Crosby, Stills and Nash conjure the classics

Five years ago when I saw Crosby, Stills and Nash, a frustrated yet resolute Graham Nash set up "Military Madness" by saying, "We've been singing this song for over 30 years and nothing's changed."

Well, guess what: They're still at it.

On Saturday night, as the legendary trio kicked off its summer tour at the Wells Fargo Center in Santa Rosa, it didnt take long to get down to business, wrapping up the same song with chants of "No more war!" as the sold-out crowd sang along to every word.

It was a defiant return to form after their 2006 Freedom of Speech tour a fiery protest against the Iraq war was marred by bomb-sniffing dogs and repeated death threats.

Only a few songs passed until someone yelled for them to crank it up.

You want it louder? asked Graham Nash.

Stephen Stills flat out refused, No!

We dont want you to become as deaf as we are, said David Crosby.

Its a good thing it wasnt sponsored by AARP because a few songs later, when someone yelled dont ever retire, Nash answered back, We would if we could spell it.

And Crosby added, "I don't know how to do anything else."

Four decades after they came together as one of the first supergroups of that era, Crosby from The Byrds, Stills from Buffalo Springfield and Nash from The Hollies the trio (sadly missing their buddy Neil Young) proved theyre still a timeless harmonizing force to be reckoned with.

'Deja Vu" ebbed and flowed, building into an epic flashback jam with stirring Stills solos. After a short intermission, the three of them ditched the four-piece backing band for a heartfelt acoustic "You Don't Have to Cry."

At this point in the game, Nash is the most spry, hopping up and down for jams. Stills is still a fireplug, cracking wry jokes and verbally abusing his guitar tech (who had to cut Stills' lanyard off his neck when it got tangled up in his headset mike). And Crosby, store-bought liver in tact, is as copacetic and chill as ever ("I only got here a couple years ago," he commented after Nash brought up their long history together).

And even if they occasionally showed their age (or maybe just rust), slipping in and out of harmony in rare moments and completely botching "As I Come of Age" (a nightmare they started over once and should have abandoned all together, inspiring Stills to admit afterwards: "That was sour."), they still summoned that quintessential CSN spirit.

By the time they conjured "Wooden Ships," a rousing, anthemic "For What It's Worth" and the nostalgic sing-along closer "Teach Your Children," the tour was well under way and the past may as well have been present.

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