Live review: Crosby, Stills & Nash, Royal Albert Hall, London
“Well, there’s only one song left to sing,” says Graham Nash as CSN reconvene on the Albert Hall stage for their encore, hours after opening with “Carry On”. The crowd, already long on its feet in acclaim, cheers even louder: it has to be “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”, the song with which they opened their debut album, and the mature phases of their respective careers, 44 years ago. It’s been, as they say, a long time gone.
Tonight offered a magical rolling-back of those years. The trio are so much better than the last time I saw them, eight years ago: the harmonies seem tighter – albeit at times a little lower – and Stephen Stills’s guitar-playing is breathtakingly good, whether skimming slippery lines through his own drug-smuggler tale “Treetop Fliers”, or wringing fiery, flashing sparks on David Crosby’s anthemic “Almost Cut My Hair”.
And Nash holds centre stage with relaxed irreverence, annotating the songs with explanatory details – how he wrote “Our House” for Joni Mitchell after they’d been out on a drizzly LA day; how the new song “Burning For the Buddha” was written for 128 Buddhist monks who, he claimed, had burned themselves to death in the past year protesting the Chinese occupation of Tibet; and how “Cathedral” originated on an acid-fuelled trip to Winchester Cathedral, where, spookily, he found himself standing on the gravestone of a soldier who died in 1799 on Nash’s own birthday.
That song, aptly prefaced by an introduction on the hall’s mighty pipe-organ, is just one of a string of highlights in tonight’s show, which features most of their classic first two albums, the songs stretched just enough not to shatter the carefully wrought harmonic structures. Songs such as “Carry On” and “49 Bye-Byes” are rockier than before, while the more delicate likes of “Helplessly Hoping” and “Guinnevere” are rendered pristine, sparkling like diamonds. And Nash’s knack for knockout pop tunes turns “Teach Your Children”, “Our House” and “Marrakesh Express” into joyous crowd singalongs. Even the newer songs have the engaging warmth of old favourites, rather than excuses for trips to the bar.
Black-clad, in line atop the stage’s Persian rugs, they make for an unusual supergroup: at one side, Stills wrestles knuckle-knotting runs from his guitars, while at the other, Crosby either strums along or stands casually, hands in pockets like some beatnik Buddha; in between, the barefoot Nash is like a crouching tiger at the microphone, squeezing out those high-register harmonies with all his being, and taking huge pleasure in the results. At one point, eagerly anticipating the effect of the hall’s resonant acoustics on a song, he exults “We’re bigger than God up here!”, quickly adding with a grin: “Not the real God, but Elvis.”
Grace Dent on TVtv
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 2 Mother of newborn Baby No 59 trapped in sewer pipe told Chinese police she 'heard crying' when she raised alarm
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Alfred Hitchcock's unseen Holocaust documentary to be screened
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Photographer Matt Lankes' portraits of the cast of Boyhood influenced the film's storyline
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks