Report: CSN Live in Hollywood (Fla.)

 

 

The Woodstock veterans have all been
here before – but in front of an appreciative crowd at Hard Rock Live on
October 1, the sense of déjà vu was all the more relevant.

 

By Lee Zimmerman

 

Woodstock nation seems to be coming back strong
of late, what with Neil Young making his rounds, Bob Dylan doing his national
college tour and Young’s sometime colleagues Crosby Stills & Nash making a
return visit to the Hard Rock Live in Hollywood Florida a mere six months or so
after their previous appearance. Indeed, the frequency of CSN jaunts these days
is somewhat remarkable, especially considering the fact that after 42 years and
several volumes of rock ‘n’ roll lore, there’s little left to prove. Likewise,
there’s something to be said about the dangers of overexposure, so that what
once might have been seen as a singular experience now verges more on the
commonplace. At last count, they’ve visited South
Florida no less than four times in the past five years.

 

Fortunately then, familiarity doesn’t breed
contempt, especially as far as the peace, love and patchouli crowd is
concerned. Certainly, the audience that duly made the pilgrimage to Hard Rock
on Friday night hasn’t lost any of its reverence for the well worn, yet still
emotionally wrought ballads that were once virtual anthems for the Baby Boomer
generation of old. Their hair may be graying and thinning and their paunches expanding
– and we’re talking about both the band and their devotees – but the connection
between audience and performers remains undiminished.

 

Aptly opening with a fiery rendition of
“Woodstock,” the trio and their four piece backing band placed the emphasis on
energy throughout, managing only the occasional acoustic spotlight (what they
once quaintly dubbed as “wooden music”) in lieu of feisty, up-tempo takes on
such time-tested crowd pleasers as “Marrakesh Express,” “Southern Cross,”
“Wooden Ships” and, naturally, “Love the One You’re With.” Even songs that
normally favor a downcast disposition – “Military Madness,” “Almost Cut My
Hair,” “Long Time Gone,” Déjà Vu” and “Our House” – took on added urgency, the
latter prompting a sing-along that found the audience eventually usurping the
singers.

 

In fact, all was how it should be, and despite
the fact that CS and N have performed these trademark tunes hundreds, if not
thousands, of times before, and for repeated generations of fans, they still
manage to instill a genuine sentimental involvement these many decades on. Crosby’s read of the lovely “Guinevere” proved especially
poignant – he noted, affectingly, that,  “… the girl that I wrote this
song about died on this day.” He was referring to former lover Christine Hinton
who was involved in a car crash on September 30, 1969 not far from their new
home in the San Francisco
Bay area. Forty years
later, he seemed so distracted, he stumbled over the lyric and had to start
over, apparently taking his partner Nash by surprise.

 

Remarkably though, all three men retain their
sturdy voices, especially Crosby whose wailing, soaring croon remains more
powerful than ever. Once the band’s weak link as far as his notorious drug
abuse was concerned, he now emits a stoic visage, his stalwart stance and
flowing white hair giving him, at age 69, a decidedly venerable profile. He was
also the most talkative of the trio, and after concluding an abridged version
of “What Are Their Names?” (from his unfortunately-titled first solo album If
I Could Only Remember My Name…
), he implored those who were shouting out
their admiration to ask their sisters to do so instead. “It’s a little scary to
hear a husky biker voice shouting ‘I love you, Dave,'” he joked. “It kind of
reminds me of prison.”

 

For their parts, both Stills and Nash balanced
out the equation admirably. Nash looks rather ruddy these days, and, it might
be noted, with his white hair and weathered complexion, he’s taken on a certain
Clinton-esque image. His trademark high vocals are still a joy, particularly
the way they weave around Crosby’s and provide
the reliable harmonies for Stills. Stills himself remains a searing guitar
player, displaying both fluidity and finesse, the qualities that earned him the
right to share the stage and studio time with Hendrix, Michael Bloomfield and
the Stones. With talk of a Buffalo Springfield outing in the works, he
previewed those possibilities by reprising two of his former band’s most
enduring chestnuts, “Bluebird” and an always-to-be-expected “For What It’s
Worth.”

 

Oddly enough, like the last time they were here,
covers played a prominent role in the set list. They reprised the Stones’ “Ruby
Tuesday,” turning its chorus into sheer triumph and confidently making it their
own. But the most surprising entry was a take on the Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes”
that worked remarkably well despite the obvious disparity in the MO between the
two bands. Credit and kudos are due the supporting players – longtime drummer
Joe Vitale, veteran bassist and — as it was duly noted — former Hollywood
homeboy Bob Glaub, keyboardists Charles Caldwell and James Raymond, who also
happens to be Crosby’s son and band mate in the outfit CPR. Each of them
contributed harmonies, boosting the front line’s already formidable presence.

 

Ultimately then, when CSN sang the lines from
“Déjà vu,” “We have all been here before,” those verses really rang true. We have all been here before, but happily, no matter how many times the return, the
drama and desire are still there.

 

 

 

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