Crosby, Stills & Nash turn it up too loud, forgetting that they aren’t Young


By Steve Newton

“Look, there’s that crazy guy!” declared the frail-looking, bespectacled chap sitting in front of me at the Queen E. last Thursday. He was pointing at a large, bearded man in the stage-right balcony who was standing up and howling and throwing punches around, obviously thrilled about the impending appearance of Crosby, Still & Nash.

The crazy guy looked like he’d been enjoying himself for several hours already–most likely with the assistance of various legal or illegal substances–and he was the only person in the sold-out crowd whose preshow behaviour was ranging towards rowdy. The audience as a whole soon took his cue, though, when Crosby, Stills & Nash strolled onstage to wild applause, hoots and hollers, and a few scattered standing ovations.

Backed by two drummers, bass, and keyboards, the members of CS&N started scratching away at electric guitars that were set way too loud, resulting in a trebly cluster of notes that hit the three singers right where they live–in their famous three-part harmonies. What should have been a rapturous version of Stephen Stills’s “Love the One You’re With” turned into a grating, overamplified mess–yet one that still managed to garner an enthusiastic response from the crowd.

That’s when I first started to scratch my head.

“We’ve got some old songs, some new songs…and some strippers,” announced a barefoot Graham Nash near the outset. “David’s gonna take off his clothes.” Yeah, and the crowd’ll probably go nuts for that too, I thought, trying not to picture David Crosby wiggling out of his jeans. Luckily, Nash was only kidding, as he and the other guys would continue to do all night, playfully ribbing each other, especially about their respective ages.

Sadly, CS&N’s obsession with its long-gone youth was manifest in the band members’ regular habit of cranking up badly mixed electric guitars and rocking out, as if sunburst Les Pauls and Flying Vs with hot pickups could somehow save off the unrelenting footsteps of Father Time. Just because that method works for Neil Young doesn’t mean it’s gonna work for his old bandmates, though.

And it doesn’t.

The second half of CS&N’s two-and-a-half hour set began promisingly, with the trio acting its age on mellow, acoustic renderings of Nash’s “Wind on the Water” and “After the Storm”–the latter tune dedicated to all the friends the band members have lost during their 25 years together. Without those pesky plug-ins blasting away, the group’s fine voices came through loud and clear, but a couple of tunes later, the proceedings took another nosedive with the inclusion of a pseudo-metal throwaway by Stills called “Bad Boyz”.

Even that lowly selection wasn’t enough to faze the hordes of hardcore CS&N fans, who called the band back for an encore, making me wonder if I–and not the balcony’s burly shadowboxer–was the real crazy guy. I was still pondering this when CS&N ended the night with a bogus B-room boogie take on “Woodstock”.

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