Cream fans might curdle but Crosby Stills & Nash may very well be rock’s greatest supergroup. Unlike Cream, whose small number of 2005 reunion shows in London and New York reflected the band’s brief, fiery rise and fall, Crosby Stills & Nash have been (mostly) carrying on the Woodstock spirit for decades – with a few mud baths and traffic jams along the way. In fact, despite their celebrated rifts, they’ve maintained enough harmony to perform together in 38 of the last 43 years. So when the “Marrakesh Express” rolls into town, expectations tend to run high, as does the crowd.
On this night, the scrapbook was a mixed bag of old and new, sweet and sour, all resonating through the haze of fog machines and memories. Graham Nash suggested the smoky stage brought to mind a typical night at Crosby’s late ’60s LA home. Crosby joked halfheartedly about a few failed solo projects and surplus CDs he’d brought along to sell in the lobby. And Stills reminisced, not about Woodstock, but about Buffalo Springfield.
The band opened fire like a shot in the dark, banging through no frills takes of “Carry On,” “Marrakesh Express” and “Long Time Gone.” But both the band and audience were clearly still warming up. A meditative vibe permeated the first half set, up to and including “Déjà Vu,” before awakening to the lilting sound of Stills’ “Bluebird” leading into intermission.
The second set continued quietly with a fragile and modest version of “Helplessly Hoping” pulling fans right back in. Stills’ weathered vocals were an equally good fit on Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country,” as the singer recalled the many times the song had comforted him when he sang it alone with his guitar long ago. After a bit of lull, the set and the crowd awoke with an unexpected and rousing version of “Chicago” – replacing the previous show’s thematic final lap intro, “Just a Song Before I Go.” Maybe it was the “we can change the world” chorus that sparked the crowd but the final four tunes, “Our House,” “For What It’s Worth,” Love the One You’re With” and the encore, “Teach Your Children,” really delivered a whiff of the magic. I know I smelled something in the air.
– Derek Meade