Neil Young has not stepped foot on a concert stage since September 2019, but that will change on April 22 when he headlines the Light Up the Blues charity show, which benefits Autism Speaks, at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles alongside Stephen Stills, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Chris Stills, Oliver Stills, and other special guests. Tickets go on sale on February 17 at 10:00 AM local time.
“We’ll be there to ‘Light up the Blues’ with Stephen, [his wife] Kristen and the family,” Young tells Rolling Stone in a statement, “doing or first show in four years with old friends for our autistic people around the world.”
This is the sixth Light Up the Blues concert the Stills family has organized since the inaugural event in 2013. It’s grown in size and scope every time and has featured Crosby, Stills & Nash, John Mayer, Patti Smith, Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow, Beck, Burt Bacharach, and many other big-name acts.
“We are so thrilled to be able to come back and support Autism Speaks,” Kristen Stills, the event’s primary organizer, tells Rolling Stone. “The one thing that did not change during the pandemic was the rising rates of autism prevalence in the U.S. They require more funding than ever for the research they do. Stephen and I join them in their mission to create a more inclusive world for people with autism.”
They originally planned this show for April 2020, but the pandemic forced them to delay it. They attempted to bring it back in 2021 and even contemplated a virtual event but ultimately decided it was best to wait until the live music industry was back up to full speed. “I always hated the idea of a virtual show,” Stephen Stills tells Rolling Stone. “The only one that pulled it off was the Stephen Colbert band with Jon Batiste. Everyone else tried, but it was a joke.”
The presence of Neil Young and Stephen Stills will be enough to easily sell out the 5,900-seat Greek Theater, but other acts will be added to the bill in the coming weeks. “I’m checking my inbox as we speak,” says Kristen Stills. “We’re on the precipice of confirming many fantastic guests, and we never disappoint with our surprise additions. Some of them will be announced prior to the show, and there will be some surprises guaranteed on that night.”
One thing she can reveal is that opera singer Amanda Anderson, rapper Soul Shocka, and former Voice contestant Bill Breman, who are all on the autism spectrum, will be a part of the show. “As I like to say,” says Stephen Stills, “all the best people are on the spectrum.”
David Crosby’s son James Raymond will also be on hand to participate in a tribute to his late father. “His singing voice sounds so much like David that it’s scary,” says Stephen Stills. “There’s going to be some neat surprises. I’ve always had so much fun playing those songs, David’s songs. We’ve got James, and now we can get the chords, which was always a carefully kept mystery.” [Graham Nash has a solo concert booked in Pittsburgh this night and won’t be there unless he adjusts his schedule.]
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real have been one of Young’s primary bands since 2015, and they’re ready for whatever gets thrown at them that night. “Neil and Stephen have been brothers for their whole lives,” says Nelson. “It’s quite an honor to play with them. We’ll be there to celebrate the cause and honor David Crosby and just have a jubilant time.”
It’s a chance for Nelson to finally see the legendary guitar interplay of Young and Stills up close. “It’s going to be so cool,” he says. “My brother Micah will be there too. I think he’s been working with Crazy Horse too, which is great. There’s going to be a lot of guitar players there.”
Jack Black has hosted previous Light Up the Blues concerts. “There will be a host this year too,” says Kristen Stills. “There might be several hosts or a combination. We’re working on that right now. The tough part about post-pandemic planning is that finally everyone is going back to work, to their real jobs, so getting people to commit to event like this is tough.”
The event will culminate with a performance by Neil Young and Stephen Stills, backed by Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. At previous Light Up the Blues shows, they’ve played Buffalo Springfield tunes like “Mr. Soul” and “For What It’s Worth” alongside classics like “Human Highway” and “Rockin’ In The Free World,” but Stills has no idea what they’re doing this time. “It’s all very fluid until we get to the rehearsal day two days before the dress rehearsal,” he says. “We make up the show in this remote rehearsal site. And because time is compressed, we don’t have time to do anything besides what we come up with right away.”