Review: Crosby, Stills & Nash love the crowd they're with
It has been a summer of full-spirited and buoyant concerts from the likes of younger acts such as LMFAO, Bon Iver and My Morning Jacket.
So if you pulled out your calculator and discovered that the average age of the members of Crosby, Stills & Nash's was 69, you could be excused for thinking beforehand that the trio's Thursday concert would be a somnolent affair a night for wine, rather than the stronger stuff.
But in front of an older crowd in the sold-out Red Butte Garden, David Crosby (71), Graham Nash (70) and Stephen Stills (67) showed that nostalgia doesn't have to be elegiac.
The first supergroup of the rock era delivered a generous set of more than two hours of songs that allowed the three men to showcase their respective strengths, with Stills' still-astonishing guitar skills, Nash's light tenor soaring as he played the keys, and Crosby being Crosby, with long white hair cascading past his shoulders as he belted out full-throttled songs such as a defiant "Almost Cut My Hair."
The men (who began singing together at either Mama Cass Elliot or Joni Mitchell's house, depending on whom you ask) have always had an unconventional harmonizing style. It was apparent that age has inflicted its damage most notably on Stills' raspy voice when he sang alone, but together, the three voices warmly caressed one another in a way that was as soothing as it was evocative. A highlight was Bob Dylan's "Girl From the North Country," where the trio sounded more like they were singing on the back porch.
The famously liberal trio were not short on political opinion, even though "Ohio" was disappointingly absent from the set. "I don't think that the men who wrote our Constitution [believed] that the people with the biggest TV budgets should get the keys to the kingdom," Crosby said at one point. The band's second song was "Chicago," about the violence and unrest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and you could either see the song as an irrelevant time capsule from the past or a comment on the upcoming national conventions of each party. (I chose the latter.)
The evening was broken in half, with a 15-minute intermission that ended the ascending momentum of a three-pronged guitar assault on the Buffalo Springfield cover "Bluebird," an epic version of "Deja Vu," and Stills' explosive "Love the One You're With" that closed the first set.
But the opening of the second set allowed the three to shoo most of their five bandmates backstage and showcase their love songs.
The stage was spare, with the emphasis on the men who were once integral parts of the Byrds, the Hollies and Buffalo Springfield.
The night wasn't perfect. Some tunes bore the marks of excess that scarred the 1970s, with awkward earnestness and guitar solos that seemed unending. Songs such as "Southern Cross" and "Our House" haven't aged well, but at the very least the three men have.
A closer look
R When • Thursday
Where • Red Butte Garden, Salt Lake City
Bottom line • Crosby, Stills & Nash forever young.
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