Graham Nash – Just a song before he goes (to Christchurch)

March 2, 2024
3 mins read
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Summary

Graham Nash

Civic Theatre, Auckland

Friday March 1, 2024

GARY STEEL joined a venue full of grey power in a two-hour journey through 60 years of music history.

Has this guy done a deal with the evil horned one? I just can’t get over how sprightly Graham Nash is. He’s 82, after all. I’m 65 and already falling apart. Nash may not quite hit the high notes like he once did in Crosby, Stills & Nash (and sometimes Young), where his voice was integral to the gorgeous and instantly recognisable blend, but he still sings and plays better than many rockers less than half his age. And unlike most, he’s got a whole lot of rock and roll history behind him and the heady hippy mythology of the Laurel Canyon scene to revel in.

 

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And he’s happy to do just that tonight as he takes his appreciative audience from his early days in the UK hitmaking pop band The Hollies through key songs from his years with CS&N and on to his later solo albums. He’s not the greatest storyteller and I often wished that he’d have expanded on his explanations of the songs or provided more context, but it’s possible that the punishing flight from New York – this is the very first date of his Australasian tour following a trawl across the States in 2023 – had him feeling a little jetlagged.

While the between-song narrative wasn’t quite as sparkling as some might have liked, the musical performances were just fine. A big part of the gig’s success came down to the energy and talent of Nash’s 3-piece backing band, comparatively young chaps who could handle multiple instruments and sing flawless harmonies. Forgive me for not remembering their names, but both the drummer (who also handled bass duties) and the guitarist (who also played mandolin and on one song, sax) were especially good. Nash himself was surprisingly nimble on acoustic guitar, when the song called for it and occasionally the electric piano.

Nash was one of the first mainstream artists singing anti-war and pro-environment songs in the 1970s and it was great to see perennials like ‘Military Madness’ and ‘Chicago’ given a thorough and emphatic run-through, while ‘Immigration Man’ has lost none of its potency as it rages against the abuse of authority. ‘To The Last Whale’, however, hasn’t weathered time as well and sounds rather drippy in the super-cynical 21st century.

Rather strangely, he performed no less than three Stephen Stills songs while ignoring those of his other bandmates in CSN&Y, except for a couple from his duo albums with David Crosby. Stills’ ‘Love The One You’re With’ came across as a strange choice in an age when infidelity is again widely frowned on, though the intensely existential ‘4 + 20’, which Nash reckoned was one of the most remarkable songs he’s heard, certainly retains its downcast spell.

The Hollies hit ‘Bus Stop’ felt wildly out of place but, coming early in the performance as it did, the song demonstrated the sharp difference between his UK pop career and his landing amidst the hippy utopia of Laurel Canyon. (And his story of meeting the song’s writer, Graham Goldman, was a good one).

For many – including this writer – it’s the Laurel Canyon scene and the relationships forged (both musical and otherwise) that continue to fascinate, and Nash came through on that score. It would have been obscene to omit ‘Our House’ – the charming song about his seeming domestic bliss with Joni Mitchell – from the setlist, and he didn’t disappoint on that score, or with that great song about his break-up with Mitchell, ‘I Used To Be A King’.

The audience gave him several standing ovations and Nash gave them what they wanted with the terminally too-cute ‘Teach Your Children’. But my personal revelation of the night was the progtastic (flashing lights! dry ice! Mellotron!) of ‘Cathedral’, a song he recounted was borne from an LSD trip that led him to a psychedelic experience at Winchester Cathedral.

Even though I’m more of a Crosby (David, not Bing!) fan, tonight’s concert has increased my appreciation of Graham Nash and his open-hearted songs. If you’re in Christchurch on Sunday, go see!

+ Graham Nash performs at the Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch, Sunday March 3.

 

 

 

 

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

1 Comment

  1. Excellent concert. So many memories relived through Graham’s music. Wonderful back up group.

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