When I heard the news of David Crosby’s death last January, memories came rushing back. The music of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young formed the soundtrack of my college years.
“Our House is a very very very fine house,” a song for Joni Mitchell, fed my romantic aspiration.
“Teach your parents well . . . and feed them on your dreams” — felt powerful and brave.
“We can change the world / Re-arrange the world / It’s dying, if you believe in justice” felt to me like biblical prophecy.
Recreating a CSN Album Cover
When Crosby died, my good friend Margaret posted a photo from 1977. It had been her attempt to copy the cover of the first CSN album. I remember her posing the rest of us housemates on the front porch of our crappy rental house. We perched on the sagging couch and tried to look cool. See if you can guess whose spot I’m in.
In response to her Facebook post, I quoted from “Helplessly Hoping”: We are three together, we are four for each other. We were, which you know if you read my memoir.
The evening Margaret posted that photo, I listened to live videos of all the tunes we once loved. Hours later, I was still listening — to interviews, some quite recent, about the friendships and fights of the band members. The stories were mesmerizing.
Over and over people said “Graham was the glue.” I remembered going to a CSN concert at Wolftrap in the summer of 2005 — and now realized that Graham had smoothed the waters between Crosby and Stills. I could still remember the shock of seeing Crosby, big and wearing a Hawaiian shirt, but also how quickly the shock faded to delight in their music.
I noticed that Graham was now touring, and coming to a local venue. All of a sudden I wanted to find out what he sounded like now, alone, at 81. Impulsively, I bought tickets.
At the Birchmere 4/19/23
Graham Nash played at the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA. That venue has seating around tables, and you can order a meal. If you manage to arrive early, you can score a great seat, which we did. Perfect seats actually, next to the stage but to the side, in front of the guitarist.
(We’ve been to the Birchmere a number of times, I wrote up a Gordon Lightfoot concert here.)
Purposely, I didn’t get my hopes up. I expected Graham’s voice to be thin and reedy. I suspected he might do lots of reminiscing and rambling, and very little playing and singing. Truth be told, I was even prepared for the night to feel slightly pathetic. It can happen. But we were willing to chance it because, as Doug says, it’s good to be in the presence of greatness.
I was blown away by the excellence of the music! Shane Fontayne looked and sounded like a rockstar. Todd Caldwell was perfect and joyous on keyboards. Graham played the acoustic guitar, harmonica, and, near the end, piano. When the three harmonized, their voices almost recreated the meant-to-be sound that brought Crosby, Stills and Nash together on that storied (and much-disputed) evening in Laurel Canyon.
Graham told a few stories, but they were polished vignettes, not ramblings or diatribes. Not a negative word about Joni Mitchell or any of his bandmates. He said, a number of times: I want to remember the good times, and there were lots of them.
Set List & Photos
- Find the Cost of Freedom (CSNY)
- Military Madness
- King Midas In Reverse (Hollies)
- Right Between the Eyes (CSNY)
- Immigration Man (CN)
- To the Last Whale…A. Critical Mass B. Wind on the Water (CN)
- Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Young)
- Country Girl (CSNY)
- Marrakesh Express (CSN)
- Chicago / We Can Change the World
- Lady of the Island (CSN)
- Love of Mine
- Unequal Love (CSN)
- Golden Days
- Milky Way Tonight (CN)
- 4 + 20 (CSNY)
- Love the One You’re With (Stills)
- Just a Song Before I Go (CSN)
- Our House (CSNY)
- Everyday (Buddy Holly)
- Teach Your Children (CSNY)