Stephen Stills

12 April 2009

Ogden Theatre, Denver, CO


Presumably for some kind of ski trip, Stephen Stills booked three dates in Colorado for a very brief solo tour: Aspen, Durango, and this evening in Denver in the Ogden Theatre on Colfax Avenue. Along with the Bluebird, the Paramount, the Gothic, the Fox, and the Boulder, what famous Denver-area Theatres have I missed?

Back with with long time drummer Joe Vitale, Denver-based bassist Kenny Passarelli, and keyboardist Todd Caldwell, Stephen walked onto stage at 8:00 P.M., in jeans, black golf shirt, a beige flannel long-sleeved overshirt, and a slightly different goatee, and began a set similar to that of his 2007 North America tour: an opening mellow-electric "Helplessly Hoping", followed by a nine-song acoustic set.

After his expertised Martin fingerpicking on "Treetop Flyer", Stills launched into two cover tunes penned by fellow Grenwich Village songwriters, namely Bob Dylan's "Girl From The North Country", and a brilliant key-of-E version of Tim Hardin's "Reason To Believe". Recent press has confirmed that Crosby, Stills & Nash are working on an acoustic album of covers, but the three have not gone on record as to which songs they are considering--but given how well this version of a song [made famous by numerous artists including Rod Stewart, Wilson Phillips, and Glen Campbell] sounded this evening, I'd bet my wallet that the upcoming CSN album will include this track, perhaps even as its first single.

"Change Partners" left Stills breathless to the point where, afterwards, he said that he wanted to lie down. "Johnny's Garden" once again didn't fail to impress.

Alternating between two Martin D-45SS acoustic guitars, one in standard tuning, the other in dropped-D, Stills ran through "4 & 20", "Daylight Again / Find The Cost Of Freedom", and a full-lyric "Blind Fiddler Medley" for which Stills confessed that he had, over the years, eventually forgotten most of the lyrics--Stills used a video teleprompter for this tour. Stephen finished the set with an acoustic/electric "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes".

After a 20-minute break, Stephen, now using a guitar effects ensemble larger than anything we've seen in over 15 years, set his Stratocaster to vibrato to establish the rhythm for the Manassas classic, "Isn't It About Time". The electric set continued to surprise with rarely-performed Stills-Young-era gems, including "Rock & Roll Woman", "Bluebird", & "Make Love To You".

"Wounded World" continued to sound slightly empty with no harmonica or other fill-in between chorus lines, but transitioned into a foot-stompin' "Rocky Mountain Way" which, interestingly, also featured Vitale & Passerelli on the original Joe Walsh version.

Another surprise was a cover of the Tom Petty-authored Mudcrutch track "The Wrong Thing To Do (But I Don't Care)".

Obligatory inclusions of "For What It's Worth", "Love The One You're With", and an encore of "Southern Cross" finished the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame performer's show.

Like during his 2007 solo tour as well as during the 2008 CSN tour, during tonight's acoustic set Stills placed sincere effort into carefully enunciating his vocals; however, duirng his electric set he occasionally let the instrumentation drown out his voice as he often has often tended.

Stills, who used to live in Colorado in the 1970s, remarked that the one thing he doesn't miss is the "snow", in its double-meaning.

Driving 70 miles through slush to see this impressive singer/songwriter/guitarist was worth the time/effort.

[****] - Steven T.

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