The Stephen Stills Band
3 July 1995
Grizzly Rose, Thornton, CO
There's a professional and personal side to everyone. For Stephen Stills, both can best be described as frightening. Let me just say that Stephen Stills is a great f#&$ing bluesman, an incredible songwriter, one of the most underrated guitar players in Rock and Roll, and, overall, an outstanding musician.
That being said, the stories about him and his personality outside of music are lengthy, numerous, humorous, and defining of what many have termed "tormented artist". Now clear and clean for about six years, the sober Stephen Stills is no less ferocious by any fair stretch of the imagination.
The evening's entertainment began long before Stills graced the stage. Long before. I arrived with Mistaken Identity guitarist Ron Smetek, and a couple other friends at 7 PM, to make sure we got good general admission seats. Two beers, a sandwich and an hour later, an emcee steps up to the microphone to inform the audience, "There will not be an opening act tonight because Stephen Stills said that there was no one good enough to open for him."
However, rather than simply stepping onto the already-soundchecked stage in front of the packed nightclub, Stills instead chose to let the two hours reserved for the opening act to pass as dead time. As we played several games of pool, Grizzly Rose management filled time by playing tracks off of several classic rock CDs, including the Stephen Stills composition "Carry On", from the live CSNY Four Way Street live CD. We found out later that Stills bitched out the disc jockey for playing his music while he was there. This perhaps explained why Stills chose not to perform this track himself later in the evening.
Unannounced, at 10 P.M sharp, Stills strutted out with a $18,000 custom Martin D-45 six-string, and immediately ripped into an acoustic set: Gregg Allman's "Midnight Rider", "So Begins The Task/Johnny's Garden", Bob Dylan's "The Ballad of Hollis Brown", and "Daylight Again/Find The Cost Of Freedom".
Then, out walked the rest of the Stephen Stills Band, an impressive three-piece backing lineup composed of long-time buddies, drummer Joe Walsh, Hammond B-3 Organ player Mike Finnegan, and bassist Gerald Johnson.
From the opening bars of "Love The One You're With", one could tell that Stills had assembled the tightest, most competent nightclub band in quite a few years. This year's version of "Love The One You're With" is much funkier, and bluesier than ever, almost as if Stills is trying to emulate or touch on Hip Hop.
Next came "Change Partners", and an interesting electrified version of his legendary "TreeTop Flyer". The acoustic fretwork during this and other songs was downright fast and impressive. Stills let Mike Finnegan take lead vocals on the next song. Finnegan, who once performed in family band with a country sound, The Finnegans, scoring a hit with, "I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up", opened up amazing pipes with a cover of a Cream song, "Born Under A Bad Sign".
Stills then courteously gave a well-received report on his recently ill partner, David Crosby, who had seven months earlier received a liver transplant. "David and his liver are doing fine, and so is his [two-month old] son, Django." Stephen then rocked the nightclub with an excellent version of David's "Long Time Gone".
After "For What It's Worth" and "Southern Cross", Stills and his band returned for an encore of two blues numbers and a blazing version of Joni Mitchell's Woodstock, featuring a new, loud Gibson-like guitar he has named "The Shredder".
Stephen Stills. In truth, we are willing to put up, and to an extent find humor in, the non-musical personality in him, in order to enjoy the awesomeness of his musical side.
[****] - Steven T.
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