Going to see Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Joni Mitchell at the Greek Theatre was like coming home after you've been gone for a long time. The night, slightly chilled and damp, and the Greek Theatre's six thousand or so seats were all filled. The crowd, outfitted in suede vests, cowboy hats and handmade garments of all colors, shapes and fabrics, was not quite what one would expect there. The Greek Theatre is used to the much blander Henry Mancini type audiences in pastel colored, drip-dry attire and salt and pepper hair. Picnic baskets were plentiful this night, not containing chicken and lemonade, but, I expect, filled with specially baked brownies and Red Mountain wine. This cowhide crowd had converged on the majestic outdoor theatre nestled within Griffith Park's greenery, to hear their music.
Joni Mitchell began the entertainment emerging on stage in a paisley gown designed by OLA somebody - who was mentioned in the printed program but whose last name I've forgotten now. In a studied and controlled soprano, she did a sprinkling of self composed songs accompanying herself on guitar and piano. Included were things that everybody knows like "Both Sides Now," "Chelsea Morning" and "Michael From Mountains."
With the combination of thoughtful lyrics and melodies, Joni Mitchell's compositions on the most part are good. However, I much prefer her writing abilities to her as a performer, and frankly, I'd rather hear Judy Collins singing her songs. As much as I came there really wanting to love her, I was squirmish during her whole performance. Her voice was disturbing to me - too high, too strained, too harsh. But, more than that, I couldn't help thinking that the sickening sweetness and innocence she projected was studied and not really HER but merely a part of her act. Thank God she didn't come back for a second encore...If she had, I probably would have dropped to my knees and crossed myself.
After a brief intermission, Crosby, Stills and Nash came on. I loved them immediately. WELCOMED RELIEF. I COULD RELAX. Graham Nash chatted constantly about everything from the full moon hanging above us to the guys in the cheap seats. He even stopped to make a pot of tea. LOVELY. I slumped deep into my chair and watched the three enjoying themselves. There were the usual comments about the people who occupied the surrounding tree branches and Mayor Yorty. And...DAVID CROSBY...David Crosby has the greatest face I've ever seen in a while resembling Bert Lahr as the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz. Honest. Steve Stills was the most serious one in the group and Neil Young was the quietest member.
For the first twenty minutes the three (Crosby, Stills and Nash) alternated on acoustic guitars doing solos backed by impeccable harmonies. Highlights were Stills doing "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" and Crosby and Nash harmonizing on "Guinnevere" and "Lady of the Islands [sic]." After the trio played, harmonized and joked some more, Neil Young was introduced and did "I've Loved Her So Long" after which he joined the others in a few more songs.
Continuing the show, a back curtain was then drawn to reveal what looked like the basement of Wallich's Music City. Guitars, amps, drums, etc., were all brought forward on a moving platform. Oh - SHOW BIZ! And, as if four names weren't enough, two more were added to the group which already sounds like a Beverly Hills accounting firm. Dallas Taylor took over on drums and Greg Reeves, a former Motown musician, picked up on bass guitar. With Stills and Young alternating on the organ, they did another forty minutes of some great electrical sounds including songs like "Sea of Madness" and "Bluebird Revisited." Each is a fine and versatile musician, writer and performer who is able to spotlight his own talents individually without taking away from the other members of the group.
At the conclusion of their set, Joni Mitchell came back on stage to join the now Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Taylor and Reeves in Dino Valente's "Get Together" which was followed by ten minutes of applause and shouts from the more than satisfied audience.
Well, the Greek Theatre staff can relax. The Dacron set will again sit in the seats rather than the aisles to watch Tom Jones and the Baja Marimba Band; kids will play hide and seek among the rows of hard wooden chairs; buses full of campers will carry on loading and unloading in front of the theater gates; and Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, etc., etc., have left. It was good.
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