Their opener was “Carry On,” a song about moving onward through loss, pain and changes: “To sing the blues you’ve got to live the tunes and carry on.”
About 5,000 people spent Thursday night at Starlight Theatre, reliving the tunes of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. The trio, backed by a five-piece band that included Crosby’s son James Raymond, reprised some of its best-known songs, covered a few tunes and introduced a few new ones, some of them as socio-political as anything they’ve been associated with.
Crosby and Nash are 70; Stills is 67. Time has taken its normal toll on their voices. So some of the songs in the show, which lasted almost three hours, including a 20-minute intermission, sounded a bit stooped and frayed; some, like “Deja Vu,” sounded slowed to a safer pace. Like a few others, that one was re-arranged slightly, given a heavier coat of sludge blues.
“Love the One You’re With,” which closed the first set, was given a light tropical accent, as if Jimmy Buffett had re-arranged it.
But there were times when the three locked into tight, bright harmonies that came close to reviving their signature sound, at least close enough to stir the crowd into hearty cheers and applause. “Just a Song Before I Go” sounded good. So did “Southern Cross.”
As has been their way since the days of President Nixon, they introduce politics into the evening. The first set included “Almost Gone (The Ballad of Bradley Manning),” a song about the U.S. soldier suspected of passing classified documents to WikiLeaks. When Crosby introduced the song and explained who Manning was, someone in my section yelled, “Traitor!” It all felt so late-1960s.
They sang “What Are Their Names,” a pedestrian poke at “the men who really run this land.” Nash sang “In Your Name,” a hymn about war and death in the name of religion. And they reprised some of their older social and political material, like “Immigration Man,” which ended with a bluesy instrumental storm, and “Almost Cut My Hair.” On that one, Crosby’s vocals were the strongest of the night.
He also got through “Guinnevere,” one of the loveliest songs he has ever written. The harmonies on that one sparkled.
They covered Bob Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country,” and Stills pulled one from his days with Buffalo Springfield: “Bluebird.” Nash’s pop songs got some of the biggest ovations: “Marrakesh Express” and “Our House,” which included a choreographed sing-along with the crowd.
The evening ended with two of their more popular songs: “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” from their eponymous debut album, then “Teach Your Children,” dedicated to a teacher in the crowd. That one is from the “Deja Vu” album, whose title track includes the line, “We have all been here before.” That was the unofficial theme of a nostalgic evening filled with so many familiar sounds.