Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Crosby, Stills & Nash - Edinburgh Castle Esplanade 11 July 2009

It's always a leap in the dark going to see legends forty-odd years after they became legendary. Will they still have the magic? Or will they just go through the motions, like old animals in a zoo? Davey Graham, for example, was beyond question a legend, and I’d have gone to see him brushing his teeth just on the off-chance of a glimpse of what he once was. However, in the event he was very competent and not remotely magical: not falling apart, but not especially together.

At the start of Saturday's Crosby, Stills & Nash gig we wondered whether the same might apply to them. They came on stage, just the three of them, and launched into "Helplessly Hoping". Unfortunately the vocals were helplessly out of tune, which is bad news for a song so reliant on close harmony. "You Don’t Have To Cry" was much the same, possibly even worse, and Hilary and I were wondering whether someone's foldback wasn't working. We decided it was Stills who was the main culprit, though he seemed to throw the others off sometimes as well. Then Graham Nash announced that they were going to "take some risks", and do things we’d never heard them sing before. This served to introduce a string of covers, during which the tuning shifted from excruciating to merely sometimes dodgy (though the last cover, "Girl Of The North Country", hit a new low on one verse). Funnily enough, it seemed to settle them, or maybe Stills sorted out his problem, because "Guinevere", which came next, was much better. Maybe it was just that Stills didn’t sing so much on it, as Crosby and Nash do most of that one. They continued to improve, without ever sounding totally secure as a threesome, up to the interval. Hilary commented that if she hadn’t known they'd have the full band with them and would be rocking out more in the second half, she might have simply gone home. I couldn’t really argue with that. Score for the first half maybe 5/10.

In the second half they did indeed have the full band, and did indeed rock out. They did three Buffalo Springfield numbers, one of which opened the second half. I recognised it but can’t for the life of me remember its title. Maybe Google will bring inspiration. (It did - see setlist below.) Otherwise it was all the old favourites. Dave Crosby announced that the band members had well-defined roles: Steve Stills wrote great rock and roll, Graham Nash wrote marvellous anthemic songs that were sung around the world, ane he (Crosby) wrote the weird shit. "Like this", he suggested, starting up the intro to "Déjà Vu". The second half in general went better than the first, almost certainly because Steve Stills sang less and played guitar more (and very well, having switched from his semi-acoustic to a Stratocaster). He couldn’t really avoid singing on their final number, "For What It’s Worth", and he wasn't great, but at least he wasn't trying to harmonise so it really didn’t matter. When they came back for an encore, I was running through which of the really well-known ones (not by Neil Young) they hadn’t done, and correctly predicted "Wooden Ships" and "Teach Your Children". And miracle of miracles, whether because Stills had an easier line, or because he just made a huge effort, the latter went beautifully and brought the evening (and, I gather, their tour) to a joyful close. It had been chilly (cue much Nash/Crosby banter about soft Californians v. hardy Northerners) but fine and dry, and Edinburgh Castle had provided a magnificent backdrop, as you can see.


Helplessly Hoping
You Don’t Have To Cry
Ruby Tuesday
You Can Close Your Eyes
Reason To Believe
Girl Of The North Country
Dream For Him
In Your Name
Our House
Southern Cross
Rock and Roll Woman
Marrakesh Express
Long Time Gone
Deja Vu
Almost Cut My Hair
For What It's Worth
Wooden Ships
Teach Your Children

P.S. As far as legendary status is concerned, perhaps the best demonstration of the difference between greatness and genius is that in spite of "Teach Your Children", "Cathedral" and the rest, by far the best song of the evening was "Ruby Tuesday". Mick and Keith at the top of their game, Mozarts in an ocean of Salieris.


At 16 July, 2009 00:43, Blogger Mart The Tart said...

I was there, it was a fantastic evening but SO COLD ( I sypathize with Crosby). The last 3 times I've seen Stephen he has sung like that. It started on the "Live It Up" (1990) album and has progessively got worse over the years. I guess it's years of Cocaine and Drink abuse through the 70's and 80's.
Stills still can handle the guitar effortlessly. He certainly is one of the best guitar players.
Your missing Buffalo Springfield song was "Bluebird"
Stephen and Neil must be reminiscing a lot. I caught Neil Young at Aberdeen on 24 June 2009 and he threw "On The Way Home" into his set (an obsuce Springfield song) good for me as I'm a big Springfield fan.

At 01 August, 2009 00:36, Blogger Rob said...

Thanks for filling in the gap, and glad you enjoyed it. I was severely underclad for how the weather turned out., but it was worth it.

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