Stephen Stills @ New York Society For Ethical Culture

Stephen Stills (Glyn Emmerson)NEW YORK, NY—It was a night of ripping guitars and nighttime lullabies by Stephen Stills, as the mischievous man in the middle of the CSN franchise took on the spotlight offering up the hits and some misses from his illustrious 40-plus year career.

He mixed it up, playing the obvious as well as some obscure numbers from his solo days and his days with the ’70s outfit Manassas. The focus however, was on his stellar chops as a guitarist that shred to the Blues Magoos with a style that was rough and tumble one second, jazzy and sprightly the next.

Stills turned the ethereal settings at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, which is actually a church, into a coffeehouse hootenanny as he told tales of his early days in the city with the between song banter of a troubadour schooled on the streets of ’60s Greenwich Village. He also went through guitars faster than a pimpled teen suffering from ADD.

The varied tonalities and open chord tunings of all the guitars played allowed maestro Stills to pick, tweak and pluck at the history of pop music as he took on folk rock, singer- songwriter ’70s fare, and the blues, twinkled ever so slightly with doses of psychedelia. Stills morphed all into a mix that was heavenly at the church on 64th St. and Central Park West.

On “Daylight Again/Find The Cost Of Freedom” the crowd joined in on the coda that originally appeared on CSNY’s 4 Way Street for the chorus that swooped to the rafters and back to the altar with father Stills at the pulpit closing down the hymnal. Originally written for the Vietnam War, the song has taken on a third life in the era of Bush squared.

“Change Partners,” “Johnny’s Garden” and “Helplessly Hoping” from the first CSN album was light fodder to the cosmic funk of “Isn’t It About Time” from the 1973 Manassas album Down From The Road. On one tune, Stills vamped on the keyboards Steve Winwood style, laying down some soulful gospel as his backup band laid down the solid rhythms anchored by drummer/songwriter extraordinaire Joe Vitale, better known for his wicked playing on all those great Joe Walsh records.

Stills howled on Fender Strat for Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” then on “Woodstock.” He closed with the hippie anthem to free love “Love The One You’re With” and a deliciously funky “Dark Star” that closed the curtain on an outstanding night of music from the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.

Photo Credit: Glyn Emmerson