- - Monday, October 24, 2016


All they want, the rockers said Friday, is a home.

The Lampedusa: Concerts for Refugees at the Lisner Auditorium in Northwest Friday benefitted the Jesuit Refugee Service’s Global Education Initiative, but it was also a celebration of community: one of music lovers, of friends, of influences and those who seek to help those less fortunate. Friday was the last night of the 11-city tour, and featured Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Robert Plant, Buddy Miller, The Milk Carton Kids and the comedic song stylings of Nancy and Beth.

The Jesuit Refugee Service’s Global Education Initiative helps displaced people heal, learn and thrive by providing educational opportunities for refugees living in camps and urban settings in 45 countries.

Over the two-plus hours, the musicians took turns playing their own songs as well as covers. While it was a benefit, for the majority of the night, the musicians didn’t proselytize much. Whether it was The Milk Carton Kids and Miss Harris on the Everly Brothers’ “Sleepless Nights,” Mr. Plant and Miss Harris on another Everly Brothers’ song, “Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On),” The Milk Carton Kids’ own “City of Our Lady” or Miss Harris and Mr. Earle on “Goodbye,” the evening was a true testament to the vocal dexterity of the ensemble.

Cheers of “I love you Robert!” rang out for Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant. Mr. Plant, who only played a handful of dates on the Lampedusa tour, said he was invited to join the troubadours by fellow musician Patty Griffin. Mr. Plant spoke about getting to sing with other musicians for the first time in 2007, when he went to Nashville to sing with Allison Krauss and record “Raising Sand,” an album of covers from various musical influences.

Mr. Plant’s voice soared on covers “Don’t” by Elvis Presley and “Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On).” But his cover of Nat King Coles’ “Nature Boy” was the goosebumps-inducing number. There was a full beat of silence between Mr. Plant finishing up the ethereal beauty of the song and the audience’s ear-shattering applause.

“It’s great to be back in D.C. I have so many fond memories,” said Miss Harris, who lived in the District in the 1970s. She related performing often at Clyde’s back in the day; the restaurant group even provided some of the funding for the Lampedusa concerts.

“Thanks, Clyde’s. What would I do without you?” Miss Harris said.

Miss Harris also shared that she brought famous counterpart Gram Parsons and his wife to Clyde’s when the latter first came to see her sing in the nation’s capital.

“Then he asked me to be on his record, and the rest was history,” Miss Harris said before singing “The Road,” a song about herself and Parsons.

The Milk Carton Kids were the youngest of the evening’s musicians, but they won the award for funniest quips of the night.

“We received a call from someone calling for Emmylou,” said MCK singer Joey Ryan. “All they said was, ‘Emmylou would like to know — ‘ and we said ‘Yes!’ Thankfully, it was just for a tour, because we’d follow her anywhere.”

Mr. Ryan said he was proud to help out the evening’s cause, and the band then transitioned into “Charlie,” a song bandmate Kenneth Pattengale wrote about how he wants to parent his child someday.

“Kenneth and I are both from L.A. Or, as Steve [Earle] calls it, ‘occupied Mexico,’” Mr. Ryan said with a laugh before getting serious about border issues. “We should approach immigration not from a place of fear and suspicion, but more from openheartedness,” he said. “My own family came to this country as political refugees a few generations back.”

“I believe we are a good country with a good heart, but we could do more,” Miss Harris said of her reason for getting involved.

“Welcome to Lampedusa, or, as Trump says, ‘Landofpusa,” joked actress Megan Mullally, one half of the Nancy and Beth duo.

The final song of the night was an old song by Mr. Earle called “Pilgrim,” originally written as a eulogy for Roy Huskey Jr., an upright bass player prominent in country music who had played in both the bands of Miss Harris and Mr. Earle.

“It was Emmylou’s idea to repurpose the song for this tour. A pilgrim is a traveler or one trying to find a home. And, in the end, we are all pilgrims trying to get home, no matter your color or religion,” Mr. Earle said. “Immigration is who are are and where we come from,” he said. “All of us are immigrants, and that’s the truth. That’s what America is all about.”

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