Whether they donned acoustic guitars and sung their trademark three-part harmonies or strapped on electric guitars and seriously rocked out, Crosby, Stills & Nash reminded Alpharetta, Ga., just why they will always be the reigning kings of folk rock: the genre that they created and still do better than anyone.
Review by Don de Leaumont
As a fan of Crosby, Stills & Nash for nearly 20 years, it’s hard to believe that I have never seen them live. Whether it is inactive touring or performing shows of my own, there always seemed to be an obstacle avoiding me from taking in a CSN show. When I heard that they were performing in Alpharetta on July 14, I put it on my calendar and made it a priority to make sure that show would not be missed. The guys are getting up there in age and, in all honesty, I just didn’t want to find myself in a position of saying, “I wish I would’ve,” like I did with the Grateful Dead.
I was a bit surprised that the amphitheater was only about three-quarters full (seats only, no lawn), but I could care less. This was an audience that was here for the love of these guys and their timeless music. I was nervous about this show as I took my seat next to my wife and my brand new CSN tour shirt. In my mind, I was setting my expectations really high as this was one of my all time favorite bands and biggest influence as a singer/songwriter. I even went as far as to not read the set lists in advance in order to have that element of surprise.
CSN arrived on stage to standing ovation as they launched into the “Carry On” from their 1970’s Déjà vu album, and I was immediately on my feet, cheering and having my face completely melted off. Yeah, there was some age to their voices, but that beautiful sound was still there, alive and well. Just with this song alone they reminded everyone just what folk rock is and why they are the kings of it.
The show was a very no frills performance, choosing to use the music as the focal point of the show. This was a totally wise thing because the songs were so well played that any kind of light show or theatrics would’ve just taken away from the sheer brilliance of the songs. Set one of the night featured a nice mix of fan favorites such as “Chicago,” “Marrakesh Express” and “Long Time Gone.”
“Southern Cross” received the biggest response of the set, and the song really brought the house down. It was really fun to see CSN interacting with each other and telling some brief and witty stories from time to time between songs. In true ’60s hippie fashion, Graham Nash stuck to his liberal guns dedicating the song “Almost Gone” to military whistle blower Bradley Manning. This brought on a long “boo” from the audience to which Nash just smirked and said, “Yeah. Well anyway,” and then launched into the song. It was really kind of ironic seeing the same audience that just booed Nash lose their minds over set closer (and Buffalo Springfield cover) “For What It’s Worth,” which is one of the most leftest war protest songs ever. Graham Nash must’ve gone backstage and choked on the irony.
While set one was nothing short of mind blowing, in set two lightning was captured in a bottle. Opening with a gorgeous acoustic rendition of “Helplessly Hoping” eased the crowd back in. Stephen Stills’ banter before the Bob Dylan cover “Girl From the North Country” felt touching; he came across as a truly humble fan. He told everyone, “You’d think that, with all of our songs, we wouldn’t have to do other people’s songs, but this is one of my favorites.”
I really enjoyed seeing CSN interact with each other between songs. They all seem to truly enjoy making music together, and I loved how they would complement each other’s songs to the audience after each number. Each song in set two was just pure magic, but it was “Guinevere” that really hit me like a ton of bricks. Featuring only Graham Nash and David Crosby, this song literally had the audience so quiet that I could hear the crickets chirping up on the lawn. I have never seen any artist captivate and audience of that size in my entire life. It was such a beautifully powerful moment.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, CSN delivered “Almost Cut My Hair,” which, without a doubt, proved that David Crosby was the MVP of the night, hands down. At 70 years old, he can still sing this song with all the conviction of the 20-something-year-old Crosby who wrong the song. He let his freak flag fly with his long grey hair blowing in the wind, and he let the world know it with a voice that time has been extremely good to.
Closing things out with an amazing rendition of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” had the entire venue up and dancing. I was all smiles and I was so bummed to know that the night was coming to an end.
Crosby, Stills & Nash are every bit as relevant as they were in the days of old, with nothing dated or even overly nostalgic about them. They performed all of these beautiful, classic songs with a youthful, modern energy of an act more than half their ages.
The performance was all about the music and remained a reminder of just how great these songs are. If you have ever been on the fence about going to see these guys live, get off of it and go see them before it’s too late. Seeing CSN live not only made me happy to be a fan but it made me a bigger fan which I never knew was even possible. Nearly 24 hours later I am still smiling and getting goose bumps just thinking about what a truly magical night it was. Do yourself a favor and experience the magic for yourself. You’ll be glad you did. http://www.crosbystillsnash.com/
Long Time Gone
Just a Song Before I Go
Lay Me Down
Almost Gone (The Ballad of Bradley Manning)
For What It’s Worth
In Your Name
Wind On The Water
(Graham Nash song)
Almost Cut My Hair
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes