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Not So Young Anymore

Crosby, Still, and Nash Relive the Good Years

By Kyle Jensen

Crosby, Stills, and Nash

FleetBoston Pavilion

August 22, 2001

There was a day when Crosby, Stills, and Nash could harmonize with the best of them. They had that folksy rock sound that was a cross of Simon and Garfunkel with Credence Clearwater Revival. Each album was filled to the brim with the kind of gut-wrenching, tear-jerking songs you’d want on a mix-tape for your ex-girlfriend. Many of their songs like “Our House” and “Teach your Children” were indelibly imprinted upon millions of minds.

But the good days have passed, leaving the band excruciatingly past its prime. Now, this isn’t to say that Crosby, Stills, and Nash don’t rock still -- they do. But, last week, when CSN played the FleetBoston Pavilion to a packed house, it was evident that their sound was not what it once was.

In the case of CSN and other aging folk groups, like Peter, Paul, and Mary, the years have taken their toll on band members’ vocal skills. Guitarists David Crosby and Graham Nash and multi-instrumental Stephen Stills are all getting old. Fittingly, the band seems well aware of this agedness. “Some of us are 60,” said Graham Nash at the concert, referring to Dave Crosby, who now bears a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. Crosby retorted, “It was the sex that did it.”

Today, over 30 years after the band started making music, it seems likely that the drugs, booze, and groupies at the backstage parties have been replaced with Ensure, Viagra, and grandmothers. Not even rock stars are immune to the unstoppable creeping of time -- and hairlines.

CSN started the show off by delving into their classic tunes like “Marrakesh Express” and “Deja Vu”. To many, it was immediately apparent that they had lost the long vocal harmonies that once defined their music. In place of this was a more bluesy sound, which, though compatible with their older voices, did not sound like the CSN of yesteryear. What the band hasn’t lost is its guitar skills, as Stills is as much as ever a master of the electric guitar. He bowled over the crowd with his intense solos in a number of songs, and in particular, “Judy Blue Eyes,” a song during which the crowd sang nearly every lyric.

One of the best tunes of the evening was a new piece titled “Dirty Little Secret,” a song of protest over the atrocities committed during the Tulsa Oklahoma race riots of 1921. Such songs are part of a long tradition of protest for the band members, who commonly address social, political, and environmental issues. Perhaps the most memorable of their protest songs, “Ohio”, written by Neil Young, expressed the widespread public outrage over the Kent State killings in the summer of 1970.

CSN played a total of 22 songs in the course of the evening, hitting all their crowd-pleasing favorites like “Guinivere,” “Helplessly Hoping,” and “Our House.” These were interspersed with a few new songs, including a great number written by Crosby and dedicated his son. Throughout the concert, the three performers were very animated and repeatedly expressed how happy they were to still be touring.

Even though CSN has lost much of its sound, the crowd couldn’t help but savor the experience. It was obvious that the fans had not come to enjoy the technical quality of the music, but rather to dance and sing along with their favorite songs. Crosby, Stills, and Nash hold a special place in the hearts of these fans and in the history of American music. They have produced close to a dozen albums over the years, including the chart-topping, multi-platinum So Far (my personal favorite) in 1974.

CSN is one of the few bands still making music that actually played at the 1969 Woodstock music festival. In 1997, in honor of all their achievements during 30-plus years of making music, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Since then, the band has continued to record and tour. In 1999, CSN released their album “Looking Forward” with Neil Young, and is currently on a nationwide “2k1” tour.

The bottom line is this: Crosby, Stills, and Nash are a great band, but don’t go to see them in concert now. If you really want to experience their music, go buy their albums.