Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in Washington, DC

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Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in Washington, DC

Postby maccastheman » Mon Aug 14, 2006 5:08 pm

I finally got to see Neil Young. (After waiting years and years) He was like a lightening bolt on stage. Definately one of the most passionate musicians I've ever seen live. His guitar solos were amazing, and his vocals were one of a kind.

I had mixed feelings about the new album. I still kind of do. (Not so much the message but the quality of the songs) But one thing's for certain: it's energized the heck out of Neil Young.

It was sort like seeing three shows: The Living With War Tour, CSN's Greatest Hits, and the Neil Young powerhouse tour.

The best part of the show for me was seeing Neil Young perform "Only Love Can Break Your Hear" with just him playing an upright piano and David Crosby and Graham Nash singing harmony vocals. Just amazing.

Neil's two other show-stoppers were "Ohio" and an incredible "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World" with Neil and Stephen Stills dueling it out on guitar. Some of the most memorable guitar playing I've ever seen live. Neil also played a great guitar solo during "Deja Vu."

As for CSN - Graham Nash was great. He is a highly underrated songwriter IMHO. "Our House' sounded note perfect, and one of his newer songs called "Milky Way Tonight" was pretty solid. In fact, of CSN, he's the only one that's displayed any great songwriting ability as of late. If you take out Graham's songs and Neil's songs from Looking Forward, you aren't left with much at all. "Teach Your Children" was good, but not spectacular. Just a stroll through one of the hits. Same for Stephen Stills' "Southern Cross."

Stills was great on guitar, but it was kind of sad seeing how overweight he has become. As good as his guitar playing was, it was almost funny watching an over-weight, balding hippie trying to "rock out." Same for David Crosby. I wish both of them would take better care of themselves. Neil, on the other hand, looked perfectly natural. Anyway, some of Stephen's better numbers live were "Carry On," "Treetop Flyer" (w/just Neil backing him up), his cover of the Booker T Jones song "Ole Man Trouble," and "For What It's Worth." His vocals sounded great on "Ole Man Trouble." Very soulful. And to see Neil and Stephen perform "For What It's Worth" together on stage was quite a treat.

David Crosby still sounded good. He was particularly good on "Guinnevere" with just Graham Nash backing him up on vocals. That reminded me of seeing Simon and Garfunkel perform an almost perfect version of "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme" a couple of years ago.

It was kind of interesting to see the "Freedom of Speech" tour just outside of Washington, DC. I strolled by the White House a few hours before the concert. Lots of folks were outside picketing in support of Lebanon and Palestine. It's great that they have the freedom to do so in America. It's unfortunate that many people living under totalitarian regimes don't have that freedom.

Now for the protest songs. After having listened to LWW a several times since its release, I've really grown to appreciate a couple of the songs, but much of the album just seems average to me. I wish Neil had spent a bit more time working on the songs. I know he wrote "Cinnamon Girl,' "Cowgirl in the Sand," and "Down By the River" all in one afternoon. I wish these songs were as good. A couple of them are great. "Roger and Out" and "The Restless Consumer" are two of the best songs he's written in the past decade. Before singing "Roger and Out" he said, "There are lots of different ways to return home from a war." "Flags of Freedom" is a descent rewrite of Dylan's "Chimes of Freedom" and it was a pretty good choice to open the concert with.

The title track and "Shock and Awe" seem mediocre to me, and they weren't any better live. Neither was "Families."

"Let's Impeach the President" has actually grown on me. Particularly the line "...and bend the facts to fit with their new stories Of why we had to send our men to war." Because that's exactly what's been happening since day one. I'm sure I'm not the only person that thought Iraq might have had WMDs after we were told that by Bush and Blair. Now Bush says he would have "probably" gone into Iraq regardless of whether they had them or not. I just wish that Bush had been honest about everything from the very start. The cover-up is always worse than the crime. Especially when you are dealing with human lives.

Neil performed the song with CSN behind a huge microphone like the over-sized equipment on the "Live Rust" tour.

The most moving protest song, however, was "Find the Cost of Freedom." They all four sang it acoutically with pictures of all of the fallen U.S. soldiers in Iraq behind them. Unfortunately freedom does come with a cost, and you always have to determine whether or not these wars are worth the "cost." I don't think this war in Iraq has been worth the cost at all. But most importantly, I don't' think it's advanced our freedom at all. It would be nice if it advanced somebody's freedom, but I'm afraid it hasn't even done that. Saddam was a brutal dictator, but the way things are going we'll be lucky if he isn't replaced by a fanatical religious leader or another dictator.

One of the greatest things about the concert is that there wasn't any preaching between songs or anything. They all let the songs speak for themselves.

The main thing I took away from the concert is that Neil Young is still one of the most relevant and energetic performers of his generation. CSN would have been mediocre at best without him. But he really provides a spark. I think his presence alone made the other three perform better. He's notoriously uneven, but when he's on he's on. This night he was on.
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Postby maccastheman » Mon Aug 14, 2006 7:36 pm

The Washington Post had a great review:

Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young
by Chris Klimek, Washington Post
August 14, 2006
Though his name comes last in the sequence of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Neil Young was the fulcrum of the group's show at Nissan Pavilion on Saturday night, providing the star power, the freshest material -- and the controversy.
Though the set list included political tropes spanning four decades, it was Young's new song, "Let's Impeach the President," that sent some patrons heading toward the exits. Were their red-state sensibilities offended, or was it simply that the song came late in a three-hour show and certainly felt like the climax (though the band had another half-hour to play)? Hard to say. After all, the gig had been as much an antiwar rally as a concert from its opening moments, and the audience's rapturous response to "Wooden Ships," "Military Madness" and "Almost Cut My Hair" appeared to be prompted as much by the sentiments as by the actual performances -- which, by the way, deserved the ovations they got.
Young's current "Living With War" protest disc accounted for a quarter of the material spread over two long sets, with new songs such as "Families" accompanied by a CNN-parody video presentation of uncensored combat footage and U.S. casualty counts in Iraq.
But the show gave more or less equal time to the other three songwriters, who graciously introduced one another's songs, and found some of its finest moments in performances of lesser-known ones, with Stephen Stills's "Treetop Flyer" a particular highlight. Still, "Impeach" was the only song in a set of three dozen to have its lyrics projected on the video screens, and any patrons who walked out during the lines "What if al-Qaeda blew up the levees? / Would New Orleans have been safer that way?" missed powerful renditions of "Ohio," "What Are Their Names" and an incendiary four-guitar meltdown of "Rockin' in the Free World." Chalk it up to the prescience of their authors or the folly of our leaders, but this material is still topical, and this band of sixty-somethings still rocks.
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Postby Paperback Writer » Mon Aug 14, 2006 7:53 pm

Beautiful! Great reviews! MTM!

I agree with all you wrote, for the most part, and that's based on seeing them 4 years ago.
Many of the same highlights were present, though, I was fortunate to see Stephen Stills on a peak-performance night when the other band members all stated that to the audiance. When he and Neil go mano-mano - whew! His Sweet Judy Blue Eyes was stunning in it's intensity and glowing power. I think he was "jazzed-up" because his ( semi-strange bed-fellows here) buddy John McCain was there and Steve introduced him.

David and Graham were excellent and Neil - well your description sums it up very well.

"Old Man" - "Carry On" - "Deja Vu" and Military Madness were other highlights.

Best non-Macca /Grateful Dead show - I have ever seen! :cheers
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One sweet dream came true today!"
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Postby maccastheman » Mon Aug 14, 2006 8:40 pm

Thanks, PW.

That's interesting about Stills and McCain. I would have never guessed that. I do respect the fact that he's an independent thinker.

You know the other three were great, but I was so psyched to see Neil. I agree with you about Stephen and Neil together. I think that's why Neil has done these tours with CSN lately. It brings out the best in him as well. Plus on this one the three of them fill in quite well for the choir on LWW.

I wanted to see them on the CSNY2K tour, but it just didn't work out. After Neil's aneurysm last year I thought I better see him while I still had the chance. What's amazing is that he's come back so strong - with even more purpose and intensity. This has been quite a year for him - the incredible Johnathan Demme movie and now the LWW album and tour.

And I'm glad I got to see him with CSN. Stephen also played some of the best guitar solos I've ever seen. To see the two of them battling it out all night was such a treat. Plus these guys have to be the ultimate supergroup. They have all written such great songs through the years. There does seem to be a decline in recent years regarding CSN's newly written material, but I'm glad Neil Young keeps them fresh on our minds through live perfomances. And like I said before, Graham still has lots of great songs in him. He's a great melodic songwriter in the McCartney tradition that I feel is vastly under-rated. Maybe this tour will energize Stills and Crosby to write some new classics as well. They've already given us so many. 8)
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Postby Paperback Writer » Mon Aug 14, 2006 9:03 pm

Thanks, actually - another semi-surprise here - Stills has a Southern Military School background to him. I am sure he and McCain connected on that and the McCain who was so open-minded and candid before ......well I'll skip the politics on this one.

I read where McCain admired Stills' "Find the Cost of Freedom" as so many Viet-Nam vets did, as well.

Probably mutual friends with Jack Daniels, as well. :lol:
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Postby maccastheman » Tue Aug 15, 2006 7:29 pm

I've been listening to LWW most of the day, and I take back what I said about "Shock and Awe." Espeically the line, "Our chief was landing on the deck...the sun was setting for a golden photo op."

I think the choir and the trumphet make many of the songs sound the same on the album, but if you dig deeper there's some great stuff on this record. I do think it grows on you... (Unless you are closed minded and completely turned off by the message)

The most powerful ones live were definitely "The Restless Consumer" and "Let's Impeach the President." And like I said before, "Flags of Freedom" was a great opener.

Neil's career is so full of peaks and valleys. I think during the early '90s he had quite a resurgence. (Especially following the three great albums Freedom, Ragged Glory, and Harvest Moon.) After the great Sleeps With Angels he kind of fell a little bit, but I think his past two or three records have restored his relevancy.
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Postby theDingle » Tue Aug 15, 2006 10:12 pm

Great reviews mtm. I love those guys in spite of the fact that as a group they became greatly sporadic. I think I'm gonna have to catch them live at some point.

Ever seen them in the Big Sur Folk Festival '69 documentary? I'm not sure if it ever made it to video but I remember seeing it on late night weekend TV back in the day. It was sort of funny. Stills was stoned and tried to start a fight with someone in the audience, he later apologized, lol.

Neil has done some incredible stuff in the last 7-8 years, some songs that are as good as anything he's ever done, but I don't think I'm going to bother with the War CD. I did get Prairie Wind, and to me it was almost good, but really mediocre for the most part. You're right though, he's up and down, I'm certain he'll yet put out something out down the road that will smoke me. 8)
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Postby maccastheman » Thu Aug 17, 2006 10:20 pm

I know what you mean about Prairie Wind. I saw the concert film Heart of Gold before I bought the album. He plays almost every song on the album in that concert. When I heard the songs live (on the film), I thought they were great. When I listened to the record, it didn't sound as good. I think the record is too darn slick! It needs a little more of an edge or something.

I've never seen the Bug Sur Folk Festival Documentary. I'll have to check it out.
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