June 1, 2011
Oakland, CA USA
Review by William Mancebo
Photos by William Mancebo
"We're Buffalo Springfield," proclaimed Neil Young, "and we're from the past." With those eight words, the mercurial singer / songwriter launched into his song "On the Way Home". A 43-year draught of music from this seminal California folk band, responsible for launching the legendary musical careers of its founding members, Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay, had effectively ended.
Opening the evening's festivities was Gillian Welch. Ironically, she was born the same month and year the album Buffalo Springfield Revisted was released - October 1967. Never a critic's favorite (which is a feather in her cap), this adopted daughter of two comedy writers nonetheless put on a dazzling performance. During her 40-minute set, she performed tunes from her Grammy nominated albums Revival and Time (The Revelator), as well tunes she co-wrote and sang on the 2002 Grammy Album of the Year, O Brother Where Art Thou? A very appreciative, and knowledgeable crowd, gave the folk writer a rousing ovation when she left the stage. And then it was time.
The songs of Buffalo Springfield are as diverse as the artist's who wrote the music. On this particular evening, Neil Young could have passed himself off as Panama Jack. Stephen Stills looked oh so dapper in vintage black. And then there was Richie Furay. He looked, well, happy to be on stage with his two fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. Four decades had passed between their last onstage appearance together (last year's Bridge School benefit not withstanding), but this electrified outing brought forth a totally different side of their personalities. Missing from the nights proceedings were original members Bruce Palmer and Dewey Martin who passed away in 2004 and 2009. Joe Vitale and Rick Rosas replaced the rhythm section respectively.
The audience, for its part, was into this show the moment these titans of music sauntered onto the stage. Whether it was Richie Furay singing lead on his songs "Sad Memory" and "Kind Woman", Stills infusing "Everybody's Wrong" and "Rock and Roll Woman" with his distinct tenor voice, or Young taking charge (eight of the 18 performed songs where his) with "Broken Arrow" or "Burned", the audience took a wonderful trip back through time and space. The marijuana smoke wafting through this historic theatre more than added to the ambiance of the free sex and drug days Buffalo Springfield sprang from. All three studio albums were showcased evenly with only "My Kind of Love", a previously unreleased Furay tune from the group's box set, and Young's show closing encore "Rockin' in the Free World", the only tunes the band had never played live.
It's amazing how music has the power to bridge the gulf of time. The audience, very much seniors themselves, understood that more than any of them would care to admit. Buffalo Springfield sprang to life during an intense period of social unrest in this country. A politically divided country haunted by war, economic uncertainties, racism and protests was magnificently captured in the lyrics and music this band's founders created in a very short window of time. To their credibility, Stills, Furay and Young carried that spirit of their vaunted past with them this evening, as they blazed a magical musical trail down memory lane. By the time this band makes its statement at the Bonnaroo Music Festival, they will indeed be rockin' in the free world once again. For how long afterwards is anyone's guess.
1. On The Way Home (Young)
2. Rock and Roll Woman (Stills)
3. Burned (Young)
4. A Child's Claim to Fame (Furay)
5. Do I Have To Come Right Out and Say It (Young)
6. Go and Say Goodbye (Stills)
7. I Am a Child (Young)
8. Hot Dusty Roads (Stills)
9. Kind Woman (Furay)
10. Mr. Soul (Young)
11. Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing (Young)
12. My Kind of Love (Furay)
13. Everybody's Wrong (Stills)
14. Sad Memory (Furay)
15. Bluebird (Stills)
16. Broken Arrow (Young)
17. For What It's Worth (Stills)
18. Rockin' In the Free World (Young)