The last event of the Orlando@50 AARP gathering was a powerhouse concert featuring stars from the sixties. Richie Havens opened the show, and yes, he sang “Freedom” during his set. Next up was Judy Collins and she covered favorites from “Diamonds and Rust”, through “Both Sides Now” to “Send in the Clowns”. When a creative talent like Richie Havens and a skilled performer like Judy Collins are opening acts, the headliners had better be extraordinary. David Crosby, Steve Stills, and Graham Nash are extraordinary. I was fortunate enough to attend what may have been my first Crosby, Stills and Nash concert with my pal Tex, a screamer in the best Rock ‘n Roll concert going tradition. She kept the place charged up from the first song right through the last encore. None of that emotion was forced. It came straight from the heart. And the damaged larynx. Thanks again for the energy Pattie! (There’s a footnote here. I may have heard them live back in the day, at Winterland or the Fillmore Auditorium or whatever, but I’m comforted by Paul Krassner’s observation that if you can remember the sixties, you weren’t there.)
The trio, backed by some phenomenal sidemen on keyboards, bass, and percussion, opened with the Joni Mitchell song, Woodstock. A good place to start and they just kept going. They didn’t stint. Throughout the concert they didn’t cheat us out of a single extended solo, or mad improvisational jam. They just kept rocking. You shoulda been there.
Here’s the rest of the set list…
- Military Madness, Graham Nash’s song. Just a reminder that we don’t have the cultural awareness or opposition to the wars that we demonstrated in the Vietnam era. Could that be because our leaders finessed the need for a draft by committing the National Guard to combat and hiring mercenaries for the real dirty work?
- Long Time Gone, from the debut album released in 1969. They reached way back last night, and we oldies who remembered it were glad they did.
- Buffalo Springfield’s hit, Bluebird, drew the best out of Steve Stills, reminding me once again why I sometimes just thank god for the Fender guitar.
- Marrakech Express, by Graham Nash is another tune from the debut album. Nash wanted to record it earlier with the Hollies. I’m glad he saved it for the CS&N group.
- Southern Cross, co-authored by Stills, comes from a time more recent in the band’s history. It’s less than thirty years old. It’s a good song, but for me it’s not a grabber.
- A grabber would be the Stones’ Ruby Tuesday, an acoustic version of which the trio performed last night. Crosby claimed they may record it.
- Deja Vu (see below)
- Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, another one from the eponymous first album and from the live performance at Max Yasgur’s place.
- Almost Cut My Hair, no worries though. David’s still got his freak flag flying.
- Wooden ships, a Crosby, Stills, Paul Kantner composition that starts with a dark and gloomy apocalyptic vision and lightens up to that freeing moment when all of us hippies sailed away and the war culture drowned in its own misery. Wait. Did that really happen?
- For What It’s Worth, “Stop children, what’s that sound,” Steven Stills’ amazingly prescient 1967 hit, recorded by Buffalo Springfield, still brings a frisson of paranoia back to those of us for whom it was anthem of powerlessness in the face of the global chaos emerging in the sixties.
… and a second encore:
- Teach Your Children. This song carries as much compelling warmth and hope and compassion as “For What It’s Worth” projects fear and foreboding. I’m not sure I believe Graham Nash when he claims the Diane Arbus shot of a kid with a toy grenade inspired the song.
We weren’t a very demanding audience, nor as appreciative as others on the long Crosby, Stills, and Nash tour undoubtedly had been. In fact, the concert was more of an entertainment than a rite. So with a long, well wrought “Wooden Ships” as the final number, many of us were ready to head to the hotel shuttle buses, go home, and get horizontal. It was a real energizer when the applause coaxed them back on stage for an encore.
The concert was powerful, exciting, and moving. It choked me up. The concert again proved that Steve Stills remains the best living lead guitar player, David Crosby made the right move when he left the Byrds, Sir Graham Nash is some kind of Brit, even today, and that Crosby, Stills and Nash are much more than Just Another Band From LA.