Oct. 2, 2012 — Cindie called this “the concert of a lifetime” back in May when she heard her son Tyson (of KSUE fame) and his roommate Pat (the former Times staffer) had bought us tickets to see last week’s Crosby, Stills and Nash (CSN) in Reno to celebrate Mother’s Day and my birthday.
Although the concert was months away, I scribbled CSN on my calendar at work. I’ve always enjoyed the superstar band’s music, but they don’t mean as much to me as they do to Cindie.
Maybe it’s because I’m actually old enough to remember David Crosby when he played with the Byrds, Stephen Stills when he rocked Buffalo Springfield with Neil Young and Graham Nash during his Hollies days.
Check this out. Cindie says she wouldn’t even know who the Hollies were if it wasn’t for me and my collection of British Invasion music. Maybe it’s because I saw Buffalo Springfield at Fresno’s Rainbow Ballroom in 1967 and heard Richie Furay (later of Poco fame) pounding out the rhythm on this big, red Gibson 335 12-string while Stills and Young traded leads back and forth on “Bluebird” for 15 or 20 minutes. Rock and roll heaven.
Some have said CSN is nearly as influential and important as the Beatles in terms of their cultural and musical influence — a stretch maybe, but CSN (and Young) was big, big, big back in the day. Their music and songwriting resonates every time someone picks and sings and someone else adds on a little harmony. One cannot escape their contribution to the scene.
So in the days coming into the show, I nosed around on the Internet a little to check out some concert reviews. A few seemed to be written by writers too young to remember the late 1960s when CSN rose to fame (playing their first real concert at Woodstock). One even wrote about the seeming contradiction and silliness of rich and famous millionaire rock stars in their 70s singing about something as out of vogue these days as “social issues” — as if everyone knows such a perspective is totally naïve, absolutely impractical and just plain impossible to even consider in these conservative times. But honestly, somebody will have to tell me how singing about peace and love, caring and sharing and wanting a better world for us all can be so bad. To this critic, CSN just relates a bunch of nostalgic old ideas from a thankfully long-gone era. Boy, some people must live in a sad and darkened world, indeed.
Stills proved he still has the prowess that earned him a reputation as a legendary guitar slinger although his voice seemed to fail him a little bit at times Saturday night.
Balding Crosby, with a long, long, white mane hanging around his shoulders, looked like some kind of groovy guru or psychedelic shaman as he worked his way through a variety of 12-string guitars in open tunings that offered the spacy, stoned out vibe that forms the basis of many of his songs. His was the strongest voice in the band Saturday night despite his many health issues and his long history of drug and alcohol abuse. Really, he looked and sounded great.
Of course, Nash’s harmonies rose a bit higher than any other human being can possibly sing, and he set that signature high-end on top of nearly every number.
It was really fun to hear many of those old songs performed by the writers and singers who made them. A treat I’ll never forget.
A young teenager whose parents had brought him to the show sat right in front of me and clearly showed his displeasure at being surrounded by baby boomers and being forced to listen to this music.
During the intermission I leaned forward and told him, “You know, kiddo, someday when you’re older you’re going to look back on this evening and say with pride, ‘Yeah, my mom and dad took me to see Crosby, Stills and Nash when I was a kid.’”
“What makes you say that?” he asked.
“Because as long as there’s rock and roll music, they’ll talk about these guys,” I said. “They just don’t get any bigger or any better than this.”
He stared at me for long moment, and then just threw his head back into his hands and sobbed some more.
Funny thing is, I know I’m right. Someday he will, too.
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