By: Alex Wood | Videos: zoothorn99
Though many bands from the 60s and 70s are still touring today, few have displayed the vitality and vigor of Crosby, Stills & Nash. For their first night at the Chicago Theatre, the trio played a massive set to an ecstatic audience, each song a reminder of what made the musicians household names to begin with.
From the first song, it was clear the performance wasn’t simply an acoustic folk-rock endeavor.
“Carry On” began the set as a big electric opening, it’s jangly groove met with precise three-part harmonies and soaring guitar solos from Stephen Stills. The band jammed the song out to a standing audience, the live performance packing a larger punch than the original, and the vocal melodies as infectious as ever.
Crosby, Stills and Nash were backed by a full band that included David Gilmour’s drummer, Jackson Browne’s bassist, a guitarist that performed with Sting and Bruce Springsteen and Crosby’s son on auxiliary percussion. The band kept the energy high throughout but the focus remained on the original members.
“Chicago” followed “Carry On,” the audience cheering at their city’s reference. “Long Time Gone” continued the string of upbeat, electric songs, its laid-back groove centered around electric guitar and organ as members traded vocal duties.
Though the band was essentially choosing songs from four total albums, each selection seemed unexpected and carefully chosen, making for a set list that was neither nostalgic nor predictable.
“Just A Song Before I Go” flaunted the band’s notorious ability to harmonize, its simple acoustic backing allowing for the vocals come through clearly, the trio eventually singing a capella. For all three members being past the age of 70, the vocals still sounded excellent, with Stills showing a little more wear than the others.
The mostly middle-aged audience idolized the band, with Crosby addressing the crowd often to huge applause.
“Don’t cut your hair,” he said. “Your mom might like it but your girlfriend won’t.”
Crosby told a story of Jackson Browne forcing him to write “Delta” on a piano in Warren Zevon’s house, the delicate but soulful ballad following.
“Cathedral” was preceded by another wild anecdote, this time from Graham Nash.
“You don’t need to know this, but this is the first city I ever dropped acid in,” he said, soon relaying the story of visiting Stonehenge and Winchester Cathedral on LSD, eventually looking down to notice he was standing on the grave of a soldier that died on his birthday in 1799.
“Cathedral” found the band at its most epic, Nash leading the song on piano with the rest of the band joining in to form a massive, crashing climax, the music gaining speed throughout.
“Our House” was dedicated to Joni Mitchell by Nash, who remained on piano for the song. The audience sang loudly with the chorus, the band seeming to enjoy the light but heartfelt performance.
“Stills writes the great rock ‘n roll, Nash writes the anthems, and I write the weird shit,” Crosby joked.
“Déjà Vu” returned the set to a darker tone, the trio again on three guitars, the song gritty and complex, changing rhythms and speeds almost constantly, led primarily by vocal harmonies throughout. A big electric jam became a capella harmonies, only to return to another huge instrumental passage.
The band closed the first set with Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” the classic bringing the entire audience to their feet to sing along.
After a short intermission, the second set began with a run of acoustic tracks, beginning with a shaky performance of “Helplessly Hoping.” Stephen Stills covered Bob Dylan’s “Girl From North Country” and Graham Nash performed “Myself At Last” solo.
Crosby played two of his solo songs alone, “What Makes It So” and “Somebody Home,” the latter a highlight for its dark, emotional nature.
The band returned to stage for “Guinnevere,” a perfect transition out of the acoustic portion of the set. The song featured delicate harmonies akin to Simon & Garfunkel, each quivering voice relayed perfectly through the sound system of the gorgeous theatre.
“Love The One You’re With” followed, picking the energy up to its highest point in the second set, foreshadowing the epic ending to come.
“Almost Cut My Hair” was performed with a particularly soulful vocal performance from Crosby. The song took on a funky, blues-based groove, multiple electric guitars creating a huge rock sound with unmistakable influence from Neil Young.
“Wooden Ships” continued the intense jamming, the song a perfect example of CSN’s knack for combining a rocking instrumental with complex vocal harmonies, the long track leaving plenty of room for solos.
The band performed the encore without even leaving stage, closing the show with “Teach Your Children,” the audience singing along loudly.
With a 22 song set list and a show featuring well over two hours of music, Crosby, Stills & Nash don’t appear to be slowing down. With the combination of the still-stellar musicianship and carefully designed set list, the performance proved exactly what made the band famous to begin with, and what makes them such a powerful force today.
1. Carry On/Questions
3. Long Time Gone
4. Just A Song Before I Go
5. Southern Cross
7. I Used To Be A King (Graham Nash song)
8. Virtual World (Stephen Stills song)
10. Our House
11. Déjà Vu
12. For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield cover)
13. Helplessly Hoping
14. Girl From North Country (Bob Dylan cover)
15. Myself At Last (Graham Nash song)
16. What Makes It So (David Crosby song)
17. Somebody Home (David Crosby song)
19. Love The One You’re With (Stephen Stills song)
20. Almost Cut My Hair
21. Wooden Ships
22. Teach Your Children