Crosby, Stills And Nash @ The Palais
Even at the height of his crack cocaine addiction in the 1980s, David Crosby never missed a gig. So it wasn’t altogether surprising that, despite being unable to sing even a note due to what appeared to be a bad case of the flu, Crosby chose to take what Graham Nash described as “enough prescription medicine to knock out an elephant” and at least take to the stage to play guitar at tonight’s Crosby, Stills and Nash gig. Nash kindly offered the crowd the opportunity to seek a refund on account of Crosby’s restricted duties; if anyone took up the offer, it made negligible difference to the venue’s sold-out status.
Crosby’s absence on vocals caused the occasional amendment to the set-list – Almost Cut Your Hair and Guinevere were noticeable absences, while Suite: Judy Blue Eyes couldn’t be attempted without a full three-part harmony – yet, in the end, Nash and Stephen Stills and the backing band (which included Crosby’s son James Raymond on keyboards) pulled off a remarkably consistent and satisfying gig.
Nash remains the notional figurehead of the band, the platonic glue who’s managed to hold the periodically warring egos of Stills and Crosby together over the years. Nash has lost little of his political attitude over the last 40 years, with his attention shifting from Vietnam (Military Madness), environmental degradation and socio-economic disequilibrium to modern day tabloid causes including Bradley Manning (the alleged US army source of much of the Wikileaks material) and religious tolerance (In Your Name).
Notwithstanding the brilliant For What It’s Worth (featured tonight, along with another Buffalo Springfield track, Bluebird), Stephen Stills has always taken a more conservative political path, eschewing the headline political approach of his bandmates. Stills’ voice was a cut above the trio’s last Australian tour in 2007; his guitar playing is as razor sharp as ever, pulling out classic West Coast solos with almost as much power as the infamous CSN stadium tour of 1974.
With his vocal duties limited to a rasping apology mid-way through the first set, David Crosby loitered on the side of the stage, the weathered grandfather of the folk rock scene. The disappointment of not hearing Crosby taking the lead in Long Time Gone was made up by the irony of Stills paying tribute to his long time sparring partner, no doubt with tongue just inside the cheek.
Nash and Stills turned three-part harmonies of Marrakesh Express into an admirable two-part effort; special treats such as a cover of Bob Dylan’s Girl From The North Country and Stills’ Love The One You’re With made the night even more worthwhile. It would have been better with Crosby in full voice, but this was still a great night from a bunch of old folkies.
BY PATRICK EMERY
LOVED: Stills’ vocals.
HATED: The flu relegating Crosby to the sidelines.