Sunday, August 16, 2009

CSNY @ Woodstock

It was forty years ago tomorrow, on August 17, 1969, that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young first introduced themselves to the "half a million strong" at Max Yasgur's farm near Woodstock, New York.

It was nearly 4:00 a.m. when Graham Nash, Steven Stills and David Crosby finally took the stage. As they did, a musical legend that influenced an entire generation was born.

It was only the second public performance for the three musicians, refugees from the Hollies, the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield, respectively.

As Mr. Stills told the audience, relieved by their applause for the trio's opening song, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, "Thanks. We need that. We were scared sh*tless!"

CSN were soon to be joined on stage by Neil Young, thirty minutes into the 16 song performance. The full Woodstock setlist included:

Suite Judy Blue Eyes / Blackbird / Helplessly Hoping / Guinnevere / Marrakesh Express /4 + 20 / Mr Soul / Wonderin' / You Don't Have To Cry / Pre-Road Downs / Long Time Gone / Bluebird Revisited / Sea Of Madness / Wooden Ships / Find The Cost Of Freedom / 49 Bye-Byes

What an impact Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young have had on the professional and not-so-professional musicians that have followed.

From the Eagles to the Dixie Chicks - to the 'guy with a guitar' at a campfire, playing Helpless and yearning to replicate CSNY's signature guitar and harmony sound with a bunch of good friends - all have borrowed heavily from the distinct magic first heard on that legendary, rainy morning in upstate New York.

But, given the egos involved, it wasn't always easy.

As Neil Young caustically noted, while introducing Stephen Stills on the 1971 4Way Street live album, "We've had our ups and downs, but we're still playing together."

Forty years later, I'm pretty sure Mr. Young (and his bandmates) might still be saying something similar.

As David Crosby put it in a recent interview with iProng Magazine:
I mean, Graham and I really love working just the two of us cause we get to do some kinds of things that are unwieldy to do with the bigger bands. We love working with Crosby, Stills & Nash, it’s like a pair of shoes that you’ve had for twenty years and you put them on, you know? It just feels good. It’s easy and good and it works, and we love it. And then you know, every once in awhile Neil wants to work with us and he does, we get big. And that’s fun. Big is fun too. Every way of doing it, right from that down to a solo show with myself and one guitar, is a really good valid part of the thing. And it’s very good for you to keep doing it a lot of different ways so that you don’t get stuck.
So, the band carries on, in whatever incarnation seems to work at any given time.

CSN is currently on a North American summer tour (absent Mr. Young) that launched June 3rd in St. Louis.

After 40 years, that, in itself, is quite a tribute.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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