YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Pop Music Review

Crosby, Stills & Nash Display Special Chemistry


Crosby, Stills & Nash have a lot of accomplishments on collective and individual resumes that cover more than three decades. But maybe they come up a bit short in the career planning department: If they'd broken up 15 or 20 years ago, they could have mounted a triumphant reunion, complete with an MTV special and "unplugged" album and a mega-tour with sold-out shows in large venues, all built around their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year.

But it's hard to imagine them sounding better in a reunion than they did Sunday at the Universal Amphitheatre, the closing night of their 1997 tour. This was the kind of show that could only be given by an act that has survived together.

A decade ago the trio seemed ready for the scrap heap--or worse, given David Crosby's well-chronicled bouts with substance abuse and his consequent liver transplant. But from Sunday's opener, "Love the One You're With," to the closing "Carry On" three hours later, Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash rocked harder and more joyously than ever.

CS&N's obvious love of performing transcended both the inherent nostalgia of a show dominated by music nearly 30 years old, and the fact that the material from an upcoming album was generally inferior.

Stills in particular has been the revelation of the group in recent years, adding fire and grit to both his vocals and guitar playing. Trim and spry, he performed with childlike enthusiasm, hopping with glee as he ripped out a stinging solo on "Wooden Ships."

Crosby looks healthier than he did even in his Byrds youth. His spirit, too, has never been stronger in his role as the group's resident wit--his between-song zingers consistently cracked up both his bandmates and the enthusiastic fans. Nash has always been in good shape, but Sunday he seemed looser than usual, even managing to one-up Crosby on a few barbed one-liners.

But it was the chemistry of their teaming that really came through--something evident from the fact that the weakest parts of the show were the solo spots, where most of the new material was unveiled.

A new Nash song, "Half Your Angels," inspired by the Oklahoma City bombing, lacked the sense of outrage and urgency of "Ohio," the 1970 Neil Young composition from his partnership with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young decrying the Kent State killings. Done in Sunday's encore with Tom Petty filling in for Young, "Ohio" still raised goose bumps.

A contrasting moment had the same effect: In a brief acoustic section, Stills strummed the familiar intro to the Beatles' "In My Life," and the trio's voices blended as only they can. They weren't perfect--the toll of the years came through in some cracks in the singing and a few not-so-perfect harmonies. But that only made it clearer how the bond of these three has been strengthened for what it has survived. No reunion could manufacture that feeling.

Los Angeles Times Articles