28 September 1986
Parker's Restaurant, Aurora, WA
I've missed out on a lot. I recently turned 21, and, finally, as a result, I'm now able to attend concerts at nightclubs. Though Stephen Stills has been in the business since before I was born, only now am I able to see him (and others) at venues licensed for liquor.
Mr. Stills, still strong in the public eye, not too long after his most recent album release, sold out two shows this evening--I luckily got to see the second [10:30 PM] set. This was the night before my first day of my senior year at the University of Washington. My college friend and I had to miss out on a first-night-together meeting at my dorm, and we didn't exactly get the best night's sleep, but, ya know.....
I won't say too much about the opening act, comedian John Johnson, except to say that his funniest moment, fortunately or unfortunately, was his response to a heckler towards the end of his routine: "Hey buddy, I can piss on you from up here." I guess, in the same regard that it makes sense to pick a real loser as a Vice Presidential running mate, to make yourself look better in comparison.....you figure out the rest.
Stills marched on stage in his trademark Navy Captain's jacket, metal-framed 70-ish prescription glasses, and immediately cut into the opening riff for "Love The One You're With". Not the acoustic-and-percussion version we saw reach the top 15 in 1970, but a bluesier, funkier rocker version that he first tested a few years ago. Missing his singing buddies on this tour, Stills handled the "Di-di-di-di-di-di-di-dit"s on his Steinberger electric.
He followed with his 1984 hit that received significant MTV airplay, "Stranger". A highlight of the single version is his competent guitar solo at the end, which, unfortunately this evening didn't happen because of sound problems. The band, which included rhythm section George "Chocolate" Perry on bass and Mark T. Williams on drums, raced through the end of the tune undaunted. Stills, never the outspoken one, proceeded to blast the sound technicians in front of the audience. Not very nice, but nevertheless indicative of Stills' character, and therefore somewhat humorous.
Next was "Make Love To You", originally on the Stills/Young collaberation, Long May You Run. In the middle of the organ solo by B-3 master Michael Finnegan, Stills chose to light up. Not sure if this was part of the theme of the song, or part of his addiction, or both.
"Change Partners", from his second solo album, and Gregg Allman's "Midnight Rider", featured his Alvarez 6-string acoustic.
Stills furthered his emphasis on his 1984 release, Right By You, with "50/50", Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" (with additional Stephen Stills lyrics), and "Can't Let Go", featuring Stephen and Michael on trading vocals.
Finnegan took over microphone duties on a blues number featuring Stills on an electric guitar with a body in the shape of a Budweiser ribbon.
After "Dark Star", Stills dug into the Buffalo Springfield era to play his top ten 1967 single, "For What It's Worth", during which he criticized the audience: "See, y'all don't know how to sing this song," reminding the crowd to yell out "HEY!" after his "Stop!". By the end of the song, the 600-strong at Parker's caught on.
For his encore, Stills blistered away at his unreleased "Treetop Flyer", and finished, of course, with "Southern Cross".
Perhaps one of the most underrated musicians in the Rock and Roll era, Stills left the stage with a parting, "Thank you, we'll see you all next time!"
[****] - Steven T.
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