Live review: Crosby, Stills & Nash, Royal Albert Hall, London

5.00

 

“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.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus brought her Bangerz tour to London's O2 Arena last night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams' life story will be told in a biography written by a New York Times reporter

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
    Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

    From strung out to playing strings

    Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
    The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
    Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

    Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

    The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
    On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

    On the road to nowhere

    A Routemaster trip to remember
    Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

    Hotel India

    Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
    10 best pencil cases

    Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

    Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
    Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

    Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

    Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
    Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

    Pete Jenson: A Different League

    Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
    This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

    The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

    Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis