Review: Crosby, Stills & Nash can still create magic

Written by Neil Shurley

A legendary trio took the stage Tuesday night at the Peace Center to lead a sell-out crowd through a magical three-hour set of classics both old and new.

David Crosby sauntered in first, immediately bringing the crowd to its feet. Stephen Stills and a barefoot Graham Nash followed, taking their place on an oriental rug, which served as the stage’s only ornamentation.

They opened with a spirited rendition of “Carry On,” marred only by some feedback, which popped up again during the next song, “Marrakesh Express.” But apart from those quickly resolved issues, the whole evening was simply fantastic.

Crosby, Stills and Nash have played together on and off and in various combinations since the late 60s, and their easy rapport and musicianship came shining through. And even more than that, their signature vocal harmonies were still, all these decades later, spot on.

Nash served as the primary spokesman for the group, complimenting our town, the venue and the friendly folks and beautiful scenery he’d seen on Monday, his day off. But while there was some friendly dialogue and banter throughout the evening, the focus remained on the music.

Stills garnered a large number of standing ovations as he demonstrated his unique guitar prowess during several songs, notably on “Bluebird” and, near the show’s end, a remarkable improvisatory “duet” between him and Hammond organ player Todd Caldwell during “Wooden Ships.”

The rest of the terrific five-piece backing band — which Nash notably described as “the finest band we’ve ever played with” — included Steve “Stevie D.” DiStanislao on drums, Kevin McCormick on bass, Shane Fontayne on guitar, and David Crosby’s son James Raymond on keyboards.

Other standout moments included such familiar favorites as “Teach Your Children,” “Helplessly Hoping,” and a dramatic, almost theatrical “Cathedral.” But newer material also made its way into the program, all received enthusiastically by the crowd.

Nash introduced the moving “In Your Name” as “a small prayer in the form of a song,” and also played a new song, “Exit Zero.” David Crosby introduced his own brand new song that featured the thoughtful line, “Fear is the antithesis of peace.”

Their activist past also came up when Crosby made some jabs at Mark Sanford and, more poignantly, in his a cappella duet with Nash, “What Are Their Names?”

The evening ended with a rousing encore performance of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” leaving us all humming and singing with them, “doo doo doo da doo.”

Who needs giant set pieces or laser lights? These three veterans gave us a stunning show with little more than their own prodigious talent. And that was more memorable than any pyrotechnics.