." After the concert Nash told me, "I think this is the most important song I've ever written." David Crosby's genius for power of words rang out as he sang "Long Time Coming." Jackson Browne's passion and conviction poured over the room as he sang from his song "I Am A Patriot." "I am a patriot and I love my country, because my country is all I know; I want to be with my family, the people who understand me, I've got nowhere else to go. And the river opens for the righteous, someday. "The battle for the future is on; which side are you on?"

The night was fully charged from start to finish. The audience roared with applause when Danny Zelisko suggested the benefit should be a yearly event. At the end, the long awaited set by Alice Cooper tore up the stage with his trademark hits. It galvanized the crowd for the finale.

Finally, when all the musicians and people involved in the event came onstage, the finale echoed joyfully throughout the house. It heralded the promise of change, as the perfect harmonies of "Teach Your Children" rang through the air. It sent the audience home with a sense of peace, healing, and a once in a lifetime lullaby that guaranteed sweet dreams.

Memorial @ UMC, Tucson