GREEK THEATRE, LOS ANGELES - "Hey, you with the spotlight - not yet!"
Those were the first words uttered by Stephen Stills, of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, directly before the group's first major appearance before a live audience, at L.A.'s Greek Theatre last week. Stills' phrase, happily enough, was never further from the truth. This is a group that should be in the entertainment spotlight...to stay.
C, S, N & Y proved themselves to be a supergroup in almost every sense of the word. The single quality they lack was the over-pretention and ego-infested attitudes that generally heralds a new "super" accumulation of musicians.
They opened their set performing solely with acoustic guitars - no other instruments and no overbearing amplifiers. As the songs unfolded (primarily from their first Atco LP, although one of the highlights was their version of the Beatles' "Blackbird), C, S, N & Y proved themselves to be more a co-op than what one normally envisions as a group. Different numbers spotlighted different members; some with just Crosby and Stills, others with Crosby and Nash and one with just Stills. As one of them spotlighted, the others either provided soft accompanyment (instrumentally and in scat harmonies) or left the stage.
Then Neil Young, the newest member of the group jokingly referred to as "the world's most lyrical law firm" (Nash, with tongue-in-cheek, preferred to call it "Music From Big Ego"), emerged and added his steady guitar and strong vocals. It was a perfect complement to the rich harmonies of the rest of the group.
The band switched to electric instrumentation next (adding bassist Greg Reeves and drummer Dallas Taylor) and performed some frenzied renditions of other cuts from the album along with some somewhat unspectacular new material. Throughout the set, there were no long solos or unnecessarily-drawn out instrumental passages; it was the kind of "one for all, all for one" spirit that's lacking in so many of today's groups.
The set ended with Joni Mitchell, who opened the show with an hour to herself, returning to join C, S, N & Y in a highly revivalistic version of Dino Valente's "Let's Get Together," immediately getting the entire crowd (much younger, incidentally, than the usual Greek Theatre audience) into a moving sing-along.
Miss Mitchell's set was as enthrallingly beautiful as one would have expected from listening to her recordings. Accompanying herself on guitar and, later, piano, she spun a beautiful and poignant lyrical web; from her show-stopping acappella [sic] on "The Fiddle and the Drum" to rousing renditions of her twin hits "Both Sides Now" and "Chelsea Morning."
It was, all-in-all, one of the most listenably-entertaining concerts presented locally in quite some time.<
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