NEW YORK, NY—”We’ve only got four minutes, so let’s do this for all the underpaid and underappreciated teachers,” declared Graham Nash for the final encore of the Crosby/Nash performance of “Teach Your Children” at Town Hall that put a cap on an extraordinary 29 song performance. This time around Stephen Stills and Neil Young were out of the picture leaving the other two from CSN&Y to fan the flame of an incredible musical legacy that they pulled through with style, awesome musical chops and sardonic wit that matched their political rhetoric that dates back to the late sixties.
They played off each other like loving brothers in arms, content, yet intent on stoking the flames of the CSN&Y cannon. With Stills noticeably absent, the set list gorged itself on the nuances of Crosby’s hushed angelic tones and Nash’s poppier sentiments that often collided with Still’s bluesy rages and Young’s ragged glory. There’s was a textured counter to the four-headed behemoths that let the tunes wind and meander through the depths of folk, rock and jazz with the help of an extraordinary band made up of players from Steely Dan, David Gilmour’s band and even Crosby’s son, James Raymond, on keyboards.
Walrus mustached and wearing a perpetual grin on his face, David Crosby played the heavy. Graham Nash, barefooted and sipping wine onstage was the minstrel in the galley to Crosby’s sarcastic wit that he played off with the mischievous wink of a wing man. Combining harmonies, guitars and keyboards, the duo took on their catalog, breathing life into the dusty relics. Opening with “8 Miles High” from Crosby’s first band, the Byrds, they set the tone for the night’s surprises. The jangling signature Roger McGuinn riff was played magnificently by guitarist Dean Parks as Crosby and Nash beamed nearby holding their Fender strats.
Parks held Stills’ guitar throne gracefully as a he injected finesse and an encyclopedic grab-bag of licks to Crosby and Nash’s straight ahead strumming and fingerpicking. The rest of the band colored the mix that weaved, rattled and roared in its three hour marathon show.
For the first set they played “I Used To Be A King” (written for Joni Mitchell), the breezy autobiographical “Wasted On The Way” before they got down to some serious business of “Long Time Gone,” Crosby’s opus to, “Speak out against the madness.” On “Lay Me Down” the duo let the harmonies ring to the rafters as they stood onstage, motionless without instruments like choirboys at a recital to the bands acoustified accompaniment. “To The Last Whale,” from 1975’s Wind On The Water album, started off accapella, then meandered through a hypnotizing piano break, then rallied to the cries of whales through the coda. “Déjà Vu” ended the second set with its twisted offbeat rhythms as each member of the band played a solo that ended with the refrain, “We have all been here before.”
Graham Nash and James Raymond started the second set with a new one about “Almost Gone,” in tribute to Bradley Manning, the Army private charged with leaking government secrets to WikiLeaks that set off the political undertones of the night’s second set. The stark majesty of “Guinevere” from the first CSN album was gorgeous. For “What Are Their Names,” from the first Crosby solo album, they both stood tall as soldiers of song and sand it unaccompanied. “Military Madness” addressed the war machine. Crosby introduced “Our House” as a song that 35 percent of the women from 1969 to 1973 lost their virginity to, adding some comic relief to the night.
“Almost Cut My Hair” and the apocalyptical “Wooden Ships” ended the regular sets as the band let it rip, quietly at first then letting loose jagged riffs and harmonies that soared then settled back to the womb completing the circle of song and an incredible night of music from Crosby and Nash.