Last Night: Crosby Stills & Nash at The Woodlands
As a trio, duo, solo, in their previous bands, or with that Neil guy dropping in once in a while, there's no doubt that David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash have collectively baked a respectable slice of the Classic Rock Pie. And their current tour -- along with their just-released CSN 2012 DVD/CD -- prove that they still have plenty of bite left in them.
Casually dressed and ambling out onstage to no fanfare, the trio and band opened with a smoking "Carry On/Questions," the first of several numbers which featured Stills' sharp (albeit short and rehearsed) guitar solos.
Some of the show was workmanlike -- but CSN are excellent workers. I mean, how much genuine feeling and spontaneity can you put into songs that have been performed for more than four decades?
Still, the trio seemed to be in fit shape (Stills is literally half the man he used to be) and fine voice, backed by an able band which included guitarist James Raymond, Crosby's son given up for adoption with whom he reconnected decades later.
CSN also debuted several new numbers, including "Radio" (introduced as "about people trying to help each other") and two politically-charged efforts: The dirty groove of "Almost Gone (The Ballad of Bradley Manning)" -- about the Army WikiLeaks leaker -- and Crosby/Nash's a cappella sort-of finger-pointing song "What Are Their Names?" Introducing the latter, Crosby pondered what kind of country would give the "person with the biggest TV budget the keys to the kingdom."
Sadly, the lyrics to the new songs (and many older ones) often went unheard, as this show suffered from some pretty poor or sketchy sound quality, also an unsolicited opinion shared with this reviewer by a number of people. Bad for any concert, but egregious for an act whose strength is in vocal harmonies and guitar picking.
The current topic songs -- combined with catalogue protest chestnuts like "Chicago" and Nash's solo "Military Madness" and "In Your Name" (which he dedicated to victims of the recent Sikh temple shooting), showed that there was still some fight left in these old hippies. As Crosby (who turned 71 on Tuesday) noted, the trio "used to be a lot more political than we are now. It's because we can't remember what we were angry about."
Nash, age 70, and Stills, 67, might agree.
Introducing "Déjà vu," Crosby also resurrected the previously-used (but still funny) punchline of "Stills...he writes the great rock songs. Nash...he writes the anthems that everyone likes to sing along with. Me...I write the weird shit!"