Crosby, Stills and Nash and Tom Petty at Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN 8/12/10
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If there was one thing I wanted to do before I kicked the bucket, it was to see Crosby, Stills and Nash. You can’t see Jimi Hendrix anymore, and the same goes for Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, and the original Who lineup. But if you’re a fan of the Woodstock era, you at least have CSN, who dust themselves off every couple of years to tour the country, and join their voices in three-part harmony one more time.
You hear a lot of debate about whether CSN still have “it”; if they’ve lost their voices, and if they can still sing in tune so many years past their prime. I can honestly say I’ve never heard them sound any better live, whether on YouTube, bootleg, or DVD, than they sounded last night in Nashville.
The band seemed to be in high spirits; they’ve got an upcoming album of covers, produced by Rick Rubin, in the can, which seems to have rejuvenated them. Stephen Stills in particular looked jubilant, like a kid in a candy store, smiling widely after every guitar solo. They took the audience on a journey into the past with “Déjà Vu,” which was augmented by jammy keyboard and bass solos.
“Every time we go on tour, we debate which Neil song we’re going to play this time,” explained David Crosby, referencing Neil Young, their famous collaborator. “Tonight, it’s this one.” Stills then sang a fine lead on the old hippie anthem, “Long May You Run,” which set up the covers portion of the evening. To those who weren’t in the know, it must have been a psychedelic experience to hear the band suddenly launch into the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday,” followed by Bob Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country” and later, The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes.” The latter set up the one-two punch of “Almost Cut My Hair” and “Wooden Ships,” minor key epics that have retained their resonance so many years later.
Graham Nash’s voice sounded as supple as ever on “Our House,” and his duet with Crosby on “Guinevere” was other-worldly, employing scales that very few bands have picked up on. They finished their set with “Teach Your Children,” the closest thing in their catalog to a country music hit, and invited Nashville to sing along.
Then it was time for the main event. The woman sitting next to me had said it was on her bucket list to see Tom Petty in concert: “My friends tell me my life is like a Tom Petty song.” “Which one?” “All of ‘em.” As it turns out, she picked a great show to go to. Petty and the Heartbreakers unveiled a tight, classic rock-fueled set, chocked with hits you forgot they had. And the tunes from their latest album, Mojo, sounded like they belonged right alongside them. Mike Campbell’s guitar solo in “Good Enough” was Jimmy Page, “Since I Been Loving You”-esque, and Petty himself let loose with a sweet solo on the down-and-dirty “I Should Have Known It.”
The wasted guy in the smoking area hunting for weed said the two songs he wanted to hear the most were “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and “Free Fallin’.” He got them both, in the first half hour. There was also “Won’t Back Down,” “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” “Learning To Fly,” “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” “Runnin’ Down A Dream” and “Refugee.”
It was a good night for rock and roll, and for bucket lists.