MANHATTAN, NY—David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash (CSN) combined forces for the last of a three-night stand at the Beacon as “they let their freak flag fly” and then some, taking on their storied catalog that has aged like fine wine.
They had a busy week in town appearing at the Paley Center For Media webcast as well as The Tonight Show, where they backed up Jimmy Fallon’s impersonation of Neil Young on Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.” It was an incredibly laughable testament to CSN&Y’s enduring legacy that also coincided with the recent release, 1974, that documents the legendary tour of that year. At the Fallon show, CSN beamed as they backed up “Neil” on harmonies and ended it with a coda of C-S-N-Y to the tune of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”
At the Beacon, they fired from the hip with enough crackling guitars, golden harmonies and self-righteous thunder to keep things from getting too comfy. Rock and roll never forgets, yes, indeed. Their sweetly confined vocals have a hardened edge to them now but still sound glorious nonetheless. The guitars rocked and rumbled throughout the hall as Crosby and Nash’s acoustified strumming rounded out the hard-edged stubble of Stills’ fiery attacks.
Flanked by a stellar unit of sidemen including guitarist Shane Fontayne and keyboardist James Raymond from the recent Crosby/Nash tour and both Crosby and Nash’s solo tours that made their way to the City Winery, they breathed life into a setlist that went from the familiar to some newer gems. The backup musicians’ steady and organic playing provided the rhythmic pocket to CSN’s sing out to the harmonic muse that healed a generation.
The evening flew from the fist wavers of “Military Madness” and “Long Time Gone” to the raucous feedback of Stills’ bluesy bends on “Don’t Want Lies” from his recent solo album, to Crosby’s jazzy meanderings on “Déjà Vu,” to Nash’s sing-alongs on “Our House” and back to the belly of the beast that lies at the heart of CSN’s cannon, their political stuff.
Still waving that proverbial middle finger at the man, David Crosby stood his ground like stoneyed sage in his flowing white hair, walrus ‘stache and lovingly snide grin he’s been pissing people off with for decades as he introduced “Lay Me Down,” adding, “I know we’re supposed to lay over and die, but I say a hearty fuck you to death.”
The rest of the band paced the night like a marathon runner as they interspersed their bedtime lullabies with the politically charged ones that kept everyone in the mixed crowd happy and content, unlike the 2007 CSN&Y reunion tour that had some patrons bolting out the doors in response to Young’s outspoken critique of the Bush administration’s wartime policies.
Opening with “Carry On” from the Déjà Vu album, they firmly set the tone. Crosby played a new one, “Radio,” from his recent album, Croz, that went down like a shot at redemption, while Stills’ “Bluebird” from his Buffalo Springfield days meandered, then bounced on back to a grand finale of twisted psychedelia. Nash’s “Cathedral” started out slowly with a rolling piano, then transcended into a beautifully moving, mystical piece that climaxed with a shout out to the ages.
“Why is it that the guys with the biggest TV budget should get the keys to the castle? They’ve all bought out and paid the politicians who are all pond scum, really,” Crosby added before the a capella “What Are Their Names” that went down like an indictment to the peeps that are supposed to serve us! “Guinevere” was next, and they played it perfectly. “Teach Your Children” was the closer that had the house all singing on time and in key and ending yet another stoney evening.