Crosby, Stills & Nash at Louisville Gardens

By Michael Campbell

I wish they had brought Neil Young.

I must admit that the prospect of a performance of timeworn AOR anthems by a bloated trio of overindulgent Sixties rock stars could perhaps seem unappealing. However, the memory of a Louisville Gardens show of 1988 plus the updated production values heard on their new Live It Up album proved sufficient to lure me to David Crosby, Steven Stills, and Graham Nash.

The crowd that attended this rescheduled performance on July 2, 1990, provided heaps of adulation from the outset, perhaps reflecting the scarcity of big-name rock tours making stops in Louisville this year. Even new and unfamiliar material from Live It Up was received well; their classics, as our FM stations call them, manifested downright hysteria.

C S & N, the band who claims to be an association instead of a band, had all the camaraderie and musical precision of a real band but unlike most, offer an X-ray of themselves through solo performances.

Graham Nash, the glue of the trio, opened with his new "House Of Broken Dreams," which went over well enough, but the sing-along "Our House" resulted in one of many standing ovations.

Undaunted, David Crosby launched into a solo acoustic version of "Almost Cut My Hair" that took on an almost noble meaning twenty years after it was written. If there was any doubt that Crosby is back from his pharmaceutical furlough of the last decade or two, it was blown away by the sheer power of his voice, performance energy, and good humor.

When Nash joined Crosby for an intricately crafted effort on "Guinevere," they managed a major miracle by riveting the rowdy crowd to silent attention using their two voices, one guitar, and a lot of imagination.

Stills closed out the solo sets, featuring his trademark touch on the Martin and a rambling piece that included pieces of the Robert Johnson blues classic, "Crossroads."

There were ironic juxtapositions of new and old here: the traditional and perpetual guitar changes, young members of the audience swaying to music created before they could talk, and a new vitality applied to the material, both vintage and contemporary.

If the solo segments confirmed the familiar, the full band performance provided some surprises. One was the power productions of "Deja Vu," the new "(Got To Keep) Open," and an extended jam on "Wooden Ships," complete with Steven Stills and keyboard man Michael Finnegan trading fiery fours. Finnegan himself was somewhat a surprise, providing soulful support vocals and tasty keyboard work for nearly every number.

No stranger to the pantheon of rock himself (check out Finnegan's sassy instrumental call and answer with Jimi Hendrix on the latter's milestone Electric Ladyland album), Mrs. Finnegan's son is the spark plug of this ensemble.

The only sad aspect was the apparent decline of Steven Still's hearing. Validating the backstage gossip from the recent Indianapolis Farm Aid concert, Steven's pitch seemed to vary in direct proportion to the loudness of the song.

The dominant experience of this concert was one of togetherness, a homecoming of sorts. The high fives and high spirits of the performers and crowd, the multiple encores, and the updated sound (due in part, I suspect to the re-emergence of Mr. Crosby) leave one with the feeling that CSN will continue to transcend nostalgia.

I still wish they had brought Neil Young.