Crosby, Stills and Nash also needs no opening act. They take up the entire bill in the greatest way, having nearly filled the red velvet seats of the Fabulous Fox Theatre for their performance. And, if the introductory standing ovation was any indication, the audience only had ears for Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Opening the 22-song set with "Carry On/Questions," it's automatically clear that CSN is not progressing through this year's tour on the banks of nostalgia and reminiscence. The group is not merely counting on the memories of an audience who has seen the trio perform before to carry them through the night. Rather, the band is here to play, and play well. Stephen Stills' guitar playing during "Carry On" alone was enough to dispel any doubts.
It would be impossible to calculate the number of performances played between the men since the '60s, especially given their individual musical involvements in other acts: the Byrds (David Crosby), Buffalo Springfield (Stephen Stills) and the Hollies (Graham Nash). It's easy, however, to see and hear their ongoing musical compatibility onstage, beneath the projection of the band's CSN insignia on the stage's wall.
Long known for their ability to harmonize, Crosby, Stills and Nash did not disappoint the audience or falter on their harmonies, which were especially impressive when they played "Long Time Gone" and "Lay Me Down." Additionally, there was a nary a song where Stills didn't one-up his own impeccable guitar skills from the song before.
It's no secret that the relationships within the band haven't always been the most congenial throughout the years, but the almost boyishly energetic banter between the men on stage was welcome, notably when Crosby joked about ill-fitting pants on his "avocado-shaped body" and the friendly pokes between all three.
"It's Stephen's job to write fantastic rock 'n' roll like that," Crosby said, after they played "Bluebird," from Still's days in Buffalo Springfield. "And it's my job to write the weird shit. It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it -- and I like it," Crosby continued with a mischievous grin, before launching into "Déjà Vu."
The song, not unlike nearly the rest of the set, does an excellent job of showcasing the pure talent of Crosby, Stills and Nash. The intricate vocal harmonies, piano parts and guitar work done between the three men illustrate the difference in what merely makes a song and what makes art. There's no downtime in "Déjà Vu," for attention to be lost, whether onstage or off. Perhaps that's why it seemed to be one of the audience's favorite selections, though that would be a hard selection to make given the range of material that was presented.
In the midst of playing what some may consider "classic" Crosby, Stills and Nash tunes, such as "Marrakesh Express" and "Cathedral," the band surprised the audience with "Find the Cost of Freedom," a song Nash said the band hadn't played in 20 years. The short, solemn political ballad from "4 Way Street" (1971) was one of multiple punctuations of songs touching on political issues and broader platforms during the set, just a few months before the presidential election.
Just as they may have impacted audience members 40 years ago, Crosby, Stills and Nash's more politically-geared songs have retained magnitude and potency, just as the group has not shied away from singing and speaking about political subjects and peace -- with some songs simply labeled as such, including "Military Madness" and "In Your Name" -- and they encouraged the audience to do likewise.
As the end of the show drew near, it only took the first chord of "Our House" for the aisles to swell with swaying couples and attendees to turn the song into a giant, jovial sing-along about living in golden days once the dust has settled.
After closing out the concert with "Wooden Ships," it didn't take long for Crosby, Stills and Nash to take the stage for an encore consisting of "Teach Your Children" and "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," completing the checklist of fans, lingering in the theatre aisles and looking toward the stage until the house lights came on.
Long Time Gone
Just a Song Before I Go
Lay Me Down
In Your Name
Girl from the North Country
Find The Cost of Freedom
Almost Cut My Hair
Teach Your Children
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes