By Don Heckman
They were back again Friday and Saturday at the Greek Theatre. The incomparable Crosby, Stills & Nash. And once again they delivered a performance that will surely be recalled by the enthusiastic full house crowd as one of their most memorable experiences.
One could have made the same claim for their prior appearance at the Greek, two years ago, which was equally stunning. Not surprising, of course, given the music that C,S&N have to offer.
This is not, however, a band that repeats itself – the way many holdover acts from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s do, presenting living jukebox renditions of their biggest hits. That’s not to say that C,S&N didn’t please the crowd’s appetite for material from the band’s songbook. But their hits, each of which shimmered with new musical facets, represented only one aspect of Friday night’s many musical pleasures.
The three hour program, including a twenty minute intermission, was liberally sprinkled with familiar C,S & N classics: “Carry On,” ”Southern Cross,” “Just A Song Before I Go,” “Delta,” “Deja Vu,” “Helplessly Hoping,” a climactic “Teach Your Children Well,” and a lot more.
When he wasn’t entertaining his listeners with his sardonic humor, David Crosby was applying his tactile vocal style to his atmospheric “Guinivere” and “Wooden Ships.”
Add to that Graham Nash’s irresistible love song, “Our House,” which immediately triggered warm hugging by seemingly every couple in the venue. And, in contrast, a rocking romp through Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With,” which was quickly transformed into an audience singalong.
Further enhancing the program, Stills offered his unique interpretation of Bob Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country.” And a pair of new songs from Nash showed all the signs of eventually becoming new C,S&N classics. The first, “Here For You,” is an embracing love song. The second, “Burning For the Buddha,” is a stunning work, triggered by Nash’s response to the dozens of holy men in Tibet who have self-immolated since 2009 to protest China’s rule over areas of Tibet.
The program was delivered with collective and individual intensity, supported superbly by C,S&N’s back up band, which included Crosby’s son, keyboardist James Raymond.
Watching this seemingly non-stop flow of captivating music, I recalled the line that often was used in reference to James Brown, describing him as the “Hardest working man in show business,” and with good reason.
But in their Friday performance at the Greek, C,S&N were also worthy of the title during their more than 2 ½ hours on stage. Led by the dynamic presence of Graham Nash, who has clearly become the group’s spark plug, the trio’s performance was a non-stop whirlwind of activity.
Each member of the trio offered a characteristic number, some original, some not, displaying their stellar individual skills. In the ensemble vocal passages, they demonstrated their ability to produce the harmonically rich, tonally lush characteristics of their vocal togetherness.
And in the hard driving, rhythmically intense pieces, led by the soaring electric lead guitar of Stills, they reminded us of the rock roots that lie deep within the foundation of this superb trio of great pop artists.
In my review of C,S&N’s 2012 Greek Theatre appearance, I wrote that “the words of “Déjà Vu” remind us that ‘We have all been here before.’ Let’s hope that Crosby, Stills & Nash continue to be here again.”
And now, after hearing them again this year, let’s hope that we can continue to experience deja vu all over, and hear C,S&N again, and again.
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Photos by photo journalist Bonnie Perkinson.