Crosby, Stills & Nash
27 August 1990
Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO
The day got off to a sad start. A helicopter crash in East Troy, Michigan took the lives of five important people in the Rock and Roll industry, including legendary guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the very agent who booked tonight's CSN show, Bobby Brooks.
My college roommate and I had hoped to attend this show, but he had to cancel a few days earlier. So, I invited Lina, my co-worker. Nicely, her brother needed a ride to Stapleton Airport, and so we made productive use of our trip to the Denver Metro area.
Walking up the granite stairs to the Ampitheatre, Lina and I got a wave from a somewhat chubby David Crosby, who had presumably just finished riding his Harley.
No opening act--no room for an opening act, that is. With the sun starting to set, Stephen Stills walked out to greet the crowd, "This one's for Stevie!" and riffed into a song that has, over the years, assumed many different connotations. Tonight it meant our need to appreciate who we have. Always an ice breaker, Stills got the evening going strong with that opener, and subsequently with another solo hit, "Change Partners".
Crosby dedicated "Drive My Car" to Stevie, as if to suggest that sometimes in life we must take risks, that sometimes may not seem worth the price we pay. After "Chicago" came the first two singles off of their most recent CD, Live It Up, the title track, and the melodic composition by Danny Kortchmar and J.D. Souther, "If Anybody Had A Heart", during which keyboardist Michael Finnegan handled the bridge vocal, covered by Stills on the studio version.
Live It Up felt some criticism when it appeared in record stores two months earlier. Many fans thought the title track sounded more like Thomas Dolby than CSN, and others found the track listing to be incohesive and/or inconsistent. I agree, to some extent, with both criticisms, though I really like many of the songs, by themselves.
After Nash's "Just A Song Before I Go" and Crosby's "Lee Shore" came a Crosby/Nash contribution to the latest CD, called "Yours And Mine", and then "Got It Made", minus the bridge, and with Stills playing guitar instead of keyboards.
CSN accompanied "To The Last Whale: Critical Mass/Wind On The Water" with a video from the Jacques Cousteau society. With "Night Time For The Generals" and "For What It's Worth", CSN took a 15 minute break.
Stephen Stills, dressed in a white, long-sleeved shirt with a leather vest, and hair longer than ever, was in great form. Having recently curbed his drug and alcohol excesses, Stephen appeared confident and very competent. Nash and Crosby's hair are also longer than ever.
Along with Mike Finnegan were long-time drummer Joe Vitale, who co-produced Live It Up, as well as former POCO keyboardist, Kim Bullard, bassist Jorge Calderon, and percussionist Michito Sanchez.
Next came an acoustic set. "Wasted On The Way" utilized all three of them playing guitar. Nash then dedicated a song that he wrote in the 1970s about a girlfriend that had been murdered, "Carried Away", to Stevie and Bobby, and followed with "Our House", and a duet with David, "Guinnevere". CSN sang vocals only to a Michael Hedges track played over the PA system, the patriotic, "My Country 'Tis Of Thee".
Then, two Stills compositions from their first album, "Helplessly Hoping" in F (instead of G), and "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" in D (instead of E)". Nash's "Cathedral" featured a psychadelic video accompanyment. After "Deja Vu" came perhaps the most sprightly tune on the new album, "(Got To Keep) Open", during which Stills raced through the front row of the audience with a Gibson Flying V hooked to a wireless system.
The best effects appeared during "Wooden Ships", with a life-size sail rippling in the windy Colorado background. During the encore, the sails tacked to the other side of the mast for "Southern Cross". The surprise during the encore was a hard rockin' version of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock". CSN finished the evening with, almost expectedly, "Teach Your Children".
The evening's sound wasn't perfect, and seemed cluttered with noise and raspiness at the beginning. But, overall, the quantity and quality of songs, combined with perhaps their best ever collection of effects (videos, lights, sails), made this the most interesting CSN show I'e seen.
The 26 song set was exhausting. My co-worker and I drove safely and swiftly back home. She nodded off several times in the passenger seat, and everytime we hit a pavement discontinuity, she'd wake, and ask, "Are you awake?". I was at no risk of falling asleep at the wheel, still thinking about the choreography of the concert.
Weeks later, my college roomate and I were walking around, and we bumped into Lina. After introductions, she said, "Oh you're the one who was going to go to the CSN concert.....Thanks!"
[*****] - Steven T.
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