2 August 1991
Elitch Gardens Theatre, Denver, CO
Though Stephen Stills won't often admit it, he started out as a folk singer, became popular for his folk-rock classics ("Suite Judy Blue Eyes", etc.), and periodically goes back to solo acoustic from time to time. In an interview over a decade ago, Stills was quoted as praising his extensive use of electric guitar at the time, and saying, "I'll be a folk singer when I'm 40." Now 46, we can be reasonably sure that Stills' stay as a folk singer is only short-term, and that we should enjoy it while it lasts.
The Colorado Front Range experienced a horrendous afternoon thundershow, dumping over three inches of rain, and flooding roads, prior to the concert. My friend and I made it to the show with mere minutes to spare.
The opening act was some modern songwriter who apparently penned the current #1 hit on the Country charts. He played five songs and left.
Stephen Stills, now sporting a pony tail, designer suit, Hawaiian shirt and cowboy boots, smiled and politely greeted and shook hands with several front row audience members. Stills, not exactly known for his congeniality, offered a warm beginning to his evening's show.
Having completed a tour and album, Live It Up, with CSN the previous year, it was time for Stills to play on his own--one voice, one instrument. Though he didn't perform his acoustic number "Haven't We Lost Enough" from that album, he nevertheless pulled out an expensive 6-string and opened with the Gregg Allman classic "Midnight Rider", which Stills actually recorded electric on his poorly recieved 1978 release, Thoroughfare Gap. Next came "Change Partners" and a piano acoustic version of the 1988 CSNY hit, "Got It Made", a version which many critics have praised over the studio version.
Pausing to chat with the crowd, Stills politely responded to several yells for requests. After one fan yelled, "Johnny's Garden", Stephen jokingly replied, "What? 'Stardust'?" Stills then commented that he has a new "ablum" coming out, and that ".....the only one you're going to hear on this album is the one you see on stage tonight." From the upcoming Stills Alone CD, Stephen revealed two new country-folk songs, "Just Isn't Like You", "The Right Girl", and a song Stills originally wrote in the 1970's, "Treetop Flyer".
Though "Love The One You're With" is definitely his signature tune, it sounds better with CSN harmonies, an organ, and percussion; however, Stills did a remarkable job of making up for that difference with strong guitar strumming and lots of falsetto in his voice.
At one point, Stills complained that the airlines had "done a number on his [acoustic] guitar." After some effort trying to re-tune it, Stills gave up and said, "Let's go electric!" With much applause, Stills ripped into a very impressive solo version of his 1967 hit with Buffalo Springfield, "For What It's Worth".
Stills performed a medley of "Blind Fiddler", "Know You Got To Run", and "Do For The Others". Though thee songs don't seem to have a common theme with each other, Stills managed to seamlessly blend them into one performance.
The audience wouldn't go home without an encore of "Southern Cross".
Up to this point, Stephen Stills has never released a purely solo acoustic album. Since many fans have practically begged for such a project, his upcoming response to this begging should be met with high regards.
[****] - Steven T.
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