I had my appetite whetted for this show. I love Crosby, Stills and Nash (and prefer them in this configuration – sans Neil Young). And even though they’re older than the fellows who gave us “Marrakesh Express”, “Wooden Ships” and (of course) “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”, I expected not too much difference in the vocal blend. Masters of harmony, albeit just a slight bit more worn from the years of… well, the years.
That isn’t what I or the audience got. Clearly from the opening number, “Carry On”, someone’s voice was going horribly off key, especially on the “carry on – love is coming to us all” line. At first, I thought it was David Crosby but then quickly realized it was Stephen Stills – and this was to be the pattern of the evening. I will say, first and foremost, I don’t know if he’d been ill or his voice gave out after doing several nights at the Beacon – it could have been simply that this show was the “bad” one but Stills’ voice didn’t “give out” during this show – it was just never there. Graham Nash was in terrific form as (literal) front man and compere; introducing the songs, the band and interacting with the audience. David Crosby was, in fact, in fine voice and good humor – these two were enough to carry the show through, along with the wonderful musicians who backed them with 2 keyboards, a third guitarist, bass and drums. But this wasn’t a Crosby – Nash show – it was Crosby, Stills and Nash. The reality is, it was the Graham Nash Show starring David Crosby with guest guitarist and vocalist Stephen Stills, which was heartbreaking. Like I said, I love CSN. It pained me to not hear Stills, especially on some of his showcase numbers.
I look at this show as something of an overall career retrospective as well as introducing new songs. There were songs from each members’ solo albums (and from Crosby – Nash joint efforts); Stills brought a Manassas song, a few solo tracks and some Buffalo Springfield – here’s the hardest moment of the night – Stills trying to sing “Bluebird”, which is a “belter” – and his voice just could not sustain. Now, to be fair and put a positive spin on Stephen Stills, he didn’t mail this in; he gave it his all. And he is just as much of a blistering guitarist as he’s ever been. He’s got the chops and he used them at numerous points during the show.
Graham Nash delivered two highlights – “Military Madness”, from his first solo album, Songs For Beginners, which I have always loved and a new song – a tribute to The Band’s Levon Helm, “Back Home” where they added to the end the chorus of The Band’s “The Weight” – this made the song all the more poignant. David Crosby’s spotlight moments – apart from his deadpan banter with the crowd – were his offerings of “Deja Vu” (which he introduced as “this is the part of the show where shit gets weird”) and a just-gorgeous duet between he and Nash on “Guinevere” – the two voices and Crosby’s acoustic guitar sent shivers down my spine.
Other moments that deserve mention – an audience-driven singalong version of “Our House”; all three singing on the Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” and a tender and moving version of “Teach Your Children”, which closed the show – no, there was no “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”. This was a 50/50 proposition – I love them; I loved seeing them. But not hearing the three of them make that magic left it a disappointing evening.
All photos by Liz Ross