By Don Heckman
It was déjà vu all over again at the Greek Theatre Friday night. As it always is whenever Bob Dylan, James Taylor, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys – among others – turn up for a live performance. Which may explain with the iconic pop acts are the ones that draw some of the biggest crowds on the tour circuit. There’s an old phrase that says that the music that stays with one the longest is the music that’s heard when you’re nineteen or twenty. So, déjà vu.
But Friday night’s performance by Crosby, Stills & Nash had even more potent nostalgia value for me. At one point, Graham Nash mentioned something about seeing some of the same listeners for 43 years. Which was right on target. Forty three years ago was the summer of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s appearance at the Woodstock Festival. An appearance I saw, and vividly remember, from an up front and close vantage point.
C,S&N’s touring over the past four decades has often seen years go by before they reorganize another set of appearances. But the group is not the sort of musical collective that is content to simply offer a program of living juke box versions of their Greatest Hits.
That’s not to say there wasn’t plenty of memorable material on Friday night to satisfy the déjà vu desire. A few of those familiar items – “Carry On,” “Helplessly Hoping” and “Long Time Gone” — were among the first selections they played. And before the lengthy, two set performance was over, C,S&N would also play their way, enthusiastically, through a delightful, mixed banquet of goodies, both old and new.
Among them, such intriguing entries as David Crosby’s “Radio.” As well as Graham Nash’s pointed “Almost Gone”; Stephen Stills’ classic relationship-instruction, “Love the One You’re With” (done here as a crowd singalong); Nash’s warm and cozy “Our House”; a lyrical cover of Bob Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country.”
Add to that more classics: “Marakesh Express”; “Déjà vu” (of course); the atmospheric “Guinnevere” and “Wooden Ships”; and a climactic romp (with more crowd singalong) through “Suite Judy Blue Eyes.” All of it delivered with consummate musicality.
Nash was the amiable front man. Crosby, his Buffalo Bill hair and moustache glowing white, was ever the sardonic humorist. And Stills, looking slimmer than in recent years, added the most singular new element to the music, stepping out on song after song with powerful guitar solos, perhaps eager to remind the nostalgia buffs in the crowd that C,S&N has always been – and continues to be – a rock band as well as an appealing vocal trio. Toward that end, they were supported by a superb quintet, which included Crosby’s son, keyboardist James Raymond, providing stellar backing from both instrumental and vocal perspectives.
Crosby, Stills and Nash have all aged well in those 43 years that Nash mentioned, while doing it – like all performers – in public. They’ve been getting grayer (and balder) for a while now, of course. With a few added (or diminished) pounds. True of most of us who were at Woodstock. But C,S&N have spent those years keeping their music alive. Still retaining the essence of the professional images they’ve presented over the years, still singing like angels. And still sustaining the musical attractions of an era that was rich in the creative art of song, while continuing to produce fascinating new material of their own.
As the words Déjà Vu remind us, “We have all been here before.” Let’s hope that Crosby, Stills & Nash continue to be here again.
Photos by Bonnie Perkinson.