CSN: Retire. Now.

8 12 2007

Crosby Stills & Nash (CSN), with and without Neil Young, have been a favourite of my husband’s for decades. Their soaring harmonies, terrific lyrics, and beautiful music have been the soundtrack to most baby boomers’ lives.

When they came to Perth in 1991, we were one of the first to buy tickets. CSN performed at the Perth Concert Hall, which has superb acoustics for such a group. We were in the third row and it was a concert to remember. It was SO good that when they announced a second concert for the following night, we raced out and got tickets for that too. We even hung around the stage door and got to meet them very briefly—that’s how much my husband likes their music.

So there was great excitement when we heard they’d be playing in Perth again in February 2007—some 16 years since they were last here. Unfortunately, David Crosby got ill and the February concert was postponed until December 1. No matter. We were shifting house the weekend they were originally scheduled, so we were personally quite OK with the cancellation. Our only concern was that they’d be well enough to fulfil their commitment, and that the outside venue (Kings Park) would be OK for their type of music and three-part harmonies. The tickets sat under a fridge magnet for months…

With great anticipation we travelled to Perth last weekend (it was the first time back for my husband since we’d moved nine months ago). We combined the concert with other activities, such as doctor, dentist, and medical specialist visits, as well as catching up with some friends. But we were really there for the concert.

It was a cold day, and was going to be an even colder evening. But we were prepared with polar fleece jackets, beach chairs, and a picnic rug. After paying exhorbitant prices for wine ($39 a bottle!) and concert T-shirts ($45 each), we settled in to enjoy the two groups on before the main event—’Blanche du Bois’ a local band with two sisters out front, and ‘Ross Wilson and the Urban Legends’. Blanche du Bois were fine, though their musical style is not particularly interesting to me, nor perhaps the rest of the mostly grey-haired audience (average age would’ve been 50 plus). Ross Wilson—who turned 60 a few days earlier on the 20th of November—was a different matter! He had the crowd up on their feet, singing along to some of the old Mondo Rock and Daddy Cool songs. And when he did the 1971 classic “Eagle Rock” the crowd went wild. A terrific warm-up act to a group like CSN. [As far as I know, the band members for Ross Wilson and the Urban Legends on the night were: Ross Wilson (vocals and guitar), Eric McCusker (lead guitar and backing vocals), John McAll (sp?; keyboards), Davey Porter (drums; from NZ), Chris Paraha (bass)—this is the same line-up found on Ross Wilson’s website]

So now to the main event… CSN ambled on to the stage spot on time at 8:30pm. And right from the first notes it was clear that something was amiss.

Stephen Stills could not harmonise—his voice was shot. Whether his voice is irreparably damaged, he was ill, or had had too much drugs or alcohol, I have no idea. But he couldn’t hold his notes. He played guitar like a demon, but as a third voice in a three part harmony band, he just didn’t cut it. Even the songs where he is normally lead singer, he had to rely on David Crosby. Graham Nash had difficulty reaching his high notes, but age could account for that (Elton John can’t reach his high notes these days either). David Crosby’s voice was the only one that hadn’t faded, and his efforts on “Almost cut my hair” took us all back to those heady days when CSN were a major force in popular music.

Despite that, the crowd got into it, though I think that was more for the nostalgia of the old songs than their rendition on the night. It was all over by 9:50pm, less than 90 minutes after starting, though they did come back for two encore songs. They played many of their old songs, and I tried to write them down, even though I don’t know all the official titles:

  • Carry On/Questions
  • Marrakesh Express
  • Long Time Gone
  • 49 Bye-Byes (Bye-bye baby)
  • Just a Song Before I Go
  • Military Madness
  • Deja Vu
  • Southern Cross
  • Helplessly Hoping
  • Our House
  • For What it’s Worth (Stop children, what’s that sound)
  • Almost Cut My Hair
  • Wooden Ships
  • Woodstock (encore)
  • Teach Your Children (encore)

The band members for this concert were James Raymond (keyboard; David Crosby’s son), Kevin McCormick (sp?) (bass guitar; originally from Perth), Todd Caldwell (also keyboard), Joe Vitale (drums; from Canton, OH).

All in all, a very disappointing concert. We’ve been to quite a few of what we call ‘retirement fund’ concerts over the past few years—Jackson Browne, James Taylor, The Eagles, etc.—and all have been great. This wasn’t. If Stills’ voice is gone forever and this wasn’t just an aberration on the night, then it’s time for CSN to retire gracefully and let us enjoy them through the legacy of their recordings.

BTW, we weren’t the only ones disappointed with this concert. The review in The West voiced similar sentiments.

Photos from the concert…



One response

8 12 2007
Past two weeks « At Random

[…] We went to Perth for four days last weekend for ‘points and plugs’ checkups with doctors and dentists, catching up with friends, and attending the Crosby, Stills, & Nash concert… which was the impetus for going to Perth and the other activities. More on the concert in another post. […]

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