Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

2 February 2000

Rose Garden, Portland, OR


Well, it really happened. Their first tour as a foursome since 1974. On the heels of their first album in 11 years, Looking Forward, David, Stephen, Graham and Neil are getting along better than ever, both personally and musically.

For this special evening, I hooked up with relatives who, completely by coincidence, began liking these same performers around the same time I did. We made it to Portland's Rose Garden arena with mere minutes to spare before the lights went out and the four singer/songwriter/guitarists lumbered onstage.

Stephen Stills immediately ripped into the opening riff of their 1970 anthem, "Carry On". Contrary to indications from their October VH1 press conference, CSNY has not made very many changes to their setlist for this tour. Not many at all. This evening's show seemed to prove why this appears a wise choice. When CSN's voices converged to their respective microphones, the distinctive, 30+ years-strong voices commanded the respect they've repeatedly earned and deserved--showing tightness only good rehearsing can produce.

Then, with "Southern Man", Neil Young pointed out how, in 2000, he's no slouch for vocals either. The evening's guitar work was equally as impressive, with Neil, and in particular, Stills, showcasing experienced, skilled fretwork throughout the 3 1/2 hour show.

Next came the first of nine songs extracted from Looking Forward, Crosby's socially-aware rocker, "Stand and Be Counted", featuring Graham Nash on the Hammond B-3 Organ and Stephen Stills on his Gibson Flying-V electric. Two Nash-penned songs followed, a version of "Pre-Road Downs" which sounded cleaner and stronger than any other version I'd ever heard, and their latest single, the beautiful "Heartland".

Their version of "49 Bye-Byes" resembled pretty much the same arrangement CSN had performed in recent years, in the key of A, majestic, and rockin'! After Neil's "Heart Of Gold"-ish "Slowpoke" came a nice, relatively mellow "Marrakesh Express". And, after Stills' catchy, token latino contribution, "Faith In Me", came the most energetic song of the evening, Crosby's "Almost Cut My Hair", and a CSNY version of Neil's "Cinnamon Girl".

This opening electric set was made possible largely because of two, and only two, very competent rhythm section players, session-giant drummer Jim Keltner, and the legendary bassist from Booker T. & The MGs (and the Blues Brothers), Rock and Roll Hall Of Famer Donald "Duck" Dunn.

CSNY then took a 20-minute break to allow patrons the opportunity to spend $$$ on a wide array of tour momentos, to include numerous kinds of clothing, programs, pins, Stills-logo watches, stickers, rolling paper, and even "Teach Your Children" condoms.

Upon returning, the foursome engaged in a uniquely united acoustic set--having seen CSN ten times now, I have almost invariably seen them perform solo sets in the middle of their respective shows--this time, CSNY stood united throughout their acoustic set, with only two exceptions: "Guinnevere", featuring David and Graham, and "After The Goldrush", which David introduced by saying, "Now we're going to do something wierd". After David's comment, Graham immediately interjected, "We're going to see David make another baby right now!!!".

After flipping off both Nash and the ever-gesture-prone Stills, David stood with Graham behind Neil and his pump organ to belt out harmonies on "After The Goldrush" that rival those cut by Linda Rondstadt, Dolly Parton, and Emmylou Harris on their 1999 studio version of the same song. This night's version featuring updated vocals ('We've got mother nature on the run in the 21st century'). Their harmonies on "Out Of Control" even outdid the recent studio version. The quantity of Neil Young vocals on CSN songs was also remarkable. A truly friendly, team effort.

By the way, David got even with Nash by staging a miniature birthday celebration for the birthday boy, who turned 58 on the day of the show. When Nash asked, "Who put you up to this?", and Neil responded, "Your wife", Nash immediately chirped out a humble "Never mind!"

During their acoustic set, they performed "Helplessly Hoping" in standard tuning (like their studio version). A pleasant surprise, since the song has invariably appeared in concert in dropped tuning since the 1970s. To handle the increased vocal stress, Graham took David's middle part, and David took Graham's high part an octave lower. With Neil even adding in some parts, the piece came off very well.

The four part harmonies of "Our House" and "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" were awesome. The new material in Crosby's "Dream For Him" (with Stills playing BASS!), Nash's "Someday Soon", Young's "Looking Forward", and Stills' "Seen Enough", showed clearly how their songwriting ink unilaterally continues to run powerfully. And, once again, Stills shined above and beyond on acoustic guitar, particularly on "Someday Soon". Tonight reminded us, once again, of the musical genius that earned him the 1999 honor of having his name tacked on the Stephen Stills Signature Martin guitar (> $45,000 a copy).

After ending the "wooden" set with "Teach Your Children", the large video screens on either side of the stage projected a nice video of Harry Carey singing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame".

Next, simply put, came a barrage of impressive, hard rock and roll: "Woodstock", "Long Time Gone", "Ohio", the Buffalo Springfield classic "For What It's Worth", "Down By The River", a funky, James Brown-inspired version of "Love The One You're With", and a likeable four-part harmony version of Neil Young's "Rockin' In The Free World", which ended with David, Stephen, and Neil all drawing out the end of the song with rumbling guitar feedback.

The quartet re-emerged for an encore of "Long May You Run", and, after a six-way hug with Dunn and Keltner, wandered off, together, as a team of excellent musicians, great singers, and most of all, very close friends. The fact that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young tonight put on as fine a show as they ever have was impressive alone. The fact that they did so with never-before-seen cohesiveness was unforgettable.

Words cannot describe how this truly was the best concert I've ever been to.

[*****] - Steven T.

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