You can’t get much closer to the roots of 60s-bred folk rock than a nostalgic night with Crosby, Stills and Nash.
The trio — made up of members of The Byrds (David Crosby), Buffalo Springfield (Stephen Stills) and The Hollies (Graham Nash) — launched onto the American music scene in 1969 and is still making music, and playing sold-out tour stops, over 40 years later.
Currently on the southern leg of a Summer 2012 tour, Crosby, Stills and Nash (CSN) are making their way through Texas as we speak. They played to a packed amphitheater in The Woodlands on Wednesday night and will hit San Antonio before stopping at Austin’s best new listening room, ACL Live, on Saturday.
Serendipity played a role in my chance to catch CSN on Wednesday, as I happened onto an extra ticket to the show while I was visiting Houston for work. And if there’s one thing I don’t pass up, it’s the chance to see a classic, legendary rock show (even if it falls to the softer side of the genre).
Crosby, Stills and Nash may be old by “rock” standards — David Crosby is 71 and Graham Nash is 70 — but that didn’t stop them from playing over two full hours of hits and neo-CSN tunes for a crowd of folks looking to be whisked away to Music Past for a night.
Dressed in black, armed with guitars and sometimes-weathered voices, the super-group played through a catalog representative of its biggest hits, with heavier attention to the solo careers of its members than I expected.
Of course “Southern Cross,” “Love The One You’re With” and “Guinevere” were properly welcomed by the mostly-Baby-Boomer onlookers, but so were the newer political-inspired tunes that the band integrated into both sets. Whatever CSN played — be it a self-proclaimed "weird" song by David Crosby or one featuring Nash's expertise on the keys — fans cheered, bodies swayed and a sprinkling of lighters illuminated the crowd.
Over the two-hour show, it became clear that Father Time has his hand on the super-group — hair is whiter hair, performances somewhat subdued. But the playing and most of the vocals in CSN's show were dead-on.
And though Stephen Stills' voice doesn't have the range it used to, with Nash, and a surprisingly polished Crosby, by his side, Crosby, Stills and Nash's signature harmonies washed over the crowd with all of the power that a fan would expect. What Stills was shy on vocally, he made up for with expert guitar work: rocking riffs and long, blues-influenced solos included.
Sometimes seeing an iconic band of the past can leave a lackluster after taste, a yearning for the sounds of a more youthful group of men. But Crosby, Stills and Nash left Wednesday's crowd warm, inspired and connected.
The hope and palatable political edge that they brought to rock n' roll over forty years ago was in the air. And there's not much more you can ask for from a folk trio on a hot summer night.
Crosby, Stills and Nash play Austin on Saturday, August 18 at ACL Live. More information about the 2012 tour can be found on their website.