Crosby & Nash, Maura O'Connell

By Michael Campbell

David Crosby, Graham Nash and guitarist/vocalist Jeff Peavar proved that it doesn't take a big band to produce the big sound. Their performance of Crosby's "Deja Vu" beautifully illustrated the power of silence and space placed effectively alongside notes and between harmonies.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the Nov. 10 concert at the Palace Theatre was the success of C&N's subtle acoustic nuance in spite of a fractious audience.

They did enjoy a distinct advantage with a bottomless supply of crowd-pleasers, including "Marrakech Express," "Wasted on the Way," "Long Time Gone" (which still seems sadly relevant), "Wooden Ships," "Cathedral," and the guaranteed sing-alongs "Our House" and "Teach Your Children."

The Crosby/Nash chemistry, Graham's earthiness against David's spaciness, was evident with the intimate and intricate harmonic play on Crosby's "The Lee Shore" and the ever evolving arrangement of "Guinevere."

But all this was expected. The few surprises of their performance came on Nash's new song "Send Me Up Your Angels," and their choice of encore tune. Nash's tune was a typically thoughtful piece, pondering the treatment of humans by each other. The song suddenly took on a powerful perspective with the last word sung: Oklahoma. Those who responded to each announcement of a new (i. e., unfamiliar) song with a sprint to the bar missed a special moment.

A much lighter surprise was C&N's choice of "Eight Miles High" as the first encore tune. Sideman Peavar delivered some powerful angular guitar lines, but strangely neglected to include the trademark opening lick of the song.

The opening artist, Irish song stylist Maura O'Connell, labored successfully to win the attention of the crowd, one song at a time. Her soaring and sincere vocals toured through her new release, Stories, and captured the audience by the third song, "Over the Universe." With empathic vocal and instrumental support from her two guitarists and bassist, Ms. O'Connell covered John Gorka's ode to benevolent gossip, "Blue Chalk," and offered a hard-edged version of Shawn Colvin's "Shotgun Down the Avalanche," which earned this opening act an encore.

The evening was an overall triumph for acoustic music, with Crosby & Nash navigating that odd dilemma of many of their peers: balancing the audience's appetite for nostalgia with their own need to create and perform new work.