C S N Y
Tour Of America
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Chad Ferris' review
Brian Sleeman's road-tripping review
(more reviews coming)
The show details.
A Grand Rapids Press review.
I am now back at work after last night's late drive home from the show... The show was very good. I would say it ran right about 3 hours, though this one again had the shorter setlist of around 25 songs or so. No new or different tunes than what we have seen so far.
Neil looked good. He was pretty lean and the hair is really getting long! He sounded excellent. The band was very tight. Steve Potts is an excellent drummer. Neil played to/with him quite often throughout the evening.
The first set was great -- lots of fun interplay between everyone. I loved my first live version of Going Home. For some reason it sounded SOOOO much better in person. Deja Vu was a nice treat. Still's Feed The People is decent, though I thought he was a bit tough to understand. Vocally, he appeared strong at times, and other times I thought he sounded a bit ragged. I'll skip my commentary on the Nash tunes as I just don't like any of them (at least the ones we always get in concert)...
Neil's new You're My Girl was very cool. It did have a doo-wop kinda feel to it. I wonder what Amber thinks of it? Very touching lyrics. Almost Cut My Hair and Cinnamon Girl were pretty standard.
I thought the acoustic set was a bit lackluster. Neil nailed Old Man and everyone loved it! In my opinion, Neil just wasn't into the acoustic set. Highlights of that set for me where: Old Man, Carry Me and Dream For Him. I thought Harvest Moon was so-so. If I remember right, Neil left the stage after Dream For Him and didn't come back until the electric set. Stills had some nice picking on SJBE and I did enjoy that.
After the stretch, we got Let's Roll complete with cell phone. Very cool tune to hear live. Two Old Friends was excellent. And RITFW was awesome.
The venue was great, but I thought the crowd was pretty dull. I had excellent seats, the first couple rows of the $80 seats, right in front of Neil. I saw and said hello to Bob Dosineau who was in the first couple rows.
All in all it was a good show. I don't know if I enjoyed it more that CSNY2K or not. To me, it was worth the ticket alone to hear the 4 new Neil tunes. The CSN stuff was just decent to me. I did like Crosby's stuff however.
With that being said, I think we are all in for a treat with Are You Passionate?. Booker T and Steve Potts where great. For those of you waiting for something different from Neil, this will be it. Like it or not, I don't think any of us would have expected Neil to go down this path musically right now. I was sure that Toast was coming after the Euro tour, but where did this sound come from?
One more thing and I will shut up: It always seems to me that Neil tries to get some heated action with Stills, but Stills just doesn't go there. Perhaps that's why Neil turned to Potts so often. I do believe that Steve Potts loved it when Neil would jam to him, and it did seem to affect the way he played drums. At least that's how it looked to me...
Enjoy the rest of the tour everyone...
Chad aka No. 9
The only time I'd seen Neil previous was at Farm Aid last fall with the Horse, and with that short set and the knowledge of what was played in 2000 and in Detroit on 2/6 with CSNY, I was looking forward to more of Neil's own material. I'm just an average CSN fan, I suppose, as I know only a handful of their best known songs. Neil was the main reason for my being there.
The drive down from the U.P. took a few hours longer than I expected in the winter weather, but gave me plenty of time to replay the songs that'd been posted from the Detroit gig (thanks Bob!). It was nice not only to hear those in advance but to be able to listen to them on the way back as a sort of reminder of what I'd just seen.
No complaints about the city of Grand Rapids. Granted all I really did was drive in to the Courtyard hotel, but what I saw looked pretty good. I was really impressed with and thankful for the skywalk that runs all over downtown - didn't even have to put a jacket on for the walk to Van Andel. I noticed the tour buses parked outside on my way in, I wondered if the band were still hanging around out there...
I didn't get to make it to the Big Old Building Rustie gathering due to the time delay, but I hope everyone who attended had a great time. Hopefully I'll be able to meet you further on up the road somewhere...maybe on a Neil solo tour this summer? On to...
First stop was the merchandise counter. I was surprised at the high prices of the t-shirts but of course had to buy one anyway. Picked up a cheap little program full of photos to go along with it, dropped my $50 for the two items, and moved on. There were a few other booths I noticed on my walk around to the aisle I was to enter through, the ones I remember being No Nukes, Native American studies, and some environmental group I didn't recognize.
I also noticed at this point that I was much younger at 23 than the vast majority of the crowd. As soon as I made mention of that after finding my seats (I took my mother down for the show, she's a longtime fan and hasn't had the chance to see many of these), a couple of little girls who couldn't have been more than 8 or 9 came prancing by. There were a handful of teenagers I saw, but most of this crowd had seen these guys before, it seemed...
A guy sitting next to me told me before the show began that his friend worked in the building and had told him that the band members were all upset with one another, each staying to themselves during the rehearsal. I kind of doubted that with what I'd heard from Crosby and Nash about the rehearsals in various interviews, but it made me curious.
The "get to your seats" lights went out at about 8:05, and the real house lights didn't go down completely until 8:15. I was about 30 rows back on Nash's side of the place, first row of the lower level. Decent seats for the second tier price.
Out they all came for the intro, Carry On. It got off to a bit of a messy start, Stills working out his fingers for a bit before finally nailing the lead riff. When the rest of the band got into it, though, it sounded great. The vocal harmonies were spot-on in quality but slightly off in timing, and they got a great reception from the crowd.
I was a bit disappointed with the volume (lower than Clapton last year, and much lower than with Roger Waters), but hoped it would improve as the show went on. Immediately the thoughts that the bandmates had been upset with one another were put to rest. They already had big grins on their faces and were working well together. Neil in particular was making the rounds on stage.
Throughout the opening electric set, and for the rest of the show, Neil seemed to be, to borrow Crosby's words, the catalyst for the group. Whenever he went up to another band member to jam with them face to face, they immediately responded and you could tell that they felt the pressure. A lot of that went with Crosby and obviously Stills, although the guitar jams weren't as extended as they were on the 2000 tour. But I think drummer Steve Potts got most of the attention. Usually when my eyes wandered to one of the others, when I went back to look for Neil I could find him behind them all, playing straight on with drummer Steve Potts, who consistently responded with some inspired playing.
Now, I don't know if the crowd was dominated by Rusties, or if they were just the most vocal, or if the audience was just really pumped for Neil's first song, but they went nuts when he stepped up to the mic for Going Home. It sounded great to me, just like it does on the 2001 recordings I've heard. He got a standing ovation when it was all said and done, just as he would for every other song he played that night (with the exception of You're My Girl).
I can't remember if it was at this point or not when the band first spoke to the crowd, Nash saying something like "Hello Grand Rapids." Neil took the opportunity in the silence to walk up and give a big "How ya doin'?" which the crowd loved. Crosby flashed him a grin afterwards.
The audience liked Feed the People, although I didn't care a whole lot for the much-talked about simple lyrics. I felt like yelling out, "Because we're feeding you," in response to Stephen's lead question. Still a decent song though, I thought.
You're My Girl was as I expected: a heavily Booker T.-influenced, doo-wop sort of song. The lyrics were quite nice, though, and established a theme of parenting that would be revisited a few other times that night (Crosby's Dream for Him, and of course, Teach Your Children). Amber's got to be 18 or so now, judging by the '84 Austin City Limits performance, right?
Almost Cut My Hair was a highlight for me. Croz was dead-on with his vocals, and this performance was dripping with energy. Neil and David played off one another well here, and at song's end Neil was off to Crosby's right and waving his hand at him to encourage a bow (I think). Croz responded with, "If you liked that one, you'll love this," and they launched into the typical CSNY version of Cinnamon Girl. The crowd loved it, and so did I, but I thought it was a bit of a let-down in momentum to move from the quieter mid-first-section songs into those last two tracks and then take a break.
Most of the crowd conversations I overheard during the intermission mentioned how they liked the new songs but didn't like not knowing a thing they were playing.
Into the acoustic set...the predictable Helplessly Hoping was nice, and then Graham mentioned the birthday of his friend (was it Georgio?) and then dedicated Our House to them. It's not my favorite CSN song, but I thought it was a better performance than most others I'd heard of that one.
Old Man got one of the loudest receptions of the night, and I thought it was solidly played. Any Neil is better than no Neil, and although we may get tired of how often he plays some songs, it was clear to me that he still puts every ounce into every performance no matter how many times he's played it. As he's mentioned in the past, whenever he feels he's not into something, he'll just stop doing it. Another standing ovation. And another for Harvest Moon, with Larry on banjo.
I still don't know why they won't let Booker T. do his own song, Old Man Trouble. Stills was a little faulty on the keyboard (I thought), and although he stood up a few times to pound on it, I thought it was a lackluster performance. He kicked the stool over at one point and got a reaction from the crowd, but for the life of me I don't know why they won't hand at least that one song over to the originals.
Half Your Angels was another "new" one from Nash, and although it, too, seemed a bit direct, the crowd appreciated it and let him know it. He got a great response from them on this one.
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes was great, something I'd been looking forward to. Stills took a little while to get it going during the acoustic solo, but after a few seconds he was off and running - really impressed me there. It sounded like his vocals were starting to strain a bit though, understandable with a voice-tester like that one. As has been mentioned, Neil was gone throughout most of this section of the show. Toward the end of SJBE, Dunn came back on with the bass and had to run into position to be in on time. Afterwards he was laughing it up with the rest of the guys; he surely seemed to be enjoying himself. The crowd went nuts on this one, as well, and stood for most of it, particularly the closing "verse."
Let's Roll was another highlight of the night. The crowd had been anticipating this one and remained on their feet during the brooding intro. Still, when the cell phone went off, a few people next to me were asking where it was coming from, and then in stepped Neil with the lead riff. Great performance, much better to hear in person than on the radio or computer. Neil really handled the vocals well, too. He gave a lift of the cap afterward in acknowledgement to the crowd.
Now the show was in full swing. Long Time Gone continued the wave of energy right into Two Old Friends (I heard it mentioned a few times from the audience that they loved his new songs) and Woodstock.
Rockin' in the Free World was a great finale and it seemed at that point that anything that came afterwards would be lost on the crowd. Everyone was up and into this one, and Neil and the rest of the band were no exceptions. During one of the solos, Neil and Dunn were face to face again, and it was proven once more how much intensity he adds to the show's performance on the whole as well as each individual's contribution when he singles you out to jam one-on-one with.
I noticed a lot of people leaving at this point, and they missed a decent Teach Your Children. Afterwards, Neil went up to each of the others and then changed guitars... I was hoping for Long May You Run but was satisfied with an average performance of For What It's Worth. At this point it felt like the crowd was still reeling from RITFW and the band was just reaching its stride, but unfortunately that was all there was going to be. At 11:20 the house lights were back on.
Neil spoke a few times, although I unfortunately couldn't hear a word he said. After hearing that they didn't often say much, I was surprised with how much they actually did say. Crosby asked after Woodstock" if they wanted to hear more, and he played it up with the crowd a few other times as well. I don't remember Stills saying anything. It seemed after SJBE that he'd lost a little confidence in his vocals and was backing off his mic a bit more while singing so as to let the others cover for him.
As I mentioned, most of the crowd was about 40 to 60 years old, but there were several I spotted in my age bracket as well. Not really much in between, though. Most of the crowd was very well-dressed, although it had its share of tie dye, leather jackets, and scraggly beards.
I thought the crowd was extremely well-behaved, and on the whole I'd take them for pretty much any show. Some might have thought they were dull, but where I was there was a lot of enthusiasm, regardless of age. I remember thinking as I overheard one of the conversations during the break that you'd not have heard people talking about hip replacements at a CSNY show in '69 or '74. Just goes to show what a broad range of people their music speaks to, and how timeless their music will continue to be.
Stills' guitar seemed a little messy throughout most of his performances, as if he were reaching for something that just wasn't there that night. That's not to say he didn't have his moments, though - SJBE in particular. Each of the other three gave very strong performances throughout the night, above average from what I'd heard in other recordings. They all seemed in great spirits...
Hope those of you attending other shows on the tour enjoy them. Maybe I'll see you in Milwaukee...
(more reviews coming...)