You do things for your school. Bake. Drive. Herd kids through zoos and museums. But when you're jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, Ann and Nancy...
You do things for your school. Bake. Drive. Herd kids through zoos and museums.
But when you’re jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, The Presidents of the United States of America or Pearl Jam, you take the stage of the Paramount Theater, celebrate a common vision and, best of all, blow the doors off the place.
The Concert for the Northwest School on Friday night was a remarkable hybrid of talent show and arena rock, when hard-core Presidents and Pearl Jam fans stood and sang, shouted and shot pictures — and so did the family and friends of the concert’s two student performers.
The Grammy-winning Frisell, whose daughter is a Northwest graduate, opened the night by admitting he was “scared to death.”
So it was especially impressive to see Northwest junior Alex Thompson Revelas perform her self-penned “Perfect Silence” (her crisp, almost breathless vocal was like Alanis Morissette — only sunnier). Sixth-grader Jonah Cohen put a 12-year-old’s spin on “Illinois Blues” by Skip James, a bluesman born 90 years before Jonah.
Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart (Ann’s daughter is an eighth-grader) played an acoustic set that reached the rafters. It included two covers: Elton John’s “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” and Led Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore,” with Nancy on a fevered mandolin.
The Presidents of the United States served as the night’s whipsmart, punk-rock pranksters. Frontman Chris Ballew led the shirt-and-tied trio through “Boll Weevil” and “Lump” as well as “Some Postman,” “Zero Friction” and the title track from their latest album, “Love Everybody.” (Guitarist Andrew McKaeg filled in for Dave Dederer.)
Before his band’s set, Pearl Jam guitarist and Northwest graduate Stone Gossard came out alone to speak with emotion about Northwest’s founders and its attention to the arts, “the thing for which we found the most passion.”
Eddie Vedder started Pearl Jam’s set with The Who’s “The Kids are Alright,” accompanied by Kenneth “Boom” Gaspar, whose keyboards made the song sound almost churchlike; a benediction.
Pearl Jam took the stage, looking happy to be there after weeks in the studio. Guitarist Mike McCready charged up and back on stage; at one point, he blew out an amp. Bassist Jeff Ament and drummer Matt Cameron were steady and strong.
The band fired through a set including “Porch,” “Save You,” “Given to Fly,” “1/2 Full,” and an untitled song from the band’s forthcoming album. Frisell joined them for “Crazy Mary” and Northwest student Eli Weinberg, on cello, for “Parting Ways.”
Vedder thanked the school for the hall guitars it makes available to students. Had Gossard not picked one up years ago, he said, he might have ended up “in a boy band, or with Cameron Diaz.” Perish the thought.
When everyone came out for the finale of “All Along the Watchtower,” you saw the past and present personified: Vedder giving direction to Weinberg. Gossard facing Cohen, both smiling.
Before the night ended, someone brought out a cake, and Vedder led the house in singing “Happy Birthday” to Frizell and Ament.
It was a school thing, after all. Somebody had to bake.