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Crosby, Still and Nash at Ravinia 2010

Crosby, Still and Nash at Ravinia August 22, 2010

Review by Peter OyloeCrosby, Stills and Nash

Late Summer evenings are some of those most special of things, the air giving up the humidity of the season and in return floating your memories of the last few months across your minds eye in a cooling breeze that comes with the lengthening of the evening. It is a time to take to the nights in great abandon for before too long you will be shuttered away in your wintery solitude waiting for the release of the bitter cold to let fly its grasp on your door.

So to the night we went, and what better a way to have spent the fading of Summer than listening to great music in the outdoor wonder of Ravinia. What struck me most about the crowd was not its size (although the thousands of picnickers packed onto the lawn is truly a testament to the timelessness of the music and the appeal of Ravinia Park), but its diverse span of age. The audience members spanned every conceivable generation; it was a wonder and a delight to see whole families enjoying the evening, the scenery and, above all, the classic music of Crosby, Stills and Nash.

David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash formed Crosby, Stills and Nash as a group officially in 1969 having all come from other well known groups of their era, Crosby from the Byrds, Stills from Buffalo Springfield and Nash as a founder of the group The Hollies. As Crosby, Stills and Nash they met together in what came to form one of the great musical collaborations of all time. With music that even today holds a significant place in the annals and current lives of a fiercely loyal fan base of recent and longtime members.

CSN is a group that isn’t afraid to take a political stand; they born of that time in History when people were passionately invested in the political landscape. CSN famously cite their second gig as a little festival called Woodstock. It was here that the Legends were made. So it is easily stated that these men come from a strong musical pedigree.

CSN are now out on a new tour that surprisingly brings them to Ravinia for the very first time. In their set list of 24 tunes they played a wide range, from crowd-pleasing favorites such as Southern Cross and Teach Your Children to some surprising covers of well-known songs such as The Beatles Norwegian Wood, and Bob Dylan’s Girl From the North Country. “Here’s what’s going on.” Said Crosby after they had performed a couple of cover tunes. “We are making a record of songs that we wished we’d written and are trying them out on you.” This “record” of which he speaks is a new album of cover songs that they are recording with super producer Rick Rubin who is most recently known for his collaboration on the last couple of albums from the late great Johnny Cash.

What is so amazing in attending concerts of these great legends of music who are entering into the final stretches of great long careers is the level of graciousness and love exhibited by each of the musicians. Gone and behind them are the battles over ego and money and women and now you see old friends who genuinely love the music and each other. Throughout the night David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash took turns honoring each other and the other musicians who have been fortunate to have come along for the ride. At one point David Crosby pointed to Graham Nash after a beautiful duet with each other and said “Graham Nash everybody, the greatest harmonizer on the planet!” It was clear he meant it.

That graciousness and sincerity, coupled with the richness of the music, is such a gift to see on stage, especially as today’s pop artists gravitate more towards spectacle and farther away from well-crafted songs.

The night was beautiful, the music was timeless, the young Ravinia staff members hired for the summer provided courteous and helpful service. This was one for the memory books.

August 22, 2010

Ravinia Festival

Highland Park, IL

4 thoughts on “Crosby, Still and Nash at Ravinia 2010

  • CSN Review/Ravinia/August 22nd 2010
    A perfect summer evening was the setting at Ravinia for the CSN concert during their current 2010 tour.
    It’s a been long time gone since late August of 1969 when CSN made their inaugural appearance at Woodstock. Actually, it was the evening before at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, but who’s keeping score?
    The quality of the performance though, was not dissimilar. In a word rough, not raw.
    Unfortunately, Stills can barely hold a note and although his acoustic guitar work is still outstanding, it may be time to turn the volume down on his Stratocaster or get back to the shed and start practicing in the right key. Fortunately for him, the crowd doesn’t appear to recognize the difference and if they do, they don’t seem to care. With the exception of a few lukewarm responses to unfamiliar tunes, the audience still embraces their heroes of a generation and they stand up and vigorously applaud to every tune.
    On a positive note, Graham still has great hair, but even he is pulling back off his mike on the high notes that he once hit effortlessly. Apparently Stephen is on a new diet, because he actually looks almost thin.
    Perhaps it’s my personal bias, but I actually think that the Cros is getting better. His voice is as powerful as ever and he never misses a note, which he can sustain for as long as he wishes. That’s clearly evident at the end of Almost Cut My Hair. Engaging and still the clever wit, David told the crowd that they were going to record an album of songs that they wish that they had written. From my seat in the pavilion, I would suggest that they reconsider the idea, write better CSN songs and beg Neil to join them. Fortunately, they did perform one Neil Young song. Performing a cover of Behind Blue Eyes wasn’t a disaster, but CSN performing Who songs is just out of context. It would take all three of them just to push an amp over. Bluebird however, was a complete trainwreck. That’s all there is to say about that mess. I was probably one of the handful of aging hippies who recognized an a cappella version of “What Are Their Names” from David’s first album, If Only I Could Remember My Name. The crowd had no idea what they had just heard.
    Watching Graham’s attempt at being light and airy in his bare feet still wasn’t as annoying as the lyrics of his tunes. There must be some kind of rider in their contract that keeps getting songs like Cathedral into the set. Sorry Graham, you’re a lovely English gentleman, but with the exception of a select few, most of your songs inspire me to go buy a hot dog.
    Having said that, I believe that when the dudes step up to the mike with acoustic guitars in hand and what’s left of their vocal brilliance, they continue to give me reason to throw down the money and see them “one more time.” Perhaps it’s the poignant reminder of the passing of time, that this might be the last time we’ll see them together and I can’t stand the idea of a musical life without CSN&Y, however, if I ever think that I’m going to hear another arm tingling version of Suite Judy Blue Eyes in this lifetime, I’m deluding myself.
    Looking like they’re being held together with gaffers tape and super glue, the cumulative ages of CSN are currently hovering around 200 years, so it’s easy to understand why they sit down between and during songs which they aren’t singing or playing. At least Stephen can still throw a guitar pick into the crowd like a Frisbee and if you can find it you’ll have another fond memory of CSN to hold onto until 2011, maybe.

  • Art Tuney

    CSN Review/Ravinia/August 22nd 2010

    Dear Mr. Oyloe,

    Honestly, were you at the same concert as me? It was sad, almost as bad as the last Bob Dylan concert I saw. As much as I like CS&N, their harmonizing days are totally over. Crosby and Nash could still sing fairly well. Unfortunately, it sure didn’t seem like the band rehearsed much for this concert, but at least they remembered the words. Stills can play the guitar but his singing was utterly depressing. I found myself cringing frequently.

    As for the various covers they did, it’s my understanding that Mick Jagger, Pete Townsend and Paul McCartney got an immediate court injunction forbidding CSN from ever performing any of their songs again…ever!

    I never like to view the body of the deceased at a wake. I’d rather remember them as they were. Think about it if you plan on seeing them.


  • Well it can be said that CSN are not quite as ageless in body as two other Legends I recently saw, the glowing Carol King or the ever present James Taylor, CSN still share in the love of music onstage. This concert is not a reproduction of versions that you will hear when putting on the records. To get carbon copies you will need to visit your lip-syncing pop stars. This is a moment in time sort of concert reminding you of why you loved this music. It is still relevant, it is still beautiful, it is still alive. Stills voice may not have aged like a fine wine and he may even now appear a bit self conscious about it but his guitar work is still strong and he is still very much a part of the things that are great about CSN. You can’t go back in time and shouldn’t expect to do so. Time works on all the wild young men, and now these veterans of the greatest era in popular music songwriting have shown their mortality but in that they have shown their humanity and they still definitely give a damn and gave a concert well worth attending.

  • Notagainagain

    dear Mr. Oyloe – apparently we were at the same concert.
    It was a very wonderful night.
    CSN, while older, was fully there too (perhaps Art T wasn’t).
    If observed over the last 2 years it is obvious Stills is again rising quickly.
    It was very fine as is, while if pressed for improvement suggestions my first one would be that Young would be a grand addition (and add some edgy & grinding balance).

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