Crosby, Stills & Nash
21 September 2004
Les Schwab Amphitheatre, Bend, OR
Crosby, Nash, and sometimes Stills.
Crosby/Nash, and Stephen Stills, at the present, are in two virtually different camps. An indication of this occurred last month when Crosby/Nash released their self-titled double album, recorded in just four weeks earlier this year. This double-CD has some of their best work ever. Stephen Stills, on the other hand, plans to release, in January, Captain ManyHands, which many have identified as "soon to be released" for several years now! Crosby/Nash's CD is more melancholy, Stills' will have more of a funky rock feel.
Often, such a divergence of paths can lead to temporary estrangement. Regardless, CSN decided to tour as a trio this summer. However, the musical divergence was apparent on tonight's setlist.
Stills' performance tonight appeared effortless in the sense that he looked like he just hopped off a bike, picked up a Stratocaster, and punched his time card, business as usual.
Stephen Stills can sing very pretty, but most of this evening Stills' voice sounded very husky, with raspy enunciation. Interestingly, Stephen has actually been trying to achieve this timbre, in his life-long idolization of the "bluesman" image.
This evening, Stephen's compositions, with two exceptions, have appeared in almost invariant form for several years now: "Carry On/Questions", "49 Bye Byes", "Love The One You're With", "Southern Cross", "Helplessly Hoping", and "For What It's Worth".
To Stills' credit, he did offer two relatively new songs, his 2002-penned "Feed The People", and the new reggae-influenced "Around Us", with some nice call-and-response vocals.
Crosby & Nash, however, easily outnumbered Stills with new song contributions this evening. So much so that Stills actually sat out of several of the new Crosby/Nash composition performances. These included "Grace", "Jesus Of Rio", "Luck Dragon", "Milky Way Tonight", Graham's salute to his wife, "I Surrender", and the recently airplayed "Lay Me Down". Stephen did join C/N on the rockers "They Want It All" and "Don't Dig Here", after which Graham expressed his happiness for the audience response to the newer songs.
In the middle of the show, Nash commented, "It's great to see geese flying off in the distance.....there IS a real world out there."
For this tour, Crosby/Nash brought along Jeff Pevar and James Raymond from their duo album work. I was worried that this addition was going to overwhelm the sound mix, but I was impressed to hear how much it actually helped. I've always felt that CSN sounds better produced than live. Pever and Raymond's vocals, when added to those of CSN, as well as keyboardist Mike Finnigan, produce a nice doubled chorusing effect, across the board.
"Marrakesh Express" and "Military Madness" were pleasant reminders of the early days. A nice surprise was the addition of Crosby's 1988 track "Nighttime For The Generals", which he dedicated to the CIA, one more government agency he's making friends with.
After "Almost Cut My Hair", "Deja Vu" featured solos by, get this, Nash (harmonica), Raymond (piano), Pevar (guitar), Finnigan (organ), Dave Santos (bass), and Stills (guitar).
I have to say that the guitar dualing between Stills and Pevar was even more impressive than the legendary Stills/Young battles during the days of Buffalo Springfield and CSNY. Jeff Pevar can play any style of guitar. And, Stephen Stills gets better on his instrument when challenged! Such chemistry appeared in a killer "Wooden Ships", with some of the most confrontational fretwork I've ever seen.
"Woodstock" and "Teach Your Children" served as the encore, ending the show at about 9:15. Crosby, Stills, Nash, Pevar, Raymond, Santos, and drummer Joe Vitale playfully bowed to the audience while waiting for Finnigan to finish signing an autograph. In all, everyone on stage seemed happy together--the stage was noticeably absent the tension I've witnessed at previous CSN shows. This positive spirit is a good thing.
[****] - Steven T.
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