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Crosby, Stills & Nash at Hard Rock Live, October 1

Photo by Alisa B. Cherry
Crosby, Stills & Nash
Hard Rock Live, Hollywood
Friday, October 1, 2010

Crosby, Stills & Nash made a return visit to Hard Rock Live a mere six months or so after their previous appearance. At last count, they've visited South Florida no fewer than four times in the past five years. The frequency of CSN jaunts these days is somewhat remarkable, especially considering the fact that after 42 years and several volumes of rock 'n' roll lore, there's little left to prove. Likewise, there's something to be said about the dangers of overexposure, so that what once might have been seen as a singular experience now verges more on the commonplace. 

In this case, familiarity doesn't breed contempt -- especially as far

as the peace, love, and patchouli crowd is concerned. The

audience at Hard Rock Live on Friday night

hadn't lost any of its reverence for the well-worn yet still

emotionally wrought ballads that were once virtual anthems for the Baby

Boomer generation when they were young. Their hair may be graying and thinning and

their paunches expanding -- and we're talking about both the band and

their devotees -- but the connection between audience and performers

remains undiminished.

Aptly opening with a fiery rendition of "Woodstock," the trio and their

four-piece backing band placed the emphasis on energy throughout,

managing only the occasional acoustic spotlight (what they once quaintly

dubbed as "wooden music") in lieu of feisty, up-tempo takes on such

time-tested crowd pleasers as "Marrakesh Express," "Southern Cross,"

"Wooden Ships," and, naturally, "Love the One You're With." Even songs

that normally favor a downcast disposition -- "Military Madness," "Almost

Cut My Hair," "Long Time Gone," Déjà Vu," and "Our House" -- took on

added urgency, the latter prompting a sing-along that found the audience

eventually usurping the singers.

Despite the fact that CSN

have performed these trademark tunes hundreds, if not thousands, of

times before and for repeated generations of fans, they still manage to

instill a genuine sentimental involvement these many decades on.

Crosby's read of the lovely "Guinnevere" proved especially poignant -- he

noted, affectingly, that  "the girl that I wrote this song about died

on this day." He was referring to former lover Christine Hinton, who was

involved in a car crash on September 30, 1969, not far from their new

home in the San Francisco Bay area. Forty years later, he seemed so

distracted, he stumbled over the lyric and had to start over, apparently

taking his partner Nash by surprise.

All three men retain their sturdy voices, especially

Crosby, whose wailing, soaring croon is more powerful than ever.

Once the band's weak link as far as his notorious drug abuse was

concerned, he now emits a stoic visage, his stalwart stance and flowing

white hair giving him, at age 69, a decidedly venerable profile. He was

also the most talkative of the trio, and after concluding an abridged

version of "What Are Their Names?" (from his unfortunately titled first

solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name...), he implored those who

were shouting out their admiration to ask their sisters to do so

instead. "It's a little scary to hear a husky biker voice shouting 'I

love you, Dave,'" he joked. "It kind of reminds me of prison."

For their parts, both Stills and Nash balanced out the equation

admirably. Nash looks rather ruddy these days, and, it might be noted,

with his white hair and weathered complexion, he's taken on a certain

Clinton-esque image. His trademark high vocals are still a joy,

particularly the way they weave around Crosby's and provide the reliable

harmonies for Stills. Stills himself remains a searing guitar player,

displaying both fluidity and finesse, the qualities that earned him the

right to share the stage and studio time with Hendrix, Michael

Bloomfield, and the Stones. With talk of a Buffalo Springfield outing in

the works, he previewed those possibilities by reprising two of his

former band's most enduring chestnuts, "Bluebird" and an

always-to-be-expected "For What It's Worth."

Like the last time they were here, covers played a

prominent role in the set list. They reprised the Stones' "Ruby

Tuesday," turning its chorus into sheer triumph and confidently making

it their own. But the most surprising entry was a take on the Who's

"Behind Blue Eyes" that worked remarkably well despite the obvious

disparity in the MO between the two bands. Credit and kudos are due the

supporting players -- longtime drummer Joe Vitale, veteran bassist and (as it was duly noted) former Hollywood homeboy Bob Glaub,

and keyboardists Charles Caldwell and James Raymond, who also happens to be

Crosby's son and bandmate in the outfit CPR. Each of them contributed

harmonies, boosting the front line's already formidable presence.

Ultimately then, when CSN sang the line from "Déjà Vu" that goes "We have all

been here before," those verses really rang true. We have all been here

before, but happily, no matter how many times the return, the drama and

desire are still there.

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: A set that's 17 songs and just under two

hours hardly makes any dent in their lengthy repertoire. I would have

loved to hear "Wasted on the Way," "Suite Judy Blue Eyes," and "49 Bye

Byes," but in truth, the request list could have been nearly endless.

Random detail: It's nice that Crosby and his son James emulate the generational transition by belonging to the same band.

By the way: That aforementioned covers album still shows no sign

of imminent release, but based on the live performances of two of its

presumed songs, it should be something special.



Military Madness

Long Time Gone


Marrakesh Express

What Are Their Names?


Ruby Tuesday

Southern Cross

Déjà Vu

Our House

Behind Blue Eyes

Almost Cut My Hair

Wooden Ships

Love the One You're With


For What It's Worth

Teach Your Children

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Lee Zimmerman

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