I went to see Crosby, Stills & Nash at Chateau Ste. Michelle last night with Amy, Bruce & Mary; it was the last concert of the season for both the band and the winery. Bruce arrived when they opened the gates and braved the rain to secure fabulous, front-row, center, lawn seats for us. By the time the rest of our party arrived, the sky was clearing ... and fittingly enough, the first song CSN played was "Carry On" (more on the songs in a bit). I enjoyed this concert better than the concert Amy and I went to at Lake Compounce sometime in the mid 80s, probably due to a combination of the great company, great venue, great seats, great wine, a higher proportion of songs from their early days and a collection of newer songs that I generally like better than the songs that were new at the earlier concert.
The audience last night was much older than at the earlier concert ... of course, I am also 20 years older myself. At the earlier concert, there was more acoustic music, and the fans' cheering often drowned out significant portions of the beginnings of songs. This time, there was less acoustic music, and the fans were less rambunctious. I should note that we also had great company at that concert: our friends Jon and Mary Jean.
Chateau Ste. Michelle is a fabulous venue for concerts (assuming clement weather), with beautiful, well-kept grounds, plenty of clean Honey Bucket portable restrooms, a small but high-quality selection of food vendors, and, of course, some wonderful wines. We enjoyed the 2002 Columbia Valley Chardonnay (pretty good for a varietal I usually don't care much for), 2002 Cold Creek Merlot (massive fruit & structure ... probably a bit on the young side) and the 1999 Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (the tannins have mellowed since I last tried it ... almost too mellow now for my tastes, but the priming effect of the younger merlot may have affected my impressions).
The wine added [other] interesting dimensions to the concert experience. It's hard to clap with a glass of wine in your hands: without a flat surface to set down my glass, I had to work a bit harder to nestle it among the various items we'd brought with us whenever I wanted to free my hands, and so I didn't clap as much as I might have otherwise; I wonder if this affected the response of others in the audience as well. The VIP folks had plastic chairs on a cement platform in front of the stage; this allowed them to more easily set down their wine, but as they had real wine glasses (vs. plastic), the downside of the cement was that there was some breakage during the concert. Several people were also waving wine bottles -- some empty, some partially full -- in the air as they cheered the band ... a practice that the security folks promptly discouraged.
Of course, the main reason for going was to see the band and listen to the music. Although all three of the trio had new albums (oops, I mean "CDs") to promote -- "Crosby * Nash" and a new Stephen Stills CD that will coming out in the near future (don't know the title) -- more than half the songs they played were from the 60s and 70s. The songs were mostly played with electric, rather than acoustic, guitars (& keyboards), with a jazzed up tempo (compared to original versions of songs). It was great to hear some old favorites, and I like the songs that are "new" this time better than the ones that were "new" when I saw them 20 years ago (although the sound system made it nearly impossible to decipher many of the lyrics). However, there were disappointingly few examples of the intricacies -- musical and vocal -- that I most admire[d] in this band ... but perhaps this new style pleases most of their current fans and I'm in a shrinking minority. I was also surprised that, despite the anti-war sentiment expressed by the band in the 60s and 70s, there were few references (that I could hear) to the Iraq War or how some of their songs from the previous era have a renewed relevance today. Speaking of the earlier era, Neil Young was one of the headliners at the Farm Aid 2004 concert at White River Amplitheater in Auburn, WA, on Saturday night, and we were speculating on whether he might still be in the area and make a special guest appearance for a brief CSN&Y reunion ... unfortunately, he did not.
Anyhow, without further ado, here's a list of the songs, as best I can remember them (augmented by some sketchy notes I wrote in the dark and some other web pages on the band's tour), along with some commentary.
Military Madness (particularly timely, given the recent "milestone" of 1000 US servicemen killed in Iraq, and the far higher, but less frequently reported (in the US), numbers of other Iraq War casualties)
They Want It All (a new song by David Crosby about corporate greed, motivated in large part by the Enron scandal)
Jesus Of Rio
Feed the People (my favorite "new" song, by Stephen Stills: "Why not feed the people everywhere and let the peace begin?")
Nightime for the Generals (a song by David Crosby about the CIA ... a particluarly timely topic given the US Senate's confirmation of Porter Goss as CIA Director today)
Love the One You're With (an energetic rendition, but a big, missed, opportunity for an audience sing-along on this one)
Dirty Little Secret
Helplessly Hoping (without a doubt, the best [CSN] harmony of the night; one of the few songs during which I felt they were really focusing on getting the harmony right ... and succeeding)
Lay Me Down (best acoustic guitar music of the night ... in fact, the only acoustic guitar work I really enjoyed all night long, now that I think of it; BTW, I thought that Jeff Pevar was MVG -- most valuable/versatile guitarist -- for the night)
Milky Way Tonight
Don't Dig Here (a song written by keyboardist -- and son of David Crosby -- James Raymond, who was inspired by the "Plutonium Monument" contest for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility, a monument that would, among other things, contain a warning for prospective viewers 24,000 years -- the half-life of plutonium -- from now not to dig here)
For What It's Worth
Almost Cut My Hair
Woodstock (Graham Nash invited the audience to "sing along" on the chorus; however, they used Joni Mitchell's [original] lyrics -- "We are startdust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden" ... omitting the "we are caught in the devil's bargain" part they inserted after "golden" in the version they often use in their recordings)
Teach Your Children (another sing-along, but not as powerful as the last time I saw them in concert ... of course, the crowd then was much larger -- and noisier -- there).