Stephen Stills

28 June 2007

Boulder Theatre, Boulder, CO


Hard to believe is the fact that it's been almost nine years since I've seen a solo show of whom I regard as one of my favorites, if not my absolute favorite, singer/songwriter/guitarist.

Without an opening act, Stephen lumbered out to his right side of the stage as he has for the last 13 years. He took the Boulder Theatre floor as a member of a four-piece band, with long time drummer Joe Vitale--whom I briefly spoke with outside the Theatre, a bassist he hadn't toured with in decades--Denver-based Kenny Passarelli, and a relatively obscure keyboard player--Todd Caldwell.

Stephen strapped on a Gretsch White Falcon and the band opened with a remarkably mellow "Helplessly Hoping", making me wonder whether I was going to need my earplugs for the show after all. Then, the band left the stage and Stephen played several acoustic tunes, during which Stills seemed to place very respectable effort into refining his on-mike vocals, in terms of pitch, enunciation, and modulation.

Stills mentioned how it was nice to be back in the very county he used to live in, in the early-to-mid 1970s. He even stated that he remembered seeing The Exorcist in the same Theatre some 30+ years earlier.

He told stories about dangerous skiing adventures with his pal Kenny, describing how time has transformed from THE 60s to HIS 60s, preventing him from being able to live up to his adventurous past. Stephen honestly confided that he didn't want to lose his "other knee".

The acoustic numbers included a reduced-energy version of "Johnny's Garden", which Stills described as being about a gardener he inherited after purchasing a house in England formerly owned by Ringo Starr, who bought the same house from Peter Sellers.

Stephen admitted that the purpose for the tour was to try to continue selling copies of his 2005 release, Man Alive, and introduced "Different Man" from the CD.

In between songs, Stills engaged the audience with substantial commentary, almost as if he was rehearsing for a VH1 Storytellers taping. He joked that, on previous tours, he couldn't hardly open his mouth because "Crosby was doing all the talking." Later in the show Stills confided that the real reason was because he needed to bull$#!+ between songs to catch his breath, being that he is now a"flatlander".

Stills commented on a Supreme Court ruling earlier in the day, which stood in the face of so-called Affirmative Action. I happen to disagree with Stephen on this one, but I admire and appreciate the honorable root motivations for his opinions.

From Alone, Stills performed a full-length version of "Blind Fiddler" (without "Know You Got To Run"), as well as crowd favorite "Treetop Flyer".

After a key-of-G "Change Partners", Stephen pledged to keep down the political diatribe during the tour "as long as we promise to never elect another President from Texas", and followed with "Daylight Again / Find The Cost Of Freedom", Stephen told a story about his upcoming Just Roll Tape release, which will be from a 1968 demo session. He described how he was in a recording session for Judy Collins, after which he layed down $200.00 to buy an hour of studio time. Of the approximately twelve demos he recorded was a solo version of "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes". Tonight he performed the first live version I've seen without Crosby & Nash, at the end of which Vitale, Passarelli and Caldwell joined the stage as CSN's backing band has often done.

After a 20-minute break, the four-piece joined for "Southern Cross" with Stills again on White Falcon. Stephen then dedicated a song to all children including his young son and granddaughter, his haunting "Wounded World", which he segwayed into a tune co-written by Kenny, "Rocky Mountain Way". "Ole Man Trouble", the anti-war "Isn't It About Time", a Luther Vandrossian "For What It's Worth", "Love The One You're With" "Woodstock", and an encore of "Dark Star" followed.

No onstage awkwardness like many previous shows. As I had noticed during the 2006 CSNY Summer tour, I sense that Stills has seemed humbled perhaps by some recent personal experience.

Todd Caldwell stood remarkably up to the task of trying to substitute on keyboards and vocals for Michael Finnigan.

A pleasant show, with less tension, and more sincerity than I've seen in years for Mr. Stills.

[****] - Steven T.

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