Unlike, I suspect, a good number of you reading this review this morning, I had never seen Crosby, Stills, Nash OR Young live in concert before ... in any context or configuration there of. (I had the chance to see them back in 1970 on what would ultimately become the Four Way Street tour but took a pass. And seeing them perform "their second gig" 35 times in the film "Woodstock" doesn't really count.)
It's not that I didn't enjoy their music ... for the most part, I did. It was more a case of being able to only relate to the music of Graham Nash ... HE was the one I connected to musically ... and I just never felt up to spending a couple of hours with the other three. As such, I've got to tell you that it was a REAL treat to see him perform in a solo setting last night at The Arcada Theatre. (As Graham himself described it on stage, "Playing in a setting like this, I don't have to do any of Crosby's songs ... or any of Stephen's songs ... or any of Neil's songs ... instead I can play whatever the fuck I want.")
And that he did. In what can only be best described as a "career retrospective", Nash took us through his amazing catalog of music, performing two one-hour sets, accompanied by guitarist (and harmonizing vocalist) Shane Fontayne. Lest any of you out there think for even a moment that this stripped down duo couldn't possibly pay fitting tribute to this music, let me assure you that together they presented a formidable showcase on stage. Fontayne is a seasoned veteran, having performed lead guitar duties for the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Sting and, more recently Crosby, Stills and Nash, filling in all the gaps to perfection. (Graham told us during the show that he and Shane spent some time together after the last CSN Tour wrapped up and wrote twenty brand new songs ... then booked studio time and recorded them all in eight days ... so we can all look forward to a brand new Graham Nash solo album in the not-so-distant future.)
They kicked off the show with a couple of Hollies tunes ... "Bus Stop" and "King Midas In Reverse" ... the only visits of the evening with Graham's earliest past success. The rest of the evening was sprinkled with offerings from Nash's solo works, some of the new material and the bulk of his contributions to the success of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
Graham Nash is an excellent story-teller and entertained us throughout the evening with little anecdotes regarding some of his best-known and best-loved music:
Shopping with Joni Mitchell in Los Angeles where she spotted a beautiful vase in the window of a small shop and just HAD to have it. And then, upon returning home, in the most innocent of conversations, Graham suggesting: "I'll light the fire while you place the flowers in the vase that you bought today."
Observing that while putting together a set like the one he performed Tuesday night just how much GREAT music they had accomplished over such a short period of time ... and how much MORE great music there might have been had they not all been "fucked up so much of the time" ... leading directly into the big CSN Hit "Wasted On The Way".
Telling of the time CSNY were flying out of a Canadian airport and Crosby, Stills and Young all made it through security without a hitch ... yet Graham was the one who was stopped and taken aside by the "Immigration Man".
Talking about spending time with a drug dealer in Miami, killing time before he had to catch a flight back to California, only to be challenged "You're supposed to be this great songwriter ... I'll bet you can't write a song right now before you go" ... only to create "Just a song before I go ... to whom it may concern" ... and several other very moving behind-the-scenes looks into his whole creative process. (Truth be told nearly ALL of Graham's stories, entertaining as they may be, involved a significant amount of drug use ... clearly a HUGE part of his life throughout the years. He has a new autobiography out called "Wild Tales" ... also the title of one of his solo albums ... which I can't wait to read, knowing full well that throughout every chapter I will be constantly asking myself "How can he possibly remember ANY of this if he was THAT fucked up at the time?!?!?" Regardless, Frannie bought an autographed copy ... and, having now personally experiencing just what an entertaining story teller he really is, I can't wait to read it!)
In addition to the songs previously mentioned, Graham (who was in EXCELLENT voice throughout the night, by the way) also performed his classics "Chicago", "Simple Man", "Military Madness", "I Used To Be A King", "Marrakesh Express" and, as an encore, The Beatles' "Blackbird" (with Shane Fontayne taking the lead vocal and guitar part) and "Teach Your Children", which inspired a full-house, PACKED house sing-along.
All in all, two hours of musical magic with a musical legend. Two-time Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Inductee Graham Nash put on the perfect show Tuesday Night and I am SO glad that we had the chance to see it.
There were only nine stops booked on the US leg of this tour ... a short jaunt to be sure ... and one of them happened to be The Arcada Theatre ... yet another HUGE feather in the cap of Ron Onesti, who is the guy making things happen here in Chicago. (A few other shows have since been added, most of which have quickly sold out. More info on Graham's website: http://www.grahamnash.com/tour)
I cannot help but beam with pride as great artists like Graham Nash and, a couple of nights earlier, Tony Orlando, not only grace the stage of The Arcada Theatre but publicly rave about what a beautiful theater it truly is ... and how happy they are for having the chance to perform here. SO many great shows coming up ... and new ones being added all the time. Be sure to check The Arcada Website and pick up tickets from a few of your favorites!