Graham Nash

The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center / Great Barrington, MA

Graham nashGraham Nash is clearly comfortable around his listeners, given that he treats venues like private living room jams. Before a sold-out crowd at this noted Berkshires hall, the white-haired legend strolled onto a candle-strewn stage clad in denim, all the while noticeably barefoot, accompanied by his musical mate Shane Fontayne on guitars (acoustic and electric).

His speaking voice has grown grizzled but the clear tenor that delighted all from the Hollies to CSN remains very much intact. And at this show we heard it all: Hollies hits, CSN staples, solo stand-outs all presented alongside Nash’s vivid memories. At the same time, Fontayne had the edge; there were numerous times when Nash let his voice and body be carried away by the intensity of the latter’s distinctive musical style.

The whole two-hour show (including an intermission) could have served as an audio book for Nash’s memoir, Wild Tales. It certainly helped that I spent a portion of my vacation reading the book prior to seeing this show, given that the songs seemed to have more life than I expected. And boy, were they great to hear. Book-ended by “Bus Stop” and “Teach Your Children,” Nash’s show made sure to include all the major crowd-pleasers, plus a couple of tunes from his upcoming solo album. “Immigration Man,” “Chicago,” and “Military Madness” had political fire, while “Just a Song Before I Go,” “Marrakesh Express,” “Wasted on the Way,” and “Our House” had lush beauty.

Yet the best songs of the night were the ones Nash sang behind a keyboard, bathed in dim light. These included the “To The Last Whale” suite, replete with David Crosby’s overdubbed chorale “Critical Mass” effects, and the hauntingly beautiful “Cathedral.” Nash is not one for pomp and flash. Rather his style is sweet to the core, even when stripped of his vocal counterparts, Crosby and Stephen Stills. Nash made the right call in plugging his book before the first intermission as he knows he can convey a beautiful story through song. This show fortunately contained a whole lot of them.

—Ira Kantor

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