By Paul Liberatore
Marin Independent Journal
IT'S ONLY FITTING that Crosby, Stills and Nash chose "Carry On" as their opening song Sunday night in a highly anticipated concert at Marin Center that had been sold out for weeks.
Carrying on is what they've been doing since they burst onto the counter culture scene in 1968, when their often political folk rock songs, sung in their signature intricate vocal harmonies, became part of the soundtrack of their generation.
A cheering, stomping crowd of 2,000 — made up mostly of baby boomers and hip seniors — packed into the Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium to hear the songs of their youth and to honor these aging rock 'n' roll survivors for still being able to sing to them.
And sing them beautifully. Although they've been on the road since January, traveling with their young five-piece backing band, the trio of rock 'n' roll hall-of-famers put on a stirring two-and-a-half hour show — with one 15-minute intermission — that included the hits their fans paid up to $230 a ticket to hear — "Long Time Gone," a majestic "Wooden Ships," "Just Before I Go," "Southern Cross," "Helplessly Hoping," "49 Reasons" (featuring a blistering Steven Stills guitar solo) and "Love the One Your With," among many highlights.
These are songs that bring back the era of the Vietnam war, student protests, Kent State, psychedelic drugs, long hair, hippies, young people who, inspired by bands like CSN,were out to change the world.
On Sunday night, their song "Chicago," written after the street violence of the 1968 Democratic convention, was dedicated to counter culture icon Wavy Gravy, who was in the audience and manned a table in the lobby on behalf of Seva, the charitable organization he co-founded.
Nash, looking fit and trim, his white hair fashionably cut, dedicated "Our House" to Christine Hinton, Crosby's late lover, who was killed in a tragic 1969 accident while driving his VW bus. The anniversary of her death will be on Sept. 30. After the song, Crosby wiped away a tear, and Nash held him in a long embrace.
A good deal of the show focused on the 71-year-old Crosby, who lived in Mill Valley for many years as one of Marin's many resident rock stars. Looking like a rock 'n' roll Mark Twain with his drooping mustache and long white hair flowing over his shoulders, he joked about his notorious past, which includes a stint in a Texas jail on drug charges.
He proudly introduced his son, James Raymond, keyboard player in the backing band. Raymond was given up for adoption as a child, but reunited with his father as an adult. Nash joked that he's an even better musician than his famous dad.
Once obese, Crosby has managed to keep off the large amount of weight he lost after kicking a debilitating cocaine addiction. Gazing placidly around the concert hall, he told the adoring crowd at one point that he has a lot of history in the place. He got a huge laugh when he said, "I did the worst show of my life here. I was so high I was hunting geese with a rake."
Crosby, Stills and Nash have already toured Australia, New Zealand and South America this year. The U.S. leg continues until the end of October, ending ("If we make it," Crosby joked) with four shows at the Beacon Theatre in New York.
"We've been on the road since January," Nash said. "I'm 70 years old. What's going on here?"
The CSN concert fit Marin's baby boomer demographic like a favorite pair of jeans did in 1969, when CSN burst onto the scene with their eponymous debut album. A hot ticket, the show sold out weeks ago.
"This is my youth, the genre of music I grew up with," said Laura Armor of San Anselmo, who gave her age only as "appropriate for this concert." "These opportunities don't come along very often," she said, "so I went online, paid a bunch of money and here I am."
The aging supergroup, which first blended voices in Cass Elliott's living room, sometimes includes Neil Young, who is currently on tour with the band he originally left them for, Crazy Horse.
The four of them have a history of spats and breakups. On Sunday night, Nash and Crosby staged a mock argument with Stills, just for old times sake. As political as ever, they made a pitch in support of Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of passing classified materials to WikiLeaks.
After two encores, including a loping country rendition of "Teach Your Children" and an epic "For What It's Worth," they left the stage to a rapturous standing ovation.
"You don't need us," Nash told the crowd as he waved goodbye. "You just need yourself."