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
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.
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.
Long Time Gone
What Are Their Names?
Behind Blue Eyes
Almost Cut My Hair
Love the One You're With
For What It's Worth
Teach Your Children