JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

June 10, 2012
Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica
Cleveland, OH USA
Review by David Brais
Photos by David Brais

Crosby, Stills & Nash

Crosby, Stills and f#*king Nash!

There, I said it! For the uninitiated, the initials CS&N may conjure up visions of a railroad or the name of a trucking line. But for those of you in the know, those letters conjure up images of three perfectly blended voices harmonizing in unison, to some of the greatest songs ever recorded.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artists David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash came together on a beautiful Saturday evening at the Jacobs Pavilion, to bring their magical musical experiences to Cleveland. The trio, which gained rock and roll immortality with an unforgettable center stage performance at the original Woodstock in 1969, as well as their appearance at the infamous Altamont festival the same year, proved tonight that their regal voices are still as crisp as ever. But first they had to deal with an annoying deep throated baritone that delayed the show for some ten minutes.

I doubt in the 43 years these three have performed together, there show was ever delayed by a ship - not a wooden one or the Southern Cross mind you - but an 800-foot iron ore boat constantly blowing its fog horn. It was a humorous situation at best, and not lost on the trio. As the three rock icons took the stage to thunderous applause, they immediately launched into "Carry On / Questions." Watching these gifted artists perform with vocal precision, it was indeed the finest blend of sound you'll ever enjoy. As I photographed these 1997 Hall of Fame inductees, (Stills was inducted twice in the same night), I had to put the camera down from time to time just to watch them practice their art.

Age has a way of creeping up and changing the vocal tones of even the most accomplished singer. Not here. These three architects of sound have built their reputations not only on creating timeless music, but for erecting pitch perfect vocals that capture the heart and soul of a song. No group in modern rock history has ever mastered three-part harmonies like these musicians have. Tonight, they each shared an individual spotlight - Crosby on "Guinnevere", Stills with "Johnny's Garden" and Nash's "Military Madness - offering further glimpses into their glorious past. As for the rest of show, it didn't matter who had a hand in writing whatever particular tune the three participated in. What this crowd cared about was the delivery, and boy, did they ever get it. Throughout the evening, all were treated to a finely polished product that had everyone on their feet clapping and cheering.

The reverence in which this audience at Jacob Pavilion, located on the west bank of the Cleveland Flats warehouse district, held these musicians in was inspiring. It's sincere affection for the musicians was especially evident during a string of songs the group performed from their first two masterpieces, 1969's self-titled debut and its follow-up, 1970's Deja Vu. Over half of the night's songs were drawn from these two albums, reminding everyone in attendance just how incredibly important that period of music was in their lives, and ours.

It would be a gross understatement to say each member of CS&N had a hand in shaping the history and sound of rock and roll. That they've been able to remain good friends through the wide spectrum of time is simply remarkable. Nash may walk with a bit of a limp and have a little less hair, but his voice, my God that voice, is nothing but pure gold. The beauty of it was never more evident as when he soloed on "Military Madness", and contributed his part to the CS&N classic, "Southern Cross". His voice soared during the harmonies as the audience vainly tried to mimic the beauty they were hearing on stage. Fortunately, this special moment would repeat itself throughout the evening.

David Crosby has never had any problems speaking his mind. That's especially evident whenever he makes his tongue-in-cheek observations, which are usually quite humorous. When he declared from the stage, "We are here to set the river on fire", the entire audience started laughing. That's because most remembered the day in 1969 when the river running behind the stage, the Cuyahoga, actually caught fire. Ironically, Crosby made his comment almost 43 years to the day the industrial waste dumped from the nearby industries engulfed the river in flames.

Watching Crosby, Stills and Nash interact with one another is like observing a single soul dwell in three bodies. The audience not only felt the ambiance between these musical titans, they shared in the experience as well. The beauty of music is its inherent ability to take the listener back in time. Tonight these three opened up the capsule containing their treasure trove of hits. When Nash told the crowd his lifelong friend David Crosby had written perhaps the greatest love song ever, "Guinnevere," he meant it. When the two old friends stood to the side as Stephen Stills whipped through some wicked guitar solos, there was genuine amazement in their eyes to the incredible musicianship on display before them.

Speaking of Stills, he delighted the crowd by including a couple of songs in the set from his Buffalo Springfield days, Bluebird" and the group's signature hit, "For What It's Worth." The group also included Bob Dylan's little ditty, "Girl from the North Country". No stone was left unturned from their combined catalog of hits. They even managed to squeeze in a new tune they had recently composed, "Radio".

I want to give some props to the Cleveland audience. The R&R Hall of Fame city constantly showered CS&N with love and appreciation. They also stood in awe, like Stills and Nash did, as their brother-in-arms Crosby belted out "Almost Cut My Hair." For the encore, "Wooden Ships," Stephen Stills once again put on a guitar clinic during a joyous extended solo. The night ended with the encore, "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes."

True friendship is perhaps the only bond that survives the trials and tribulations of time. As these three musicians proved tonight, it also remains unconditional. The now six-decade old relationship between these three is a unique blend of affection, loyalty, love, respect, trust as well as loads of fun. For two hours, these free-spirited 'senior citizens' jabbed and poked at the world around them, gave the audience introspective looks at their lives in and out of music, and performed a treasure trove of hits spanning a remarkable career. Oh yeah! Crosby, Stills and f#*king Nash!

Set List:
Carry On / Question
Military Madness
Long Time Gone
Marrakesh Express
Southern Cross
Lay Me Down
Almost Gone
Bluebird (Buffalo Springfield cover)
Deja Vu
For What It's Worth (Buffalo Springfield cover)
Helpless Hoping
Girl from the North Country - (Bob Dylan cover)
Johnny's Garden
Teach Your Children
Just a Song Before I Go
Our House
Almost Cut My Hair
Wooden Ships
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes