Review: Crosby and Nash share superb evening
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
“You stayed!” David Crosby exclaimed in feigned surprise last night, Aug. 27, when he returned for the second half of his concert with Graham Nash at the Blaisdell Concert Hall. The crowd — almost all of them, certainly, long-time fans of the duo — welcomed him back enthusiastically.
Who would have left? Crosby, Nash and their two band members — Shane Fontayne (electric guitar) and James Raymond (keyboards) — had played for 90 minutes before taking a break and presented a cross-section of their repertoire that was everything Nash had promised it would be. The second half of the program was more of everything — new songs, some of their big hits, exquisite harmonies and superb musicianship.
And, yes, they did “Wooden Ships” and “Teach Your Children” just as Nash said they would. “Teach Your Children” was the final song of the show and almost everyone in the concert hall sang along on cue.
“Marrakech Express” and “Long Time Gone,” two songs played near the top of the set list, were greeted with applause. When “Déjà Vu” came along a bit later it was greeted with some of the loudest applause and cheers of all.
“Wasted On The Way” got the second half of the show off to a mellow and satisfying start.
Political issues were brought to the fore with several selections — “Burning for the Buddha” hit the hardest. Nash told the audience that back in the 1960’s, he had seen a photo of a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who set himself on fire to protest the policies of the Vietnamese government, but that 120 Tibetan Buddhists have done the same thing in the past year or two to protest the Chinese occupation of their country and Chinese policies there. The song Nash wrote to commemorate their sacrifice and remind concert audiences of the continuing struggle between the Tibetans and the Chinese government was the harshest and most lyrically song in the show.
“The ashes will never wash away,” the foursome sang of the 120 martyrs.
The audience responded to the song with a hearty round of applause.
“To the Last Whale,” written in the 1970’s but, alas, still topical, decried the commercial slaughter of whales. The oil extraction technique commonly known as “fracking” didn’t come into the conversation but Nash expressed his concerns about the practices of our domestic fossil fuel industry with one of his recent written songs, “Exit Zero.”
Crosby introduced another of his classic political statements, “What Are Their Names,” with the observation that “We don’t usually do this much politics … but the people who are running things (in the United States) would like all of you to sit down and shut up (and not challenge their rule).”
Crosby wrote “What Are Their Names” more than 40 years ago. It was as relevant and timely last night as it was in 1971.
Romance and humor were also well represented. Crosby introduced one song with the solemn announcement that research and studies at various universities had determined that 30% of the women who lost their virginity between 1969 and 1973 had done so while listening to it. The song was “Our House.”
Fontayne and Raymond did an excellent job as backing musicians and co-stars of the evening. They added their voices to the harmonies on many selections. Both stood out as soloists on several numbers as well. And, Nash and Crosby explained that they rarely do songs by other composers, they brought Fontayne up front to join them for a beautiful three-part performance of a Beatles song, “Blackbird.”
Crosby and Nash also got back to basics, performing without Fontayne and Raymond, and harmonizing beautifully just the two of them, on an extended arrangement of “Guinnevere.” (Note to CS&N fans and spelling fanatics: Crosby, the composer of the song, decided in 2011 to change the historically incorrect spelling to “Guinevere.”)
Crosby and Nash were congenial hosts and co-emcees throughout the evening. They told jokes, offered insights into the music, and gently teased each other in the way that only long-time friends can do. At one point, for instance, Nash said that he feels sorry for Crosby because Raymond, who is Crosby’s son from a very early relationship, is a better musician that Crosby is.
“It’s true,” Crosby said with a proud smile. “He is.”
Crosby in his turn was an engaging story teller. In introducing “Just a Song Before I Go,” he told the audience that Nash had been “at his dealer’s house” when he wrote it, and that he wrote it in response to the challenge, “I bet you can’t write a song before you go.”
“Don’t bet against Nash,” Crosby continued, regaling the crowd with a story about a time he did — and lost a $1000 bet.
He also made several references to the well-documented personal problems that sidelined him in years past.
“He’s back,” Nash commented at one point. The audience cheered.
There were, alas, several individuals in the audience who were evidently too immature, or too drunk or stoned, to enjoy the concert without periodically bellowing trite comments. Crosby and Nash both said that when several people yell things all they hear on stage is garbled yelling. The jerks and jerkettes didn’t get the message and continued their boorish yelling.
Their self-centered behavior couldn’t spoil an excellent show.
“This show is going to be a little loose,” Nash had said by way of introduction. “Loose” yes, and perhaps all the better for it. It was a superb evening of beautiful music and entertaining commentary in all respects.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.