Last night, Steve Earle hosted his annual John Henry’s Friends Benefit Concert to raise funds for The Keswell School. The May 15 event took place at Town Hall in New York and presented appearances by David Byrne, who debuted two new songs, as well as Terry Allen and Kurt Vile, who took part in the night’s guitar pull format by delivering songs and stories throughout the show’s 90-minute run time.
The musicians were all onstage throughout the 90-minute gathering, ready to back each other up. During the night, the event’s host, Earle, mentioned that it was the first time he had employed the guitar pull method, adding to the uniqueness of the occasion.
During Earle’s set, he paid tribute to his late son, Justin Townes Earle, who died in 2020 due to an accidental overdose. He mentioned: “John Henry has two brothers, one of which was one of the greatest songwriters who ever lived.”
Vile turned out “How Lucky,” his collaborative number featuring the late John Prine. The artist also cited that he had bonded with Earle at recent Prine celebrations, bringing more profound meaning to his song choice. Also included, Vile dedicated “Pretty Pimpin” to his late bandmate Rob Laakso, who recently died of cancer.
The night also ushered a set of four songs led by Byrne, two of which represented debuts for the artist. The new numbers were written for the upcoming film adaptation of Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, titled “We Are Not” and “Lullaby.” He also added Talking Heads’ classic “(Nothing But) Flowers” to the set, which eventually closed with a sit-in from Terry Allen who helped with a rendition of “Buck Naked.”
As is tradition, the night ended with a collaborative take on the Graham Nash-penned “Teach Your Children.” The musical moment was also accompanied by comments about Nash’s inclusion in the second edition of John Henry’s Friends Benefit Concert, which marked the start of the annual sing-along send-off.