Crosby, Stills and Nash make AVA their house
SEPTEMBER 9, 2012 BY: KEVIN YEANOPLOS
It’s hard to say how many “baby boomers” were among the euphoric masses at AVA Amphitheater on Wednesday night. But let’s just say that most of them had been there before and probably knew just what to do. Namely, clap their hands, stomp their feet and try to sing along with the three rock legends responsible for the phrase “Crosby, Stills and Nash-like harmonies.”
Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and David Crosby stormed into Southern Arizona to unleash a torrent of their fabled folk rock for the musical faithful – all of whom had been helplessly hoping for the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers’ sold out show for months.
Faithful fans jonesing for CS&N’s intricate vocals and guitar driven melodies didn’t suffer for long as the celebrated trio opened with a celebrated duo – “Carry On/Questions” and “Chicago” – that were originally recorded by a celebrated quartet, although I heard no one lamenting the absence of Mr. Young.
The threesome carried on with three outstanding “original” songs, “Long Time Gone” (showcasing Stills’ prodigious guitar talents), “Just A Song Before I Go” (before which Crosby jokingly suggested that Nash might be having an “acid flashback”) and the nautical ballad “Southern Cross” (following Nash’s astute observation that AVA is “about as far from the ocean as you can get”).
Stills’ vocals have aged like fine wine, raspier perhaps, but with a mesmerizingly soulful character that makes tunes like “Southern Cross” better today than when they were originally released.
CS&N proved to be equal opportunity performers, offering up a remarkable career retrospective with songs from their respective individual careers, Crosby and Nash, and Buffalo Springfield, as well as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. They even threw in an exceptional cover of Bob Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country.” The iconic trio spread their ample musical talent around as well, offering up highlight after highlight.
Crosby’s haunting vocals and fantastic ethereal harmonies with Nash gave “Lay Me Down” an otherworldly quality, making it one of the concert's high points. After the song the crowd nodded in appreciative approval when Crosby rhetorically asked, “Pretty song, isn’t it?”
The group took a few of their best tunes and made them even better, injecting a little country comfort into the whimsical “Marrakesh Express” and the expectant “Helplessly Hoping” – the first song recorded by CS&N by the way – as well as laying down a funkier cover of Stills’ classic “Love The One You’re With” to close the first.
At one point in the show, the engaging Crosby pointed out that each of the gifted artists possessed different songwriting abilities and responsibilities. “Stephen wrote the great rock and roll songs, Graham wrote the worldly anthems and I wrote the weird sh**,” whereupon the group launched into the acoustically brilliant – and admittedly “weird” – masterpiece, “Déjà Vu.”
But the insightful musician has certainly written his share of “otherweirdly” tunes, as evidenced by the extraordinarily stunning “Guinnevere” played during the second set.
CS&N may have mellowed with age, but their social consciousness has never wavered, nor has their ability to craft a masterful melody around an angry message, with “Almost Gone” (about Wikileaks soldier Bradley Manning), “Military Madness” (“sick and tired of singing this song”) and “In Your Name” (first performed at Tucson’s first Concert for Civility) leading the charge.
Before singing “What Are Their Names,” Crosby declared that “We are not political men,” tongue planted firmly in cheek. Crosby, Stills and Nash then sang the beautifully succinct ballad.
“I wonder who they are / The men who really run this land / And I wonder why they run it / With such a thoughtless hand.”
“What are their names / And on what streets do they live / I'd like to ride right over / This afternoon and give / Them a piece of my mind / About peace for mankind / Peace is not an awful lot to ask.”
Now that’s something to teach your children well…
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