Crosby, Stills and Nash still playing with passion
What: Crosby, Stills and Nash When: Last night Where: Royal Theatre Rating: ★★★ (out of five)
At this point, Crosby, Stills and Nash are like that old leather jacket in the back of your closet. It’s pretty tattered and battered ... but tossing it out would be unthinkable.
Crosby, Stills and Nash — who played for an adoring baby-boomer crowd last night — were a huge act in the 1960s and ’70s. Today, while not resting entirely on their laurels, the trio come off as rock survivors unable to give up what they love.
Famous for such smash singles as Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, Woodstock and Guinnevere, Crosby, Stills and Nash were welcomed warmly by a sold-out audience at the Royal Theatre. As befitting 1960s rock legends, the guys received a standing ovation before they even played a note.
They looked, well, not so bad. Crosby, 66, retains a bushy curtain of white hair around a balding pate as well as his trademark mustache. He seemed fit, and relatively slim (at least by David Crosby standards). A barefooted Nash, also 66, was trim and energetic. Stills, 63, has sprouted a little chin beard. They were backed by an organist, drummer, bassist and additional keyboardist. The latter is James Raymond, an accomplished player who happens to be Crosby’s son.
In concert, Crosby, Stills and Nash do not always replicate the pristine three-part vocal harmonies heard on recordings. Last night, the proceedings started off raggedly, with the singing on Wasted on the Way and 49 Bye Byes sounding off-key at times. Stills’s voice — coarsened over time — seems to have deteriorated the most, especially in the high register. Happily, his guitar playing remains accomplished and confident as ever.
Crosby, Stills and Nash played a wide array of songs from their 40-year career. Still, it was obvious the 1,440 fans (one of those adoring crowds who keep shouting “We love you!”) were there to hear the blockbusters. The sentimental favourite was Nash’s sappy paean to domesticity, Our House, which Crosby introduced by jokingly suggesting one-third of American girls lost their virginity to it between 1969 and 1973. You either love it or consider it wimp-rock supreme. Most of last night’s crowd were in the former category, enthusiastically singing along when the house lights were switched on near the end.
A chestnut that’s stood the test of time surprisingly well is Crosby’s hippy anthem, Almost Cut My Hair. It should come off like a museum piece, with its dated “let your freak flag fly” sensibility. Crosby saved it by delivering it with genuine energy. Almost Cut My Hair sounded angular, jagged and defiant.
Some of the night’s most fervent applause was reserved for Guinnevere. Crosby and Nash performed the delicate, contemplative love song alone, with Nash really putting his heart into it.
Crosby, Stills and Nash’s biggest hits are among the gems of 1960s rock. Other tunes offered were definitely a mixed bag. Among these was the truly insipid Delta. The song obviously means a lot to Crosby, who introduced it by explaining he was going through a “lost” period during its creation. But the lyrics — about streams of consciousness and streets of dreams — are new age dreck.
Overall, as guilty pleasures go, this concert was enjoyable and often worthwhile. Crosby, Stills and Nash may have exchanged their groovy hippy duds for golf shirts (at least, Crosby and Stills have). Nonetheless, they still play with passion — and that’s no small thing.