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Crosby, Stills and Nash – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Music and Lyrics: Crosby, Stills and Nash

Reviewer: Pete Benson

Going to a Crosby, Stills and Nash concert is like sitting at home by the fire with an old pair of slippers on and a cup of hot chocolate at your elbow. It’s warm, comfortable and you are soon overcome by that peaceful, easy feeling. Here, we have three ageing rock stars who can still turn on the old magic. The voices may be suffering from the gentle ravages of time, those sublime harmonies are not what they were, but there is no denying the easy professionalism that underlies every song that they perform.

The audience in the hugely impressive Symphony Hall, bedecked for all the world like a 1930s art deco ocean liner, sit in well-mannered obeisance as the group go through their set. A set which consists of songs from throughout their career but heavily weighted with titles from their eponymous first album and the second, Deja Vu.

When they first appeared on the scene it was said that their name sounded like a firm of solicitors. If that’s so then Graham Nash is surely the senior partner of the firm. It is very clear that he is the driving force behind the band holding everything together with his explanatory introductions and banter. While the eight members of the band take short solos during the extended version of the song Deja Vu Nash wanders around the stage pointing to orchestrate our awe for each player as they finish. He then introduces the backing band at the end of the number.

David Crosby tells us that Nash is the member of the band who does everything and writes the songs the world wants to sing. Certainly the band’s catchiest numbers are Nash’s. Does everything? He plays guitar, keyboards, harmonica, tambourine and, arguably, his harmonies are the strongest, the most unusual and the glue that holds the voices together. Regular attenders of their concerts will delight in watching Nash, eyes closed, bare-footed conducting himself through ever more refined harmonies.

If Nash is the genial host then Crosby is the bad boy of the party, taking great delight in informing the audience more than once, of his overindulgent past. However, this image is somewhat dispelled as he stands there, hands in pockets, a cross between a kindly eyed Father Christmas and Albert Einstein. His improbably soaring vocals create a huge impact on such songs as Wooden Ships, Almost Cut My Hair and Guinevere. Not particularly renowned as a guitarist he still produces intricate melodies on a series of quirkily tuned guitars regularly delivered to him by a scurrying, overworked guitar technician.

To complete the august triumvirate Stephen Stills, described by Nash as ‘the greatest lead guitarist in the world’, delivers exquisite solos that heighten classic numbers like A Long Time Coming, Teach Your Children and Love the One You’re With, which brings the first half to an end on a dramatic high. The distinctive timbre of his voice still resonates through key phrases of his powerfully iconic songs though at times he is the most vocally challenged of the band, as evident in his delivery of Southern Cross.

Too soon the second half seems to reach its conclusion with the sense of a void in need of filling, but true to form the band returns to encore with the missing classic Teach Your Children and the sublime Suite: Judy Blue Eyes. An enraptured audience can now leave fulfilled, perhaps wondering if Crosby, Stills and Nash like Dylan, will continue to grace us with the eternal tour.

Photo: Eleanor Stills | Reviewed on 18 September 2015 and on tour

Music and Lyrics: Crosby, Stills and Nash Reviewer: Pete Benson Going to a Crosby, Stills and Nash concert is like sitting at home by the fire with an old pair of slippers on and a cup of hot chocolate at your elbow. It’s warm, comfortable and you are soon overcome by that peaceful, easy feeling. Here, we have three ageing rock stars who can still turn on the old magic. The voices may be suffering from the gentle ravages of time, those sublime harmonies are not what they were, but there is no denying the easy professionalism that underlies every…

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