Well, aside from an inspiring Dodger home playoff win, maybe the second most fun place in LA last night was being at the geriatrics convention at the Greek Theatre to see Crosby, Stills & Nash.
Once again I thought we had stumbled into a huge hair dyeing expose but to my surprise were endearingly entertained by a wonderful trio of talents supported by an expert band. Unlike nearly all of the 60’s and 70’s acts we saw this year, CSN came out strongly with Carry On, and followed by treating the warm crowd to so many of their harmonious favorites: Long Time Gone, Helplessly Hoping, Wooden Ships, Southern Cross, Guinnevere, Deja Vu, Almost Cut My Hair, Teach Your Children and Our House.
The crowd was welcoming and committed to the band and could be heard singing along on virtually every number — after all, if you have ever been with these guys, you feel as if you are all just good friends, casually sitting around the living room, smoking and joking…
All three gave stirring solo performances as well. Stephen Stills, who had his child Oliver playing congas, ripped through numerous guitar solos. In particular, for me, was an unknown Dylanesque protest song he played, emotionally rasping out the complicated lyrics with passion and abandon. Though playing rougher than he did in his younger days, his spontaneity and bluesy soul easily made up for such. Hoping to hear a few really old songs, Stills and the band offered up Buffalo Springfield’s Bluebird. Later the band played a rousing Love The One You’re With and audience ate it up, singing along the whole way.
Graham Nash, always the consummate performer, was in very fine form. From his earlier works he added Military Madness and Winchester Cathedral, two heady commentaries, songs I particularly liked from his Songs for Beginners solo album (one I recommend). In addition, he added a few more of his recent construction, including a couple of beautiful acoustic ballads and an emotional piece about Tibetan monks who incinerate themselves in protest over China’s policies regarding them. Nash, looking fit as a man much younger than his years, sang beautifully all night, and his gorgeous high harmonies backed up both Stills and Crosby during their solo efforts as well. As talented a performer as you’re likely to see, the classy Nash excelled at guitar, piano, harmonica, and percussion while acting as a de facto ringmaster all evening.
As for David Crosby…well I have seen the band a half dozen times and I have never heard David Crosby in such fine voice before. For me, that was the real surprise of the show. A very funny and clever man, and one who joked with the crowd all evening, Crosby blew everyone away with his numerous heartfelt belts during numbers. He, too, offered some newer unknown compositions which kept the crowd hanging on every word. It was almost like you were listening to a wise old man offering wisdom to a child and you didn’t want to miss a single utterance. It was truly heartwarming (not to mention entertaining) to see him do so well.
Backed up by some veteran players, including Crosby’s son James Raymond on piano, the band played tightly all evening, featuring some tasteful solos all around. Besides piano there was a fine player at a B3 organ, Oliver Stills on congas (who couldn’t have been more than 11 or 12), a slammingly solid drummer, a very tasteful bassist (whose line during Bluebird knocked me out), and an extra killer guitar player who they stole from Springsteen…in total, a terrific ensemble.
All in all, then, it was the most enjoyable show we saw all year, as long (2 1/2 hours) as it was classy, well-paced and dynamic…even the crowd around us was reasonably well behaved (aside from a couple of annoyingly drunken bozos who got moved for not being in their proper seats and the ubiquitous phone usage). This was the closing night for the band, who had been on the road since March, and you could tell how relieved everyone on stage was by the end of the terrific final gig.