CROSBY, STILLS & NASH
at ‘Manchester Evening News Arena’, Manchester (25th June 2005)
‘Man-cunians’ pronounces David Crosby slow and deliberate, ‘didn’t think I knew that word did you?’ Visually, this trio form a digital equation that goes 0-1-0. Yes, there’s been some waisting on the way. Stills in a ludicrous Hawaiian marquee. Not that such a sartorial atrocity should be held against him, much less worn. Crosby, hands thrust determinedly deep in his pockets, meandering distractedly around the proceedings in over-stretched denim, white tendril-entanglements out-flowing his blue baseball cap. Only Graham Nash, his hair greying-to-white, stood stage-centre in black, with white sneakers, achieves the equation’s 1. Three fractious quarrelsome millionaire hippies with a back-catalogue to merchandise. Is it getting to the point where it’s no fun anymore? ‘I wish we didn’t have to sing this’ grumbles Nash, about “Military Madness”. ‘We’re sick of it’ adds Crosby. Of course, what they don’t like is the necessity of re-singing it, the continuing wars of ‘the monkey in the White House’ despite their persistent urgings. There’s nothing wrong with using your celebrity-platform to ‘speak out against the madness’, is there? Perhaps it’s even obligatory (and haven’t they done the Berlin ‘Live8’ to achieve just that?). ‘We’re from the other half of America’ explains Crosby, ‘the half that didn’t vote for Bush’. Earlier, pre-gig T-shirt spotting provides a kind of credibility litmus. A Pearl Jam, a Joy Division. Lots of fashionista-shunning Neil Young, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, CS&N, C&N. They open with “Carry On” – less anthemic in the Queen sense, as a genuine anthem in its own right, ‘rejoice, rejoice, we have no choice’. ‘Thank you Manchester. We normally leave it about 25-30 years between visits…’ gags Nash, then it’s into “Marrakesh Express” with ‘let’s go to Morocco and smoke one’. “A Long Time Gone” takes on a darker more intense hue. It’s a solid three-way street. Stone-by-stone theirs are equal contributions. They do duo’s, solo’s – Nash sits at a keyboard for a supernaturally spooky “Cathedral”, while a slurred damaged Stephen Stills adds the title-track of his new album “Wounded World”, and his Stax-organ soul-stew take on Booker T Jones’ “Old Man Trouble”, before introducing “Let The Peace Begin” from ‘our new record’. He says less, but it’s his distinctive guitar-lines that ignite the evening throughout. Until Jeff Pavar (the ‘P’ from Crosby’s CPR side-project) provides the beguiling bossa-nova guitar on Nash’s impassioned solo “Jesus Of Rio”, a plea ‘for people to stop killing each other in the name of religion’. Again, running the risk of coming across a tad sanctimonious. Crosby joins for harmonies, around the time James Raymond (the ‘R’ of CPR, and his long-lost son) contributes keyboard. ‘You shout out your favourite song from over here, and you shout out your favourite song from over there, but when it reaches us it sounds like ‘BLLLEEEUUUGGGHHH!’ And I don’t know that song’ protests Crosby. ‘We have a lotta music with us tonight’ admits Nash – the band’s ‘lyric-police’, ‘we love all the old songs – lord knows we’ve got enough of them, but it’s the new ones that keep us fresh’. Adding “Lay Me Down” and “Milky Way Tonight” from 2004’s Crosby/Nash double-set, tracks as fine as any they’ve ever done. ‘Don’t let the past remind us of what we are not now’ warns the lyric, but when sticking to what you know is as much fun as this, it’s churlish to go elsewhere. ‘You need this record’ insists Crosby, ‘I need you to need this record. I still have kids to put through education.’ ‘So stop having them’ chides Nash (who claims this man’s fecundity could ‘get a table pregnant!). An extended “Déjà vu” opens with Crosby’s jazz-scat, through Nash’s harmonica solo, into features for David Santos’ bass, Michael Finnigan’s organ, and Joe Vitale’s drums. Then, after the break, things get even more serious. “Helplessly Hoping”, Crosby & Nash’s acoustic-only “Guinnevere”, Still’s “Southern Cross”. Crosby picks out a cheeky riff from the Hollies’ ‘King Midas’ before explaining the tale behind “Don’t Dig Here”, a nuclear dump beneath the Yucca Mountain. A warning to deter curious excavation designed to last 30,000 years. Who will survive to read it – ‘giant radioactive French cockroaches?’ he asks. It grows into a three-way Stills/Nash/Pevar guitar melt-down of considerable power, before Stills’ “Love The One You’re With” finally gets the crowd up on their feet, dancing, climbing barriers to rush the stage. Crosby berating the ‘bald yellow-jackets’ for attempting to stem them. “Chicago” – ‘we can change the world’. Building through a guitar-heavy “Almost Cut My Hair” into an even heavier “Wooden Ships”. They close with “Woodstock” – yeah, less anthemic in the Queen sense as a genuine anthem in its own right. Encoring with “Teach Your Children”. Me – I bought “Just One Look” in 1964, “Mr Tambourine Man” in ’65, and “For What It’s Worth” in 1967. So resistance is futile. This event is an on-going continuity in my life. Despite myself, how could I not be touched? And for the record, I’m wearing a ‘Bob Dylan 2000 Never-Ending Tour T-shirt’.
REVIEW BY ANDREW DARLINGTON
‘SONGBOOK: Online Extra’ (September 2006 – www.song-book.co.uk)