Live review: Crosby, Stills and Nash @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Reverb

Live review: Crosby, Stills and Nash @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre

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From left-to-right: Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and David Crosby performed an uneven set of hits and covers at Red Rocks on Tuesday. Photos by Mark Osler.

Going out to see a classic rock act is often an exercise in wishful thinking. Maybe they’ll capture magic again, but too often they are shadows of their former selves. Of course for many people, the shadow is enough. David Crosby, Graham Nash, and Stephen Stills, who have been playing music together in a variety of configurations on and off since the mid-’60s, came to Red Rocks on Tuesday night and delivered a mixed night of music over the course of two disparate sets.

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Set one focused on acoustic music, mostly covers, that were far too quiet in the large confines of Red Rocks. Set two was its antithesis, showcasing Still’s very underrated electric guitar talents in a rock-heavy set.

After opening with a strangely jaunty “Helplessly Hoping,” the trio delved into a subdued series of covers, starting with “Ruby Tuesday,” which, contrary to what one woman I heard say, is actually a Rolling Stones song, not a Beatles song. Also included in the cover-heavy set were James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James,” Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country,” the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider” and the Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band.”

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Stills fingerpicked nicely on “Rider,” but his vocals were rough and uneven on the Dylan cover, and the harmonies on “Uncle John’s” were raspy. Sandwiched around the covers were Crosby’s ethereal “Guinnevere,” with Nash adding excellent harmonies, and Nash’s “Our House,” on which the audience happily sang a verse. The trio closed the set with an instrumentally solid “Southern Cross,” but it’s clear age has affected their voices, particularly Stills’, which struggled on the bridge and chorus.

After a short set break, the band returned, opening with Stills’ adolescent hippie ode to free love, “Love the One You’re With.”

While many consider Neil Young the crucial component of one of the best vocal lineups in rock, it has always been Stills who drives the band. Stills found heavenly tube distortion tones during an extended solo on “Long Time Gone.”

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Stills continued to rock out on a bluesy “Wounded World,” which jammed into “Rocky Mountain Way,” a pedestrian Joe Walsh song whose popularity continues to puzzle. Crosby stepped up at the mid-point of the set, fingerpicking nicely on “Déjà Vu,” and dedicated a fiery “Almost Cut My Hair” to “the person who thought we wouldn’t do it.”

The trio finished their second set with “Wooden Ships,” and if the voices have aged, they can still find greatness at times. Stills stepped up with a searing solo before the last verse. The two-song encore provided plenty of opportunity for the crowd to sing along on “For What It’s Worth” and a subdued “Teach Your Children.”

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Perhaps their age also contributed to the perfectly timed sets; I can’t remember the last time I got out of Red Rocks by 10:30 p.m. after a two-set show.

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Candace Horgan is a Denver freelance writer/photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. When not writing and shooting, she plays guitar and violin in Denver band the defCATS.

Mark Osler is a Pulitzer Prize-winning Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his work here.

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  • Sheila Weedwacker

    man, do those guys look friggin' old.

  • Name

    Stills driving the band? With Neil in the lineup? Neil drives everyone he's ever played with and everything. Ask Dylan, Pearl jam, anyone… that's why they don't play w/him. Sorry Candace—you lost all credibility. These 3 are worth a couple of beers and laughs over their 2 sets; add Neil to the mix and you stand and watch every song and listen to every note (well, actually you watch and listen to Neil). Peace.

  • Name

    Stills driving the band? With Neil in the lineup? Neil drives everyone he's ever played with and everything. Ask Dylan, Pearl jam, anyone… that's why they don't play w/him. Sorry Candace—you lost all credibility. These 3 are worth a couple of beers and laughs over their 2 sets; add Neil to the mix and you stand and watch every song and listen to every note (well, actually you watch and listen to Neil). Peace.

  • Name

    Stills driving the band? With Neil in the lineup? Neil drives everyone he's ever played with and everything. Ask Dylan, Pearl jam, anyone… that's why they don't play w/him. Sorry Candace—you lost all credibility. These 3 are worth a couple of beers and laughs over their 2 sets; add Neil to the mix and you stand and watch every song and listen to every note (well, actually you watch and listen to Neil). Peace.

  • Anonymous

    then why did Young call Stills a musical genius, genius.

  • nomdeplum

    then why did Young call Stills a musical genius, genius.

  • jenny

    although mr. young definitely adds something to the group, I saw them tonight @ RR and they totally rocked- yea; their vocals were a little off compared to like 40 years ago, but for old guys I was super impressed, they played an awesome show with some great covers, and I'm glad I saw it. peace.

  • Mug

    1) They did NOT play Uncle John's Band last night.2) Regardless of how much you like Stills' guitar work, his sound stuck out last night as incredibly out of touch with the rest of the band. His tube-driven distortion was about 3 times louder than any other instrument or voice and regularly drowned out everyone else. It was surprising, to say the least, that either Stills or his sound technician would let that fly.3) Aside from the above and agreement with the article on how Stills' vocals struggled a couple times, I enjoyed the performance. Crosby's voice is still fantastic, and even with a questionable execution of Dylan's “Girl From the North Country” (which Sam Bush covers amazingly well), the fact that the group is still expanding their musical repertoire is great to see. That they didn't play Judy Blue Eyes or Ohio is perhaps notable, but to me also indicates that they're not interested in being a pure nostalgia act and playing every song people want to hear at every show.

  • http://www.denverpost.com/reverb John Wenzel

    Check the date, Mug. This review was written in Sept. 2009. We'll have our review of the June 2010 show up shortly.