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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.

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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.

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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


About the Author

Rob Ross

Rob Ross has been, for good, bad or indifferent, involved in the music industry for over 30 years - first as guitarist/singer/songwriter with The Punch Line, then as freelance journalist, producer and manager to working for independent and major record labels. He resides in Staten Island, New York with his wife and cats; he works out a lot, reads voraciously, loves Big Star and his orange Gretsch. Doesn't that make him neat?

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