Crosby, Stills & Nash bring covers to Boston

A review of Crosby, Stills & Nash at the Bank of America Pavilion on June 14, 2009

, Managing Editor

Celebrating 40 years together Crosby, Stills & Nash have hit the road this summer in celebration of the feat. In spite of that, one would expect a 40th anniversary to be grand and ornate, especially for guys who have been through as much as Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN). However, the show didn’t feel like a celebration, as the legendary trio remains incredibly humble despite decades of success.

Instead of playing a hit-heavy set in celebration of their four decades as a group, CSN made the interesting choice to showcase some tracks they are working on with Rick Rubin for their forthcoming covers album. Rubin, who is famous for working to revive other acts late in their careers such as Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond, is also known for having artists cover songs outside of their genre. However, the covers that CSN played fit their folk-rock playing and were featured heavily in the group’s first set.

For instance, The Rolling Stone’s “Ruby Tuesday” sounded strong as a three-part harmony before CSN had the fans clapping along to the Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band”. Covers of James Taylor and Bob Dylan also seemed to fit in well with the rest of the band’s material. Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” was a bit of a stretch that worked out superbly, but it appears CSN has chosen not to take the same type of risks.

Famous for their harmonies, it was hard not to notice that at times it was hard to hear the words, as 40 years of wear and tear were apparent in the group’s vocal strength. However, the trio still sounded strong on many of the songs that have been in their repertoire for years, such as “Long Time Gone”, which was featured amongst the covers in the first half of the show.

After a long break, the band returned to play some old favorites, while sprinkling in some songs from their musical pasts such as Buffalo Springfield’s “Rock N’ Roll Woman”, with Stills, the former member of Buffalo Springfield, showing off some fretwork with a guitar solo. Stills was fantastic with his six-string all evening and managed to get the crowd on their feet with another Buffalo Springfield classic, “For What It’s Worth”, later in the evening. CSN hits “Marrakesh Express” and “Just A Song Before I Go” were thrown in the mix before the highlight of the evening came during the sing-along encore of the classic “Teach Your Children”.

The cover songs proved to be an interesting choice considering the circumstances of the 40th anniversary of the band but it worked out for the best. Although some of the performances weren’t their strongest, the covers definitely added a new dynamic to a set that was becoming quite predicable over the years. Still, the excitement over the feat of 40 years together was absent and the band seemed somewhat lackluster even with the new material. No one is expecting three guys in their late 60’s to be moving around and working the crowd, but it was their demeanor that seemed less than animated. While they’ll be touring into the fall, once they get back to the studio, hopefully they’ll find their energy. Perhaps Rick Rubin’s influence will be the same shot in the arm it was for Cash and Diamond, and then the celebration can really begin.

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